Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Away From Home

I caught the Greyhound 8 days ago, bound for the coast as the inlanders like to say. The Greyhound was full of holiday travellers so I ended up on charter buses, and I got the front seat. One of my co-travellers, Miriam, had the choice before me but declined it, saying that she didn't want to tell me why. I never asked.

What followed us the whole distance was weather. Here's a view on the road on the Blueberry Paulson:

I had many travelling companions: two Robs - one who drove the bus to Kelowna, and the other who sat beside me and who had not travelled on a bus for 27 years - some of his time he spent counting the number of places where cars had slid into the ditch. I had a little chat with him at #8 and he was convinced that there were more fun ways to spend time on a bus. In 14 hours, I visited with Brigida and Vito who sat directly behind me, Miriam who just returned from Guatemala, Stephanie, Morgan and Marilyn. I also finished writing my Christmas cards, read, listened to music, and did Sudoku.

We had great fun in Coquitlam, where we celebrated with almost the whole family. We had a bonus of a white Christmas:

Four days after Christmas, I caught another Greyhound to Kelowna, where my dear friend Elizabeth had rented a lovely place. Here is a great place to hang out...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Milestone Birthday and the Weather

I am sitting on the side of a mountain, a very regular thing to do when you live in BC, and watching the snow accumulate on the greenery. I am many hours away from my house, and had I been able to catch the Greyhound this morning, I would be 4 hours closer to home by now. But we could not get down the mountain and taxis do not come up here. Winter has arrived on the lower mainland.

I am here for the celebration of my friend's "Milestone Birthday" - one of my co-workers suggested a gift of a stone to mark this event. I found an Inukshuk which is one impressive milestone.

I met my friend 29 years ago at 2:30 am. What is fuzzier is the actual month or time of the year. This reminded me of an archaeological phenomenon. Some time ago, I read a book about the Maya archaeological site of Ceren, a site that was discovered by a equipment operator working on building new houses. Ceren was covered in volcanic ash; this event happened quickly so everything was preserved. The archaeologists could tell the time of the day it occurred but they could not tell the year.

When I met Deborah, I was working late in my lower-level apartment. Each time I began typing (yes, it was a typewriter in those days), I heard a noise upstairs. After doing more of the experiment, I walked outside (it wasn't winter - another clue) and knocked on the door. And that began a several decade friendship.

We were in our early 20s then, and each had toddlers who were the same age. Like the people in Ceren, we had our dailyness - working, laundry, dishes, and doing all of that while caring for our children.

There are many ways of preserving memories - in volcanic ash or what we carry inside of us.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

December 1st

I arrived in Coquitlam yesterday morning on the Greyhound. At some point as I was looking at the landscape that was passing by, I remembered the many bus journeys I took home for holidays when I was working in the big city as a young woman. My mother will recall the stories I spurted out when I got off the bus, for each trips seemed to have its own adventure.

It was Grey Goose Bus Lines that travelled through Manitoba those days. And it did seem that my night travels were full of more stories than days. What has not changed over the years on those night buses is the groggy people who are wakened in the middle of the night when the bus reaches a new destination. My companions this journey included a woman who was on her way to Vancouver for emergency eye surgery; she talked about her whirlwind of a day - when it began she had no idea that that night she would be sleeping in a Greyhound. Or even what was in store for her when she arrived. I am thinking she was grateful that the retina problem was discovered before our only eye doctor went on vacation for a month. I am thinking she could use a friendly gesture on a long bus ride.

The bus driver was a friendly type of guy himself. He joked with each one of us as we lined up to give him our tickets - where we were going, and tales of the night before. When the half dozen teenage girls got on the bus l/2 hour down the road, he said to them, "yeah, girl power!" Along the way, whenever we were in cell range, the young women got on their phones. After one conversation, one of the young women said to the others, "Here's the advice she gave: Stick together. Don't talk to strangers." They all laughed.

I remember those days, of sending my children off into the world, and wondering what they would encounter, and if they would happen upon the evils depicted in movies. And then I remembered how I laughed when my mother told (ummm... tells) of the dangers in the world.

