Monday, February 25, 2008

Travelling Light

When you live on the side of a mountain, everything it seems is either uphill or downhill. So appropriate it is that I live in a part of the city called Uphill. There are many people who live much higher than me, so when I tell people where I live, I say lower Uphill. Still, it is not a breeze in the park to walk to and from work. My journey usually involves bags hung over my shoulder, that contain lunch, papers, books, and my purse.

I decided this week that I wanted to travel lighter. The opportunity came the day when my friend and I made a lunch date - no lunch to carry - that was one less bag. Then I thought of how I might carry even less. Really there was very little required from my purse, and with pockets in my jacket, I was set.

What I did need was lunch money, and a debit card just in case. Hmmm... what could be compact enough, yet secure? I had an idea:

There are a lot of advantages to my new bag:
- When I'm in a hurry, it is easy to find just the right coins I need.
- It is waterproof. (I actually haven't submerged it in a vat of water yet but hey, it's water resistant enough for me.)
- Got a receipt? It'll hold that too!

So far I have found only one disadvantage:
- Keep it away from heat sources.

The check-out cashier at the Kootenay Co-op agreed that I was on to something. I think it's going to be a trend.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sun and Clouds

I had a change of pace from the regular routine yesterday, and spent my day in the computer lab teaching people to use Excel and Publisher. The last class of the day was cancelled due to no enrollment so I spent the afternoon doing errands. It was an unexpected treat. One may question the association between errands and treats, but when errands are usually relegated to 10 minute stints at lunch time, having a whole afternoon is a luxury.

The extra bonus was that the sun was shining. I picked up my lighter jacket, and hit the streets. By the time I came out of the hairstylist and the sun had gone behind the mountains, I was questioning my jacket decision, so I scurried home.

We have had several days of sunshine here but weather in the mountains has its own distinctive appearance. Sometime during the night or early morning, the clouds fill the valley (something, I think, to do with the change in air temperature) and they just hang out there.

This is what it looks like in the morning:

As the sun rises and heats up the air, it "burns" off the clouds, and presto chango, here's the afternoon:

Luckily, the daytime temperatures are getting warmer and warmer. But when this phenomenon happens in the late fall and the air temperature is getting cooler, the clouds can hang out for days in the mountains. The likelihood increases if your valley has a large body of water, as ours indeed does.

So last evening when the total lunar eclipse was happening, we got the full show because the skies were still clear. What a delightful treat! The mountains, I have discovered in my 13+ years of residing in them, are not the best place for a wannabe astronomer.

Later, the clouds like an uninvited guest, crept their way back in. It is all a well choreographed show that has been practiced for eons. Always entertaining.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Today's Journey Home

When I awoke this morning, I had one of those Han Solo moments... "I have a bad feeling about this." The headache that had been playing tag with me for the past few days announced itself early. I actually accomplished a lot before I realized that even moving was a challenge. I worked very hard to focus on the 11 am client, and 40 minutes later, I knew that horizontal was the only choice. When I left the office, I had one of those slow walks where I tried to move as little as I could. I had, luckily, brought the car to work so I only had to make it to the parkade. Barely doable. I rested in the car before I wound my way up the hill.

And then I had 3 naps.

I woke up shortly before dinner time, but still was feeling the lingering effects. And then I remembered my mother's modeling for getting well. I cleaned. And I organized. And I finished the knitting project which was requested by BJ. It is a shawl, made with mohair.

It is one shawl that has been around. The yarn was bought in Winnipeg (Ram's Wool), sent to Nelson, and will be shortly sent to its home (for now) in Bellingham.

Apparently I have similar symptoms to those who have had the flu. I am off to find my Vitamin C. But with my house all tidied and (mostly) clean, it doesn't have a chance.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sweet Dreams

Happy Valentine's Day! There was an abundance of chocolate circulating the office today. I shared my wealth of French truffles that I got for Christmas from Elizabeth, and then chocolate came back to me - one of the afternoon clients brought me a box of Lindor chocolates. It all makes the decision to quit sugar challenging. We also got to have a piece of cake that was gifted from a grateful client. I saw many men walking down the street with bouquets.

My travels lately have been in Arizona, via a Barbara Kingsolver book, Animal Dreams. I officially am a member of a book club; I got to choose the first title and I was delighted about the notion of it being my favourite author. Animal Dreams is the story of a journey, of two sisters - one who goes to Nicaragua and the other who returns to her hometown. We hear the story of the Nicaragua-landed sister via letters and the remembrances of Codi, the other sister. Codi's journey is an internal one. This quote is shortly after her arrival in her childhood home. "I'd led such an adventurous life, geographically speaking, that people mistook me for an adventurer. They had no idea. I'd sell my soul and all my traveling shoes to belong some place."

There are many layers to this book, and weaved in an awakening to see one's life in a different way. The descriptions are compelling, and the prose is captivating. It has been aptly called, "rich, complex, witty."

"Animals dream about the things they do in the daytime, just like people do. If you want sweet dreams, you've got to live a sweet life."

