Sunday, August 30, 2009

Smoke in the Valley, Verse Two: the Thicker Version

It's early Sunday morning, so you know where I and my coffee cup are. The view out the windows isn't nearly so pleasant this time, though. The air is heavy, dense and bathed with an intense red glow as the rising sun tries to penetrate smoke from the Pritchard and Chase fires.

Kicky address, I know. It's the location of the Pritchard fire northwest of us. The Chase fire was close by but smaller and now 90% contained. I had a perfect view of the smoke clouds coming home from work on Friday; the winds shifted overnight and brought them this way.

There are some excellent photos on taken by local photographers Martin Hunter and Marvin Beatty. Just enter Pritchard Fire in the search box and they should come up.

If you look back to the entry I wrote about the Paxton Valley Rd, almost all that area is under evacution alert. Rounding up cows and calves on those slopes in these conditions will be miserable.

Sat on neighbour Adrienne's deck late yesterday afternoon - took her a large bag of carrots from my garden and enjoyed a glass of Ken's red wine. They have a housefull of mountain bikers - her son and daughter plus five friends all from Edmonton, doing the trails up on Silver Star. The kids said as they drove east of Kamloops and turned south on Hwy 97 at Monte Creek, the flames were very close by the highway - they took photos. Then she and Ken drove the circle, up 97 and back down on the Chase-Falkland Road - the fire had moved from Monte Creek but they saw flames south of Chase (I don't know that she knew that there were two fires, or made the big one had travelled that far).

"Do you have an evacuation kit packed?" she asked.

"Yes. It's my suitcase for Germany!" was my reply. Which, I hasten to add is truly not packed this early, but if the flames blow through the valley behind us, I'd just as soon be there as here.

There's really very little I'd take with me in an evacuation. I've been through fire crises before and it puts a lot of things into perspective: what's replaceable, what's not. I've never, thank heavens, be burned out and put to the test of dealing with the aftermath. I have, however, moved enough times to know how to weed out the flotsom.

I had full honorable intentions of posting many, many photos here today. Saturday was to a A Productive Day: Becca (who's here until Monday) graciously loaded all the recyclables into the pickup; I remembered the list of Things To Do, the disposable camera from Mom G's B-day party, and my newly filled coffee cup.

I forgot my purse.

I cannot tell you when I last did that.


I discovered the lapse as we pulled into the recycling depot yard. As a result, after the refundables had been counted and paid for, I had a grand total of $8.80 in my pocket and no legal documentation for driving the truck.

We still did our other errands including taking the camera in to be processed. Also looked at laptop computers in several stores, looking at options for Rebecca at college. In doing so, I learned that it is now possible to purchase 16G memory flash drives at $40 a pop in WallyWorld (thank you, young fella in the other computer store). Holy smokes!!! Forget getting an expensive terradrive to backup my stuff. There's enough room on that thing for my most important need: backing up my Creative Suite 4 program (5.2G doncha know) and client files. Heck, at that price I can afford two sticks and have double idemnity.

Bryan should be home today. He thought he'd be here last night but no one crawled into bed beside me. Don't know if he didn't get away like he thought, or encountered detours along the way - reports from up north say there is smoke there as well.

His mantra has always been "No news is good news", right kids? Of course I have had a few phone calls from hospitals throughout the years: "Your husband is here in XYZ Hospital but he's all right." No, I don't think so. Healthy and whole people are not admitted into hospitals. I've always managed to pry him back out of them in relatively intake pieces, though. A person can get used to almost anything, given enough practice.

Only four more days until we fly out of Calgary for Europe! Exciting? Yes. My anxiety level has subsided a bit, but it won't completely clear until I get Bryan over the Atlantic in one piece (don't know how that crookedup body will take the flight) and navigate Heathrow during our flight change. THEN I'll relax and have fun.

Almost left it too late to order Euros. WHAT was I thinking? I wasn't. Or at least, I was distracted but extenuating circumstances, but everything is copacetic now.

