When Maidie-Anne Turner of Inuvik picked up her cutting wheel after 15 years, she didn’t know if she could still handle the stained glass that lay before her on the kitchen table. After that amount of time, she expected to be all thumbs. Scraps of green, blue and opaque glass lay in front of her, materials she had carefully brought back with her from an unscheduled trip to Vancouver. The trip was caused by the premature birth of her now 17-year-old daughter.
Mrs. Turner, left with time on her hands while her infant daughter got strong in special care at the Vancouver hospital, took a course in stained glass. She hadn’t touched the glass or tools she’d bought since ? two small children and a job at the Inuvik post office kept her too busy. The materials were boxed away, waiting for the day when Mrs. Turner had more time.
This was to be the largest piece of stained glass she had ever attempted and by far the most important. She picked up her cutting wheel, took a deep breath, and began.
“I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to do it,” she said, “but when I picked up the wheel, it was like yesterday.” To her surprise and delight, her fingers moved deftly on the coloured glass, and her project began to take shape. She still marvels that she made no mistakes, because stained glass is not a forgiving medium. A simple mistake and a piece can be ruined.
“Green for growing and life,” thought Mrs. Turner as she pressed the tool into the glass, glancing over at her preliminary sketch. “Blue for the Arctic ice and the colour of the shadows in the snow.” And opaque glass carefully placed in the centre, which was for the Northern Star. She had just a tiny bit of red glass left, which was a good thing, she mused, because there was no place in Inuvik to buy red stained glass, or any stained glass, for that matter. And the red was critical to the whole piece.
Night after night for six weeks, after she’d schlepped home from her job at the post office, taken off her apron and cleared the table, Mrs. Turner worked on, her fingers pressing the tools with painstaking, loving care, until bedtime. Every day when she looked out of the post office window, she could see the Anglican Church of the Ascension where she and her husband, Brian, were married.
Wonderful new things were happening over at the church. A new church was being constructed from an old warehouse.
The interior was completely renovated, wired and plumbed and painted, and there are new windows all along the sides. Cedar siding surrounds the new front door and porch.
Mrs. Turner would look from the post office at the space which her husband, a carpenter, cut out over the new cedar portico, a reminder of the cross she was going to put there.
“Brian’s fault,” Mrs. Turner thought with a smile. Originally, the bishop had thought to fill the cross with glass blocks.
“Glass blocks are quite pretty,” Mrs. Turner said. “But then Brian opened his mouth to Bishop Robertson and out flew, ‘Maidie-Anne does stained glass.'”
The result of those prophetic words is now a source of pride for both church and town. Mrs. Turner’s new cross is her donation of love to her church. It shines down Mackenzie Road, backlit from inside. Its green and blue reflection gleams off the snow below, all through the long Arctic nights and dark days for everyone to see. Mrs. Turner is really glad she had some bits of red glass in her supply. The red is for the blood of Christ.
Mrs. Turner herself sees it every day when she looks out the Post Office window into the Arctic morning darkness. “It makes me feel good,” she said simply. Jane Davidson is a freelance writer who lives in Peterborough, Ont.