Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bear Country

It is curious that, in the middle of our immediate world, there is much yet to learn. So here I am in the middle of bear country and I know very little about bears. This week I stumbled upon people who make a point knowing about bears.

When the AGM of the Kaslo Chamber of Commerce started, I was talking to a couple and so we all sat down together. After the short, well-planned AGM, we started talking. Julius and Kristin who own Grizzly Bear Ranch,offer grizzly and black bear-viewing holidays in the midst of pristine wilderness. They are quite committed to learning about bears, and being respectful to all the wild animals that share their space.

Here's what I learned about bears:

- It is difficult to tell the difference between a male and a female bear. One of the ways to tell is how they pee. Males stream at an angle while females are more or less vertical.

- Bears mate from mid-June to mid-July. Once the egg is fertilized, the embryo has a "delayed implantation." In November, if the bear is in shape (has enough reserves), then the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall and the embryo grows for approximately 2 months. The babies, usually 2 to 3 in a litter, are born in February while their mama is hibernating.

- Each mother bear has 6 teats - 4 on the upper chest and 2 on her abdomen. The bottom 2 allow the cubs to nurse when she is "sleeping," and her arms are enfolded to keep her warm.

- During the hibernation period, the bear's body recycles nutrients which allows it not to lose muscle tone. Julius and I had a discussion about what would happen to humans if they slept for 5 or 6 months - our muscles would atrophy.

We had a lovely evening, visiting with Kasloites in the new Kaslo Hotel, recently renovated though the building has been around since 1896. With views facing Kootenay Lake, it is a compelling draw.

The next day I was scheduled for the Kaslo Career Fair, so I decided to stay overnight. I stayed at Rocky Ledges Bed and Breakfast, which is just south of Mirror Lake, about 15 minutes from Kaslo. My gracious hosts were Maggie and Steve. Like Julius and Kristin, they are in their second year providing accommodation, having moved from far away and falling under the spell of the Kootenays.

When we arrived at the B&B, it was dark, but the next morning, this is what I saw out my patio windows...

On a warmer day, I would have been tempted to stay put.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Wandering

For the past several days, I have been staving off a bug of some sort. The most irritating part of my day is a headache that is chasing me, and finding me it seems, around each corner. On Wednesday, I cancelled the gym and came home and slept. On Friday, I spent the day taking headache medications, and it did take the sting out of it, but I had another nap after work.

So I am not sick. And I am not well. When I talked to my mother on the telephone today, she asked in a most motherly caring way if I had anything to eat. I hadn't. Because the way this all is affecting me is a general lack of energy - not wanting to shop or prepare food. When I told her that I thought a walk was a good idea, she said to walk myself to a place that served food.

I went in the car. Immediately what I saw was two things:
- the weather was beautiful
- the gas tank is low

So I decided to go to Castlegar, a 40-minute drive from here. Because I took the back entrance into the city, I saw Bagels and Brew; it was the perfect spot. I chose a spot near the window and ate soup and... yes... a bagel. I read. I wrote. I then remembered their Centennial Walkway.

The walkway runs alongside the Columbia River. When I got to the park, I chose to walk down along the water instead of the paved pathway. The river is low, as many are this time of the year, before the runoff. The Columbia, though, is one river that is in a hurry.

At this point, the river is flowing both ways.

I found the worn path through the trees, perhaps first made by deer and other wildlife. The path winds its way following the river to Zuckerberg Island. There are two ways to get onto the island - one via a built-up road, and the other by suspension bridge.

What I noticed from this angle was how the water that normally edges this embankment is gone. I had a hypothesis, and walked onto the bridge. Here is what I saw...

The land on the right side of the photo is the "mainland" and the land on the left is the island. In the distance, there is a rocky shore. Yep, just as I figured. Zuckerberg, at this moment in time, is not an island.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Inventions are amazing! Finding a way to solve an everyday problem can make life so much easier. I think in my life I have done at least one invention. When I lived in an apartment in Winnipeg, I wanted to hang a plant from the ceiling. I found someone's invention of hardware that got inserted through a hole and then expanded so the weight of the object that was hanging was spread over a larger space.

What I needed was arms that reached from the plant pot to the hook on the ceiling. I had bought a pot that had a plastic hook with extensions that went to the pot but they were too delicate and they broke.