Tickets - check
Passport - check
Euros - check
Husband - .........waiting for processing

Claudia and Christian I, Christian II and Tove - here we come!!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where Have the Days Gone?

I just realized how much time has passed since I last wrote here. Days have gone by in a blur - how does that happen?

Two weekends ago was my mother-in-law's 80th birthday party in Revelstoke. Yes, I have lotsa pictures, still on the camera (because, silly me, I had to resort to using a disposable camera). Bryan arrived here on Thursday evening, straight down the interior. It started to rain half an hour after he walked through the door, the first moisture we've had in 6 weeks. It rained most of Friday, for which we were truly thankful. Saturday, we rode over early in the morning, just a few drops of rain at Silver Valley, and then sprinkles throughout the afternoon at the party because of course it was a backyard party.

All the siblings were there: Walter and wife Susan from Minneapolis; James from Saskatchewan, two of his three children and one of the grandchildren; Dianna and Ralph from Kamloops, one daughter and partner and three of the four grands; Phyllis, her partner Gary, daughter and her partner; Bryan and I. Plus Uncle Dave (her brother-in-law) from Winnipeg and friends from town. All in all, a very nice, companionable group.

You can tell people are getting older - the party was a wrap by 11:30pm!

Bryan and I were home late Sunday afternoon. I went around the garden, noting how everything looked perkier after the deep drink of rain and cooler temperatures. Just around the bottom corner of the house, I came across a quail hen and her clutch of very new babies, still sporting fuzzy coats with dark stripes, tiny enough to hide under the lanky clover. I apologized for surprising them and turned back to where I'd come from.

Bryan left on Monday to head back north via Calgary, arriving late Tuesday afternoon. He's getting tired of the trip there and back; hopefully something will turn up down here to enable him to live here permanently.

It was only a few days later that I took the late flight east to Calgary after work Thursday, landing at 10:45pm MDT. Marlon, Krista and Abby were at her sister's in the city so I didn't get my hands on them until Friday afternoon - again, photos pending. We had a lovely visit! What's not to like about a chubby, smiling, gurgling 8 month old baby? Oh, and her very nice parents, too.

All the family managed get to Airdrie, my brothers and their families. Nice to see everyone; it's been a long time since I saw Scott and Pam, busy with their boys and work and all.

Abby has a crazy crawl - up on one foot and one knee, bum high - and is climbing up on everything with fearless bravado. She's trying hard to talk - the usual ma-ma, da-da stuff, but also an almost-whispered 'wassat', ("what's that?"). Everything is in the mouth, and nothing escapes her eye. What a lot of work and what delight, all rolled together.

Baby time came to an end far too soon - the kids left Sunday morning to travel home to Grande Prairie and the end of their summer vacation. It was a long trip - to Winnipeg and back - and they were more than ready to be home.

I shrugged off my melancholy by spending the day with friends Brian and Cheryl. They're so often our hosts, it's nice to spend time in their haunts (hard when they live in the same locale as my family). Cheryl and I braved the traffic and crowds to get to Balzac's new mall - the first new enclosed shopping mall opened in Alberta (Canada?) in 20 years and quite a novelty. We were headed to one store only -

The Bass Pro Shop.

Holy smoly!!! You GOTTA see that place! It's a museum - wildlife display - outdoorsman junkie shop all in one. Huge dioramas with not one or two but entire herds of antelope, cariboo, elk running down slopes; an enormous aquarium filled with native trout with waterfalls to either side; I think someone said every indigenous mammal, bird and fish is represented in the display amidst antiques and artwork. And oh, it's also a store.

I may have to go back. Go to and click on the only star in Canada on the map (it says Rocky View, due to the MD of Rocky View?) and look at the photo show.

Early to rise Monday morning and a pickup & delivery via Mr. Goldsmith (thanks, Brian!!) at 6:15am to Calgary International. Grab a boarding pass at the selfserve kiosk, sprint to the security lobby (a 25 min. endurance test) and then hunting for the right gate. I love that early flight because it's always on time and the view going over the mountains at that time of day is breathtaking.