Our work as mothers is to make sure that our children are safe in the world. Our work as children is to go out into the world and experience it.

We, then, shall always have advice, and the inevitable rolling of the eyes.

And so I landed in Coquitlam at a time that can be neither called morning nor night. There might only be one thing worse than arriving at a destination at that time and that would be to wake up and go and meet the bus. Which Aimee and Josh did, with smiles on their faces. And I thought again about mothers and their children - how fortunate I am to be each one of those.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Signs of Autumn

This posting is long overdue. I have been capturing the beauty of fall in this part of the world - I think this season can really capture the grandeur of living in the Kootenays. Today, alas, is really announcing winter. Low clouds. Rain. At this time of the year, my thoughts go to the mountain peaks because if it is raining here, there is a good chance of snow there.

I am on the road today - to Spokane - with, I suspect, a few other Canadians who want to take advantage of the Canadian dollar and a long weekend. And we all get to see that big beautiful sky that is a treat for us mountain dwellers. Unless - of course - those clouds have taken over there too. In any event, what I have learned after living on the side of a mountain for 13 years (the anniversary is November 11th) is that clouds are never the same, and similar to the prairie I came from, is amazing if you really look.

Here's the autumn pics:
Taghum Beach:

From Gyro Park looking South:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


On the Thanksgiving long weekend, I went to visit my friend, Elizabeth, who recently moved to Lethbridge. Other than a couple of overnights in the 90s, I have never been to Lethbridge.

To get to Lethbridge from here, one has to go over the Kootenay Summit. Here was the scene on October 8th...
The roads, thankfully, were dry.

When I came upon the flatland, I was mesmorized by vastness, sky, and all those Albertans who know how to get somewhere fast. I left the mountains behind:

Elizabeth chauffeured me around Lethbridge. West Lethbridge is separated from North and South Lethbridge by Oldman River, which is surrounded by its coulees, a phenomenon I understand that came when the glaciers were heading out.

In response to people's questions back home about how Elizabeth is doing, she said, "I am blown away by Lethbridge." Here's the evidence...

Lethbridge is one windy city. According to Wikipedia, it is the second most windy city in the country. What on earth is the first?

Besides the blowing wind, there are other pros for being in Lethbridge (and Alberta) - the price of gas...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Notes from the Road

I am back home from the journey west. Here are some highlights of the last few days:

Canada Customs
The road from Metalline Falls to the border was quiet so when I pulled up to customs, it was a surprise to find a line up of cars. After 45 minutes, I had my turn. The officer, after looking at my package of receipts, asked, "What is Trader Joe's?"

Bellingham Grand Opening
The Friday I was in Bellingham was the grand opening of Trader Joe's. BJ and I decided that this was one event that we had to experience. So we went shopping, along with many, many other Bellingham folks. Once we went down the second aisle, we had the brainwave of getting in the check-out line and one holding the space while the other went and picked up their items. Clever.

Space Needle
I heard that one of the tenants who lives in Ryan's building is a collector of Space Needles so Saturday morning (the 29th) before I left for home, I went to visit Brian. He has many Space Needles - made of brass, gold, silver, wood, paper, plastic - some that have cigarette lighters at the top and two that have ashtrays. He has a whole shelf devoted to salt and pepper shakers. He has one of the inaugural Space Needle wine glasses made for the opening of the Space Needle which was built for the World Fair - the opening day was April 21, 1962. He has a Space Needle that lights up at the top. Brian knows many facts about the Space Needle including the names of the paints that were used on the original:

- Orbital Olive for the body,
- Astronaut White for the legs,
- Re-entry Red for the saucer, and
- Galaxy Gold for the roof.

It was a very impressive collection!

Mountain View
After eating Taco Bell with Ryan and Julie, I left Seattle at 2:15 and headed down I-90, in the rain. But l/2 hour later the weather cleared, and the roads, I am glad to say, were dry all the way home. As I came over the Snowqualmie Pass, this is what I saw...