I decided that material that was more flexible would work better, and then I remembered my spool of speaker wire I had bought in the 70s and had carried around with me for years. I cut two lengths of the wire, and separated them. That gave me four lengths of wire but I only needed three. I gathered the ends and remembered my days of macrame and created a loop with a tidy turn of wire because the ends were slid under. (Very clever whoever thought of that.)

At the other end, I took each wire and threaded it through the hole and then placed a small nut that I had in with the screws. I pulled the end of the wire back up through pot hole and the weight held it in place.

What was really neat about my invention was that it was subtle - none of that boisterous macrame that stole the plant show.

Given my intrigue with inventions, I found one in Lethbridge last fall, but threw it out. I found another one this week. Perhaps you may have seen it already...

It belongs to this...

Its job is to make sure the liquid in that cup doesn't get out. It fits quite nice and tight. And it does the trick. (Cute too.)

Now, here is the issue that I have with it. They call it a Splash Stick. I don't think that actually captures what it really does. A splash stick sounds like it creates splashes, but this actually prevents them.

Any ideas for a better name?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Where in BC?

This week I met Michelle, who is a mammography technician for B. C. Women's Health mobile screening. Michelle travels many places in BC. I asked her where her favourite place in BC was - she said Hazelton. Hazelton is in the northwest part of BC.
Before I saw the map, I was thinking of going there for a weekend. What makes Hazelton special, according to Michelle, is the geography: a valley surrounded by incredible mountains. There are actually 3 Hazeltons: Hazelton, New Hazelton and South Hazelton.

Thinking of Michelle's favourite place in BC got me to wondering about other people. And so I asked the people I hung out with this evening. Here the results of the survey.

Hornby Island - Cynthia and Patrick

Granville Island - Shirley

Here is a list of Top 10 Must See and Do on Granville Island.

Victoria - Rob

Salt Spring Island - Dorothy

An amazing diverse province we live in! With incredible natural beauty! The voters this evening (who counted Nelson out) had a theme, it seems - islands.

Now, where is your favourite spot in BC?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ice Phenomenon

When I opened my bedroom curtains this morning, I could see the bright blue in the sky, accented by the white of the mountain tops. The sun was illuminating the mountains on my west-facing window, and the starkness of white against the blue sky seemed to create a glow - like glow in the dark except of course it was quite light.

The light in the evening with the time change has given a perception of a longer day. The sun peered in my bedroom window into the dinner hour. I was contemplating during my bedroom into a dining room.

The temperature outside, though, is cold, especially since the sun went down. The sun disappeared behind the mountain when I was in the gym, and my light hooded jacket that I wore into the gym did not do the trick. The freezing had begun.

After getting out of my car, I once again looked at the unusual phenomenon that had perplexed me since yesterday.

Every second Tuesday in my part of the world, the city collects the garbage. (Yes, it is only every two weeks!) Since I leave early and since I have very curious dogs in my neighbourhood, I leave the garbage in the garbage can. Both of the cans acquired a lot of water during the melting time last week and now had frozen. I turned them both over.

For the can with the least amount of water, this is what I saw when I turned it over...

As you can see, the round of ice fell out of the can and split in half. Very logical. I think there is even some leaves mixed in there.

The second can had collected a good deal more water, before it froze. After turning it over, and the ice falling to the ground, this is what I saw...

Another view:

Since this was flipped upside down, what we are seeing is what happened at the bottom of the can. There is a round of ice that hugged the edges of the can, but then there is this big cavern - like a big loaf of bread that had an air pocket. Underneath (which was on top when the can was upright) is several inches of solid ice.

So it appears that the ice froze in mid air. Very illogical.

Any ideas?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Views From Home

Continuing with the theme of appreciation for what is in our own backyard, I had a notion today about how we can share experiences when we live far apart. Here is how it unraveled.

When I woke this morning, the snow was falling - this is still good news for the snow pack. I am delighted to say Whitewater Ski Resort has had 25 cms of new snow in the last 3 days. For those of us who have no desire to live on a snow pack, this can be more annoying than exciting. Today, Rose's first words to me, "I blame it all on you." Indeed I have been a little concerned about the amount of the snow at the top of the mountains. She agrees. "But we don't need it down here!" A little tricky - to have one without the other.

Soon after I sat down at my writing desk this morning, the snow started falling heavier, and there was no sky. Here is what I saw out my door:

When I spoke with Aimee, she was contemplating going for a walk in the sunshine. ???? Then, I had this fun idea. What were other people seeing outside their home? With the assistance of long distance phone plans, digital cameras and high speed, here is today, captured.