I read this book many years ago when I was a flatlander. I borrowed it that first time from the library; it tugged at the employment counsellor in me - for it is all about dreams. Many years later when I got in my car, there was a copy of the book in my front seat. I queried everyone I knew who had been in my car but it remained unclaimed. So it got put on the shelf.

Years later, it again circled in my life. At my current workplace, as I was putting on my shoes, I saw Animal Dreams out of the corner of my eye on the bookshelf there. I gave a slight grin, in recognition of a companion who has travelled with me in my life.

So when I chose Animal Dreams for the book club's first selection, I knew where there were 2 copies.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Afternoon Vacations

Lots of wintery tales this year. So last Saturday, after my notion of surrender, I thought of the idea of going to the ski hill. Not that I was going there to ski, having never downhill skied in my life. I dragged Al up there - well, actually he drove. And we got to see what all the fuss is about.

Later, when I told Ryan that we went to Whitewater (WH20 we say in this land), he asked what I did up there. Perhaps he may have some point. It makes a lot of sense to go to the ski hill and actually ski; it helps to like snow - a lot. I prefer to think of myself as an admirer of snow - for instance, if I was in... oh, let's say.... Mexico right now, I would be delighted to look at people's pictures of the north land, and I would genuinely appreciate the beauty and wonder.

But I am not in Mexico, will not be going to Mexico, so... I went to Whitewater. There is logic in there somewhere.

As of today, there is 278 cms of snow at the summit of Whitewater. The hill (that would be mountain I suppose) got 34 cms of snow in the last 3 days. That is a marvel. There was a lot of excitement about that snow - many showed up for the party...

The parking lot...

It was a winter wonderland...

It was hard to capture the amount of snow that is really up there. Here is a picture of the road...

Back to the question of what we did at Whitewater. We hung about outside, watched skiers - it was the 3-year-olds that entertained, and we ate. BECAUSE, Whitewater has one captivating restaurant. It even has its own cookbook.

And did I have a wonderful vacation?

You bet!

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Last Sunday, 7 of us gathered in a beautiful home in Procter, and spent over 6 hours making creative journals. Using collage, water colours, drawing, and water colour pencils, we practiced several techniques on making our writing journals full of colour and visuals. Kim Howard was inspirational and inspired us to make wondrous creations, and encouraged us to have fun! And we went away inspired and have great fun memories (and a whole bunch of ideas about creating).

Procter is about 40 minutes here - the journey means crossing Kootenay Lake twice - once over a bridge and once over a ferry. So we end up back on the same side of the lake. If we were ambitious, we could walk the train rails from Nelson and end up in Procter. But I don't, and I haven't.

There is an interesting phenomenon that I experienced when I first came to the Kootenays over 14 Novembers ago - as the air cools, the lake releases heat and we see this in the form of mist. Each year, I have made a mental note that I need to get my camera and capture the event. What I have found out over the years, is that capturing it is an elusive phenomenon in itself. Like finding sweetgrass. I can remember many years ago in my Manitoba days going into a field and catching the aroma of sweetgrass, so I looked down and walked through that grassland to find it. As I moved this way and that, the aroma would fade and then it would astonish me with the strength of the smell. But find it I did not.

And the mist was that fleeting. Days when I took out my camera, there was no mist on the lake, even though the conditions felt right - cold mornings as the days were getting shorter. And of course the days when I did see it, I had no camera in hand.

The first time I actually saw the mist and had a camera was last September when I volunteered at the Bridge to Bridge road race. That picture is on Facebook. I felt like someone who had taken a picture of Sasquatch.

And the second time was last Sunday when I was on the ferry going to Procter. What I found on that 5-minute ferry ride, is that the mist is always in motion. By the time, I had reached the other side, the mist was almost all gone.

Here is what I saw on that Sunday:

There definitely was a sense of spring on that day, as the sun shone the whole day. But when you live in Canada, and in particular, the mountains, there is always plenty of surprises when it comes to the weather. On Thursday, we woke up to about 20 cms of snow.

Here's the back lane on that very morning - minus my car, which has been put out on the street because the entrance to the alleyway has a pile of snow from the snowplows.

Looking outside on Thursday morning, I reached my tipping point and surrendered. I put on my hat, scarf, and yes, even long johns, rolled up my trouser hems and headed down the hill to work. Up to this point, I had dressed like a teenager, bare head and fleece jackets where ever I went. Two days before, I had my fill of winter and decided I didn't even want to wear my winter boots any more and put on my Brooks running shoes.

But on that morning, I even put on my Yak Trax, gear that is strapped over the bottom of footwear so one does not slip on the ice. I looked at all the wonders around me - the snow on the trees, and the amazement of where all that snow goes. I got to work and watched the snow flakes outside of my window and marvelled at the beauty. Later in the morning, as I sat at my desk, the clouds started parting and I saw blue. By noon, the snow was melting.

There seems to me a lot of metaphors about life when it comes to the weather. About going with the flow. About knowing when to surrender. And knowing that life is about cycles.

Now, I sit on this Saturday morning, contemplating my day, looking out the window and watching the snow fall.

I heard someone say once, "Winter is not done with us yet."