I guess winter's arrival is inevitable.

Oh what a journey

In 15 days, I travelled 3,195 kilometres. I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic from the day I arrived crossing the Port Mann Bridge to traffic in Vancouver, Seattle, Everett (always), Portland, and Mount Vernon. I have developed a big empathy for commuters.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Crescent Beach

Another Crescent Beach in the world...

Cannon Beach

When I woke up yesterday in Cannon Beach, the weather was spectacular, so off I went to walk on the beach.

The tide was coming in:

Cannon Beach from the north:

Cannon Beach from the south:

The shops of Cannon Beach:

As you can see, Cannon Beach is one major groovy place to hang out....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Washington to Oregon

At this moment, I am in a oceanside town called Cannon Beach, Oregon. Here is how I spent my time today.

Leaving Seattle:
Note that the red car on the left is a convertible with its top down.

I found the sun (this is for you, Ryan)....

First view of the ocean:

What happened to give a park this name?

A walk to Cape Disappointment - a first view of the ocean out of the car.

Once I got out of the forest, this is what I saw:

This is a rearview mirror picture of the bridge crossing the Columbia River into Astoria. The state line is in the middle of this bridge, which is about 4 miles long.

At the end of the bridge:

Highway 101 along the coast had much road activity - as in, lots to slow me down. At one point, the highway people were painting the white line on the right side of the road; the first vehicle after the painters was the truck right ahead of me, and this is how he spent his time:

Haystack Rock - Cannon Beach:

Gifts from the sea:

Some of the last light:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sunday in Seattle

We had many ideas of ways to spend our time this Sunday, some of which included going distances, and Seattle is where we stayed. But in Seattle we kept ourselves busy. We went to the shops downtown, mainly at Old Navy and a groovy store, called Fleuvog Shoes. Apparently this guy is a Canadian... They certainly are everywhere, those Canadians.

At the downtown mall, we walked through the atrium and found one very interesting penguin:
If you look to the right of his belly button, you will see an ice cream scoop.

We walked to Pike Place Market to the dismay of the two Seattlites who came along with me. Pike Place Market is one very busy place. I found the Christmas presents I wanted (can't tell you what they are). One of the biggest delights at the Market is the flower stalls. Here's what came home with us:

That cost $10.00 (Canadian and American $).

After our shopping, we stopped at one of Ryan's favourite spots: Jamba Juice and then went to the park at the top of Queen Anne Hill, which is the area where Ryan and Julie live.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Day Seven of my vacation, and the first chance I have got to do a posting. My intentions were good. Travels. Posts. And then I had this most brilliant idea about taking the Myers Briggs Type Indicator training that just happened to be occurring in Vancouver the same time that I would be here for my vacation. An opportunity indeed.

The first day of the four-day workshop was on the third day of my vacation. Aimee and I spent the day before hanging out at the shops, and I was successful in acquiring shoes more appropriate for the big city, according to my daughter, who is so all over fashion that I must pay attention when she speaks.

On Monday, then, I got up, ready for my commute. I am staying with Aimee, who lives in Coquitlam. The workshop was in downtown Vancouver, 42 minutes away according to Google Maps and MapQuest. But both Josh and Aimee's advice was to stay off the freeway even though that was recommended, so I followed Route 7A into the city, allowing hour or more from my advisors. So for 4 days of my vacation, I got up with Aimee at 6 am, as she was commuting as well, and went into Vancouver.

My 4 days of commuting, which just happened to coincide with a new survey about how regular commuters spend about 3 years of their lives going back and forth to work, I shied away from the draggy part and paid more attention to the novelty. Each of those times back and forth into the city, I noticed that all commutes are not equal. It is the stop and go part of it that is a drag for everyone, but I actually found a flow to the drive one morning. The traffic, though moving quite slowly, kept moving. And certainly for someone with a standard transmission, that is a welcome event as it sure decreases the amount of time shifting, and engaging the clutch.