Here's Aimee's view from Coquitlam:

Here's my mother's view in Winnipeg:

Here's Ryan's view in San Francisco:

So, I see a theme. Blue sky. Lots of it.

Here's the last picture of the day, taken a few minutes ago...

See the upper right hand corner of the photo?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Paying Attention

How can we create a sense of holiday in the middle of winter, a routine that has gotten old, and circumstances that keep us at home? Today my idea to have a fresh experience of my day to day life was not to pack a lunch. I land in Jogannatha Express, and choose the green lentils and swiss chard. The man by the window is hunched over a book when I arrive. After a few minutes, I hear the theme from the movie, The Sting and figure it must be a cell phone because the restaurant music is more likely to be Deva Premal. ( I just had a look at this website and looks like she has been hanging around with another interesting fellow.)

My restaurant neighbour roots for his cell and says two sentences, then returns to his book. A woman arrives and sweeps him away to the good bar. From my table, I can see the street and Nelsonites passing by. Across the street is the drycleaners. I notice for the first time the light green colour of the storefront, and that the building has a second floor. Above the top of the building, I can see Elephant Mountain. Here's an interesting view of the trailhead of Pulpit Road on the side of Elephant Mountain.

As I sit digesting lentils, I remember my morning walk to work. I was absorbed in the calls I had to make, the files I had to put on the computer, and finding a work placement for my morning client, when a woman passed me on the sidewalk. "What an incredible day," she said.

With that prompt, I looked upward and saw the blue sky peeking through clouds, and mountains with pockets of bright shiny snow. And I was reminded about the beauty that is around me. I paid full attention.

And now I think about where I live - a place where people holiday....

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Oysters, Authors and Me

March 1st. According to the old saying, if the weather comes in like a lamb, it will go out like a lion OR the reverse. I haven't really figured out whether today was a lamb or a lion. When I pulled back the curtains this morning, there were big fluffy snowflakes floating from the sky. Lots of them. For people who are looking forward to spring, I would say that this is not a good sign. But it was all mellow, and warm. What I did notice was that there was no sky...

By the time, I walked out of the gym two hours later, the sun was shining, and all the snow that had collected on my walkway was gone. This is definitely good - the shoveller seems to have left the country.

By late afternoon, the sky was cloud-filled and grey, and still warmish.

What does that sound like to you?? Lion or Lamb?

I was weary this morning after a weekend of the joy of staying up late. Both evenings, I took advantage of my non-requirement to get up for work, and I enjoyed being awake in the quietness of the night. Part of my waking was that I found this, having been introduced to it by a Facebook friend.

How I spent the early evening on Saturday was at Oysters, Authors and Ale....making literacy everyone's pearl. This was a fundraiser for the local literacy group. The evening included the oysters, readings by authors and brew by the Nelson Brewing Company. An added treat were chocolates from Nelson Chocofella.

When we arrived at the door, I was presented with a sticker...

The oyster fare was cooked, smoked and raw. There were 3 types of cooked oyster - the one I chose had fresh tomatoes and asiago cheese - quite the presentation inside of its shell. What I thought at that moment was that there was not anything in my entire life that had melted cheese on it that I didn't like. Melted cheese has got to help. So here I was, years away from that young girl who refused to eat many foods, facing an oyster.

What I discovered last night as I ate my asiago cheese crusted oyster is that oysters are not that big, and they don't really take that long to eat. Good thing.

During a break from the readings, I looked down at my sticker on my jacket, and said, "I guess I can take this off now - I'm not a virgin anymore."

Well, technically, though I had eaten an oyster, I hadn't eaten a raw oyster. So I went back in the queue. Except now, there wasn't a queue. The shuckers were pretty much done their work, and so I got some one-on-one training. My friend, Randi, was also there to help me along. First, the shucker loosened the oyster from its shell, and then I squeezed lemon over top. "Take a sip," she said. "Taste the ocean?" Indeed. Randi advised to go for the tabasco sauce which I dribbled over top of the oyster. Earlier, Randi had advised that not a lot of chewing was necessary.

I tipped back the oyster shell and the oyster was gone. Down the hatch, so to speak. A done deal before I knew it. All that was left was fire in the mouth.

We wandered back to the table, and then I had a thought. There were two oysters inside of me, one cooked and one not. I realized I had a question that I might have asked the shucker ahead of time.... It brought up a new question... Was that second oyster squiggling inside of me?