Serpent River, tree spirits, winter solstice


As I left Spanish, Ontario on the trail a few weeks ago, I traveled west towards Serpent River. As I turned a corner to follow the trail to the water, I passed an old graveyard and noticed many white nameless crosses. A few minutes later a large stone building caught my eye. From a distance it looked almost like a crumbling castle but as I approached it, I knew it wasn’t. The roof was gone, the windows were gone, but the four-story stone building remained. Inside the building, trees were growing. Over the coming years those trees will push the stones down, their roots will slowly defy the granites strength.  After a few moments of looking at the building, I continued down the road still uncertain what story unfolded where this ghost building remained. Then I noticed across the street on an empty field what looked like the dead remains of a tree standing about 14 feet tall. I was drawn to it so I began walking across the field towards it and as I got closer I realized it was a sculpture.  Entitled, Free Spirits, it was a memorial for Residential School Survivors. That empty building had been a residential school for girls. Not far from the sculpture had been where the boys school once stood.

After I finished the mountain bike riding in Blind River, Ann picked me up and we returned to the sculpture and filmed this short film. The music is by Stephane Dufort. ( I would love to credit the artist in the video, if anyone knows their name please let me know so I can add it on.

I find the sculpture powerful and inspiring.

Seems appropriate to share now on the eve of Winter Solstice as we leave the dark for longer days.

Blessed be





  1. Michelle Seguin January 15, 2017 at 7:47 am - Reply

    Hi there. I stumbled across your blog and took a look at this video. The artist of the Free Spirit tree sculpture may be wood carver Walter Keller. His studio, Call of the Wild, is located in eastern Manitoba. We have several pieces of his work and have seen many others of his that look very much like the one in your video. If it isn’t his, he might know who created the one in your video.
    Good luck with the rest of your journey!
    Michelle Seguin, North Bay

    • Stacy Sauve July 15, 2018 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      Hello aahni, i am the creator of the Free SpiritsTree . So honored to do so . Chi miigwetch.aho

  2. Rosalind Russell February 6, 2017 at 6:52 am - Reply

    Hi there, the artist is from Spanish, her name is Stacey Sauve Clark, she has also done many drawings and renditions of the residential schools that were sold by her to raise money for survivors. I did the story on her and the tree way back in the mid 2000s when I was working for the Elliot Lake Standard and Espanola Mid-North Monitor … I think she still resides in Spanish … Roz

  3. Joe Corbiere February 9, 2017 at 10:36 am - Reply

    yes this carving was and continues to be done by Stacey Sauve of Spanish ON. this is a very powerful statement regarding the residential school at Spanish. the pictutes u have of the ruins are the womens dormitory… the men’s dormitory was adjacent to the carving. I have taekn a number of puictures over the u years of this carving. Stacey continues to had things and maintains the carving. i was honoured to meet Stacey this past summer . her passion and committement to do this is inspiring …… miigwetch Stacey

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