However, converting back to Pacific Time, it means my day started at 4:30am and I'm so not a morning person. Did you hear me snivelling? Yes, that was the sound.

LAURA: your surprise parcel was in the mail upon my return. Thank you!!! You didn't have to do that (she sent me a lovely piece of weaving in exchange for a book) but now I can brag I have a piece of Laura Fry work. My daughter is here for a few days before commencing classes at Lakeland College, and she is one person who both appreciated the item but also the joy it brought to me, a lapsed weaver.

Things are slow today at the newspaper so I played hookey and spent the day with Rebecca. We drove out to Cherryville, looked at the wee artisan shop there; stopped at a little place in Coldstream along the Kalamalka Lake Rd (Lynnette, you'll know the place, it's not far west of the Coldstream Ranch) with the world's absolutely best raspberry iced tea; wandered through a few antique stores in Vernon; headed home with bruschetta on the mind. Got the tomatoes, cukes, parsley, mint, thyme, etc. all to hand. Nummy.

The sprinklers are on....big surprise. I saw fellow Falklander Bridget at Swan Lake Garden Centre the other night (stop there on the way home for my fruit and bread) who said the same thing: "I've spent my entire summer watering the garden!" I hear you, babe. The days are much cooler than two weeks ago but we are so desperately dry. Even daughter Becca who's come here from an officially-declared drought area said that we're noticable drier. Only the 36 hours of off-and-on rain two weekends and very little precip before that. It's wearying, depressing and frustrating. Will my plants survive while we're in Europe? After all the TLC I've given them so far, I hope so.

Bryan's hoping to be home by the weekend. Becca will be off to Vermilion on Monday. We depart for Calgary (again) Thursday evening, to embark on our flight over the Atlantic Friday night. My anxiety level is ever-so-slightly elevated. Claudia wrote today from Berlin: "Are you nervous?" Yes, but not about Germany, more about getting Bryan there on his first trans-Atlantic flight and first long plane trip since getting so stove up. Both not bothered and somewhat worried that we have no plans for our time there - Claudia has us in hand.

A long walk will clear my mind. I've returned to my evening walks around town and they do wonders to clear my head and trim my waist....eventually. No more strange dreams!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dream Themes, or Why I've Accomplished SO Little This Morning

Dream Themes:
Forgetting To Care For The Baby

This classic dream usually comes to people who lead productive, responsible lives. It is all the more upsetting or distressing for precisely that reason. In most instances the neglected baby is the Jungian archetype of the divine child. The infant represents aspects of the dreamer's self that are neglected or ill-defined. It might seem funny to write in our waking-life appointment book "reserve time for self-exploration," but, in order to be healthy and whole, that is exactly what we have to do. (Even if it looks like the height of laziness or irresponsibility from the point of view of the waking ego, which is driven to make the most of every precious moment.) This dream informs you that ignoring one's deepest spiritual needs and desires is the truly irresponsible activity--as irresponsible as agreeing to look after a baby, and then forgetting about it. © Jeremy Taylor, 1996

So, I woke up this morning with a vivid dream in my head.

In the dream, I was caring for a baby; apparently it was mine but I can't tell you if it was male or female or even what its name was (I assure you I'm a normally a much better mother than that). I was outside, the baby was laying and rolling around on some white gravel (what was I thinking?!).

Pan forward and I'm washing the baby but when I look down, there's nothing but a wet washcloth on my arm. Where did that pesky baby go to? I looked all through the house where I was, in every room, under every object - no baby.

And I'm not panicked the way I would be in waking life (supposing I would casually misplace my baby in the first place) but mildly puzzled at the apparent misplacement. Which is the point at which I awoke.

What would you do in this situation? If you were me, and it was early in the morning all by your one-ness and the valley was filled (again and thicker) with smoke, you'd of course get a pot of coffee perking on the stove in the trusty ol' aluminum pot (Alzheimers forsooth) and fire up the computer to do a Google search on dream interpretation.

Voila. Instant knowledge.

Why yes, that is my fluffy soft brown housecoat and pre-caffeinated look.