What else I noticed was that on the way to work, there is an aura of calm resignation - but on the way home, there is a sense of urgency. Once on the way home when I was on the Inlet Highway where the speed limit is 80 km, I looked down at my odometer as I was following traffic. Many people were passing me and I was going 100 k/hour.

Fall is settling in. Here is a photo as I was leaving from Aimee's cul-de-sac one morning:

I descended into the valley, and became immersed in the mists:

But the clouds were shortlived. Later on that day, from the hotel in downtown Vancouver where our workshop was happening:
And the final commute into Vancouver:

Today while Aimee was off to work, Josh and I went to new shops, where we found several treasures. Later, we went to pick up Aimee and I got to commute the other direction. At the end of our drive, I got to see the new store (from the outside only) where Aimee is working. It isn't even open yet... but it will be soon... the countdown is happening... as well as the mad rush... very exciting.

So now I have done five days of commuting. I need a vacation!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


In the last posting, I told tales of going to Greenbluff, north of Spokane where the blackberries were abundant. We stopped at a store called High Country and I picked up 4 peaches; the clerks were very generous in letting me taste the few varieties and I decided on Sweet Dreams, the sweetest peach I have ever tasted. I brought them home and they tasted even better. So when my friend, BJ, was on her way to visit me for the long Labour Day weekend, I requested a stop in Greenbluff for a case of peaches.

I had a dream. That would be a Sweet Dream. I would can the peaches and in the middle of winter, they would be the best treat.

As I waited for BJ to arrive, she called on her cell phone, just shortly after crossing the border. The peaches were confiscated. My dream was devoured.

I decided that I wouldn't give up without a fight. I did some fancy typing into Google, and found the phone number for Customs. BJ had told me that the peaches were being walked from Canadian Customs to the American site. When I explained my story, they knew exactly which peaches I was describing, and they agreed to hold the box until Monday when BJ went home. They couldn't guarantee how good they would be but they would hold them in the garage.

Alas, we didn't get to eat fresh peaches, but BJ had picked up two pieces of pie - huckleberry and peach. They were delicious!

The next morning, we woke up to a beautiful Kootenay day. We celebrated that morning a belated birthday present-opening for BJ. This was one of the gifts she opened that morning:

It is a wall hanging. I had bought it weeks before, well before I even knew there was a kind of peach called Sweet Dreams.

A couple days later, I told my tale of woe to Heather, and she said, "why don't you go the US and can the peaches there?" The problem, as I found out from the border guard, was the pits. No pits can be brought into our country. No cores either. But if the peaches were removed from their pits, crossing the border is no problem. Heather is a genius!

So last weekend, I travelled back to Spokane, and the Sweet Dreams were still being pulled off the trees. The delight with peaches in Greenbluff is that they are vine ripened, which seems to make them extra sweet. On Saturday, Al and I drove up to Greenbluff and found out the raspberries were ready. Raspberries in the fall?? Whoever invented that notion was a clever one. The day was sunny and warm, and we filled each of our flats. When we went back to the farm hosts, we found out that there was 18 l/2 pounds of raspberries. A lot of raspberries.

I called the Canadian Customs; I had now memorized the phone number. Yes, they would let my raspberries across.

We then shopped for the rest of the supplies, and I started canning peaches at 5 pm. I made an emergency call to my mother; actually it was the second one in two days. Having never canned peaches before, I needed some serious help. Now my mother passed along to me (I'm convinced it is in the DNA) a great love of raspberries. In the second emergency call, she said that nothing is better than canned raspberries. And since I am easily inspired when it comes to raspberries, here's what I did after the peaches:

Here's the Sweet Dreams before:

And after:

When I crossed the border, I met the same border guard that confiscated the peaches from BJ, and then kindly walked them over to US customs because otherwise they would have been destroyed. He said they were a beautiful box of peaches; it would have been a shame. I was quite delighted when he asked me to open my trunk so he could see the canned peaches - after all, in a way, I did it for him.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

On the Road At Last

For most of July and August, I have stayed close to home - the festivals, beaches, and long, hot days of summer have been consuming. But it was time to see the big skies, and land of sunsets. So on Friday, off I (Julia too of course) went to Spokane.