And then I proceeded to spend far too much time on-line, following arcane trails (sorta the updated version of getting lost in a dictionary or encyclopedia - what, that never happened to you?) and working my way through the entire pot of coffee (it's now healthy for you, I read that.... somewhere....really).

NOW, now I am working, or will be in a minute. The notes I took Thursday night are within reach of my left hand. I've showered and dressed (already - I know, I'm surprised too), got the week's laundry running through the machine (although I may opt to use the dryer rather than hang them outside in this smoke - I love modern appliances!), am thinking about breakfast....or brunch....lunch?, resisting the temptation to grind more beans for another pot o' joe, listening to "Go" on CBC radio,

in short, doin' what I seem to do best: procrastinating.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pictures, Finally, and a Lesson in Fuel Economy

Learned something today that is rather valuable, but the knowledge was acquired in an inconvenient way.

One the way home after work and several necessary errand stops enroute, I was almost to the top of the 2.5km, 7% grade stretch of road past Sunvalley Speedway when the 'low fuel' buzzer sounded.

I hate that sound.

It means I've been stupid and not remembered to check the gauge before leaving town (I have a 45km commute each way).

I learned that if the road back to fuel supplies is (a) downhill for the first 6km, (b) mild grades the rest of the way, (c) you keep to the speed limit, (d) the lights are in your favor at the intersection by the horse race track and (e) traffic is also in your favor for the left turn at the fuel station, you can travel 17km after the low fuel buzzer sounds and still have (I think, based on the fuel receipt and the car's manual) 5 L of fuel in the tank. Good to know.

So, lots of photos and some updates.

My hand is almost back to normal, but the knuckle is still enlarged. A few hours after I took this photo, I had to remove the four-stone garnet and silver ring.

I wear three rings. One is for enduring love, one is for fancy and one is for mystery. The mystery ring is the sterling silver and garnet ring. It's been in my jewelry box for years. I can't remember when or how I came by it. I never thought about it much until two years ago, when it regained my fancy and I began wearing it. It reminds me of the mystery that constantly flows through my life.

OK, yard and flower pictures. For those new to this site, there was nothing in this yard a year ago. The yard was bare, only some weeds and the retaining wall. I began work on it in June 2008.

This is the front of the house, the sweetpeas, gladiola and lilies, with some baby lavender and evening-scented stocks mixed in, a few struggling ranunculus and a shy cana.

A crocosmia that FINALLY bloomed; others are threatening to.

You might remember the saga of the rock steps last summer. It's done, the rocks presently covered in fine sand that is gradually 'mortaring' in. Lavender and heathers (plants of special memory), Russian sage, rudibekia, strawberries, dragon's blood sedum, evergreen plant, thyme (edible and creeping), rabbit ears, soapwort, a rogue sunflower and first-year hollyhocks.....

Looking up the west side of the house. Hard to get pictures here because it's often in the shade. Ostrich ferns, Chinese lantern, sapphire lobelia, bleeding heart, astilbe, lily-of-the-valley, hosta, ganzhou mugwort, cedars, juniper, lilies...... and Trevor and Michelle's house way in the back (the tall weeds are theirs!!! and she'll admit it).

Smoke from Terrace Mountain fire makes everything hazy. Tuktakamin Mountain to the south, Tuesday evening when I took these pictures.

And some pictures I stole from my brother Scott's Facebook page, from their recent summer vacation in the Alberta badlands.

Scott is the middle child; we have a younger brother Todd. Hey, Beth and Bryce, think you could still toss him over the back steps railing?

Scott and his smokin' hot first wife Pam, mother of his two sons.

The sons: Wynn (oldest, top) and Max.

So, y'all can stop nagging now. I occasionally do remember to recharge the battery for my antique digital camera and have updated all the drivers for the card reader.

The evening has flown by. Washed the 15lbs of blueberries I bought at the fruit stand on the way home (did I mention I REALLY like blueberries) and have them in shallow pans in the freezer, later to be bagged. Also 8 lbs of cherries (I like them, too) for snacking and sharing. And peaches, but not too many - waiting for the free stone varieties to come ripe.

I promised myself time going through manuscript notes; by the time I finished with the fruit, got some Gieze Mechanical business attended to, moved the water sprinklers (it's our day to water) and eventually grabbed some supper, well, it's now getting close to bedtime.

Have I mentioned lately that I miss my 4- 10 hr days?! This 5day work week cuts into my home time something terrible.

Oh, oh, oh, but I have good news to share before I call it a night. I have airplane tickets for a quick dash over the mountains to Calgary and a long overdue visit with my son and granddaughter!!!! Marlon and Krista are in Winnipeg for a few weeks, travelling home via Calgary. I fly out of Kelowna after work on the 20th, allowing me Friday and Saturday to see them and most especially Miss Abby. The kids drive on up to Grande Prairie on Sunday, which gives me time to visit my folks at Airdrie and whichever of my brothers are around. Then I fly back at 8am Monday morning, arriving 6 minutes before I leave (love that - it's a 54 minute flight that also jumps a time zone), going directly to work from the airport (30 minutes or less - the airport is on the north end of Kelowna).

There's an 80th birthday party (Bryan's mom) and oodles of other things to do before then, but you just know where my brain's at. And yes, lots of pictures.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Holiday Monday in a Smoky Valley

Feels like a Sunday, mostly because it's so quiet and I'm here at the kitchen table typing to you. It is, of course, Monday but a holiday Monday. And it's so quiet because almost everyone has left town and is baking on a beach at the lake or floating on tubes down the Shuswap River. Or so it seems. I'm not complaining - it's mighty nice here today.

The heat hasn't abated at all, in fact got more intense in the past few days, 38C to 42C almost every day and no rain for four weeks excepting one evening. BC Premier Gordon Campbell issued a public announcement on Friday that was just short of an official proclamation of a state of emergency due to the extreme heat and dry conditions. The entire province, at least from Prince George south and including Vancouver Island, is tinderbox dry. One good lightning storm or careless (or malicious) human could send the whole region up in a giant POOF.

My publishing partner Val was out yesterday for a work day - I insisted we work here because her apartment in town is a sauna. It got to 42C but the house still remained relatively cool (I don't have A/C but lots of shade from fir trees). We were diligent little beavers, putting in a solid 4 hours of work in the morning, then a light lunch of salad and social time with tall glasses of iced tea. I brewed a batch of tea with lemon and mint that morning just for that purpose.

It hasn't been all work. I rode out to Kelowna Saturday to take in some of the weekend polo tournament. One of the women I work with told me about it; her husband is a polo player with the Kelowna/Vernon club. It's been over 25 years since I attended a polo match. There were teams from the four western clubs: Grande Prairie, Calgary, Kelowna and Victoria. Yes, they travel a long way for these meets.

Met some very interesting people, one couple in particular who don't have a horsey bone in their bodies but have friends who are - Joe and Cindy. He's a full time videographer (I think that's how you say it) making a living, if you can believe, posting his work on his own YouTube channel. When I find the link, I'll post it. And she is a professional artist/ photographer. Our game watching was intermingled with some very interesting conversation and hopefully a new friendship.

My life's journey seems to be one event of serendipity (or God's hand) after another. I never know where it's going to lead! You know the old saying: If you want to hear God laugh, tell Her your plans, or Life is what happens while you're making other plans. Just the idea that I might be in control of my life makes me laugh out loud.

It was blistering hot out there but Janice, Ray, I and my new friends found shady places to watch the games. And then between chukkas came the traditional, "Spectators, we invite you to walk the field" and out we'd go, icy cold beer in hand, barefoot in my case, replacing divots kicked up by hooves and pushing the turf back down with our feet. Not the dainty frock-hat-and-cocktail set, but this ain't England, honey.

It was a gorgeous day for biking, almost too hot actually even though I was in a sleeveless top, jeans, helmet and boots (who could even think of a jacket, let alone chaps, in this heat?). My late afternoon ride home required a Timmy's stop for iced coffee and a spell in an air conditioned environment, trying to cool down.

Been watering the garden and flower beds late in the evening and into the night, when it soaks in deep and does the most good. Neighbour Adrienne and I sat up late into the evening, listening to the rhythm of the sprinklers, drinking cold white wine while she talked about her son's wedding last weekend, and then everything under the sun as the level got lower in the bottle. Husband Ken just smiled and uncorked another one for us. I don't think they made it to their 6am tee time at the Armstrong golf course this morning!

Today our valley is heavy with smoke from the Terrace Mountain fire*. We had a good view of the smoke pillar from the polo grounds on Saturday, upwind from the fire. Around 3pm, Janice and I both commented that it looked like perhaps it had increase. I haven't looked on line nor listened to the radio for two days now, but did hear through the grapevine that Fintry was evacuated again.

One woman I was sitting beside at the polo grounds made a funny remark as we watched the smoke: "I though they said they had that fire contained!"

"Well, yes, but that doesn't mean it's out. It just means they've stopped it from travelling. (it had been moving at 30m per minute at the worst of it) It is a big fire (4500ha) so it's going to take a long time for it to run out of fuel."

She gave me the funniest look. To her, 'contained' meant out, done, finis. Oh lady, if you've seen a wildfire line, and I have, you'd have no doubt at all about how far the word 'contained' is from 'out'.

And if the heat was intense where we were, it must be almost unbearable for those slogging away at that fire, deep in mountain canyons where there's not a breath of cool air.

And yet sometimes I really miss going out to wildfires. I miss the crews - all Indians from Sturgeon Lake and sometimes Driftpile reserves. I miss the incident command team - Don, Owen, Eugene, Chad. And I really miss the helicopters. I adore helicopters.

Last summer on a visit back to Valleyview, one of the guys from Sturgeon Lake saw me walking along the sidewalk and came to say hello. "How come you don't drive for us anymore? We wantcha back. You were a good driver and a lot of fun!" Why thank you. That was nice to hear, and although I told him I now lived 1000km away, that wasn't a good enough excuse for him. My adoring fans!

I've had some real fun in my life. I was raised on a cattle ranch in southern Alberta. Got a college degree in agronomy (I'm a dirt specialist, at least on paper.) I milked dairy cows in New Zealand. I was a draftsman in Calgary, a land use planning researcher in Grande Prairie and highway development control officer in High Prairie. I had a homestead farm with my husband in the Northern Alberta bush, where we built a log house, raised beef cattle, meat goats, sheep and two kids. I drove silage truck for the neighbour during the summer, then school bus as a spare driver and contracts for wildfire fighters in the summer. I taught piano lessons. I played piano for church and weddings and funerals ("Where's your mom?" "Oh, she's in town doing a funeral.") I wrote articles for agriculture and forest industry publications, and then for the local newspaper. When we sold the farm, I got into newspaper production as well as writing. I wrote a book, and that project led to editing and publishing books for other people. I learned to ride a motorcycle, taught my kids how to drive and my husband to appreciate classical music. He taught me how to play - to take the afternoon off, to hell with the garden, and play with the kids in the river, bathing suits optional.

I can hardly wait to find out what's coming up next!

* Terrace Mtn Fire update, or why we're inundated with smoke:

Terrace Mountain (K50720)

Location: Terrace Mountain, 38k on Steward FS Road
See approximate location on a Mapquest map

Discovered: Saturday, July 18, 2009

Size: 7,025.0 ha (estimated)

Status: Active
• 30% contained
The Terrace Mountain Fire grew significantly yesterday due to wind; it is estimated to have grown 2500 hectares.

This aspect of the fire has been burning from a range of highly vigorous surface fire, with torching to extremely vigorous surface fire or active crown fire. The fire was not a result of the burning off activity; this fire burned over the fireguard that was built. Extremely dry fuels, wind speed, and wind direction all contributed to the fire’s vigorous growth.

Interface: Interface Interface Fire

Evacuation Order is in effect.

An evacuation order has been issued by the Regional District of Central Okanagan for approximately 2500 residents.