Julia on vacation.

Now, technically, Al lives in the city of Spokane Valley (yes, a valley called a city) and even more specifically, he lives in the community of Opportunity. Now how could one have a better named place? Opportunity is just outside of your door, at every corner... well, you get the picture.

Now if I was a reporter, I would go and do research about how a place came to be called Opportunity. But in this case, I think the imagination would have a good deal more fun with it. Perhaps it was named by a man who won a lot of land in a poker game. Or it was named by the person that built the first casino there, to lure others to their establishment. Or someone who was just plain glad to be alive!

We didn't stay in Opportunity on Saturday - off we went to Greenbluff to see what was happening with the harvest. It was peach time, tree-ripened! Where we ended up, though, was at a farm that allowed us to pick our own raspberries and blackberries. Sadly, the raspberries were not ripe. ???? Well, I learnt that there are two seasons for raspberries. The upshot was that Al and I spent our afternoon picking blackberries. I tried one, two, three and then ventured to have four, but with each assessment, my conclusion was the same - I don't really like blackberries. I like the berry part. But the actual taste. Nope. But I could appreciate that they are heaven-sent... so beautiful, and inspiring... as you can see.

I have been reading and hearing a lot lately about the 100 Mile Diet; with this food plan, people try to eat food that was grown close to home. I read in the Inlander newspaper today that there was a conference on the petroleum industry promoting this plan (though they called it the 250 Mile Diet), as it makes a lot of sense in the consumption of our natural fuel resources. There is a general idea that is spreading like wildfire that it doesn't make sense for us to be hauling food such vast distances - not nutritionally nor earth-nomically. (Yes, I did invent that word.) If we adopt this plan, we would not be hooped if there was a transportation problem.

In that copy of the Inlander, there were several stories of farmers quite committed to the notion of growing organic food and animals on small farms in the Pacific Northwest. I was struck by how their dedication and plain hard work is really what sustains us... literally. And allows us to eat peaches that are vine ripened. The variety I bought was called Sweet Dreams. My wish to you.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Long Days of Summer

Each morning when I look outside my window, the sun is bright and the sky is blue. As the sun moves higher in the sky, the day gets very hot. When I go out to get my lunch, I walk on the south side of the street in the shade. Today, I followed my mother's example, instilled in me many years ago when there was no air conditioning, and it was stinking hot. I woke up early, opened all the doors and windows to let in the cool air while there was still some, and then did the laundry. And then as soon as the sun came around the corner of the house, I closed windows and doors and closed the curtains, and ceased any heat-producing activities.

And went for a ride in my air conditioned car. (I can remember telling the car salesman, "no, I don't need air conditioning.")

Everything here is dry. The grass is preserving its energy and has stopped growing. Before I cut the lawn a couple of weeks ago, what was growing in my back yard was chicory; it sprouted up about one to two feet high. The lawn looked like a bad haircut. But now, even the chicory has slowed down.

Life here is intense. And certainly in our forests. Starting yesterday, our view of the Kokanee Glacier was obscured:

The shopkeeper at the market heard that the fire was at Six Mile. The cashiers and tellers are the greatest sources of news - often more precise and available than radio or TV. Besides, we often get the nitty gritty because we are one degree of separation from knowing someone involved. I have spoken now to two people who were on the ferry last week when the explosion happened (the ferry we missed). And one who lived real close and woke up from the blast. Yes, life in a small community is very connected.

We are all anxiously watching the sky. The valley hums with helicopters bringing the crews and water up the mountain. I am grateful for those people who dedicate their summers to putting out those fires; they work hard. The irony is that the forest's misfortune becomes the fortune for the firefighters.

The summer is perhaps at its biggest intensity in the gardens. And Nelson gardeners are good at what they do.:

My garden, not pictured here, was planted late. I am looking forward to some serious salads in the fall.

I suspect most people are hanging out very close to the beach. This year, I have found a new one, at the opposite side of the park: