Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wanderings, Walnuts and Words

It's taken a week to recover from The Epic Journey. Well, not exactly but it's been that long since I returned back to our valley after wandering 'bout the plains and vast horizons of former stomping grounds.

Brief recap and shout-outs:

Arrived at my parents' home at 1am, driving through the mountains at night after work to avoid both traffic and construction. It seems to be one continuous construction zone from west of Golden to the Sunshine Village turnoff east of Lake Louise.

By 2pm Saturday, Mom and I were at Auntie Winnie's place in Edmonton for a wee visit. At 96+ years of age, she's doing remarkably well, still in her own condo although confessing that she sleeps much of the day.

Sunday afternoon marked our arrival in Valleyview. We ladies stayed overnight with friend Fay, who hosted a wonderful birthday supper for Bryan. She and Roland, Rick and JoAnne, Karen-Lee and Randy. I miss these people so much, and yet truth be told, I cannot see myself ever living in Valleyview again. Somewhere else in the South Peace, perhaps.

Monday, Grandma and Great-grandma descended upon the House of Abby.

Poor Marlon and Krista! We do indeed love to see them and visit, but it is the little one who defines us in our current roles, that of the family's elder stateswomen.

Abby is enthralled with all things Tinkerbell these days. If I can figure out how to do it, I'll upload a video clip of her dancing in front of the computer one day while we were there.

We stayed only a few days. Not long enough for the kids, perhaps, but better too short a visit than too long of one.

Marlon, Abby and Great-grandma.

Wednesday afternoon and stay-over with Bryan, including a visit with Renee and Don.

Thursday afternoon we arrived at Maggie-May's east of Rocky Mountain House, spending time there and enjoying conversation with her daughter Jessica and mother Eleanor. And back to Airdrie in the evening, about 1500km later on that circle.

Bryan arrived Friday late to take in Dave's Oktoberfest at his BMW shop in Calgary. Went out to the farm for a visit with Todd and Michelle.

Saturday I took Mom into Calgary for a shopping browse at Edelweiss Village, down on 20 Ave and 19 St. We had lunch and an interesting visit with an older German couple seated beside us. If you think I'm bad for striking up conversations with strangers in the oddest of places, you should spend time with my mother! Apparently it's a family trait.

Stopped by Dave's party where Mother schmoozed with the biker crowd, drifting in from one of the three road rally challenges (it was a cold, windy day).

And Sunday, I made the drive back west through rain whilst Bryan laboured north on his bike through what at times was serious snowfall. Thank goodness for heated vested and grips, although snow studs on the tires might have been useful as well.

Just under 3000km in a week, and never travelled more than 10 miles east of Highway 2.
Autumn is of course the time to clean up the yard in preparation for winter. Frost finished off the tomato plants and other tenderlings a few nights ago. There are buckets of tomatoes in the house, patiently waiting to be processed. Before then, I have work outside to attend to. The strong winds this morning are a deterrent. I get terrible earaches from wind, a holdover from multiple childhood ear infections. Besides which, I was hoping to burn off much of the dead vegetation. I know, I know - compost it. But there is always such a very large amount of it to deal with at this time of year.

Friend Deb from work brought me a large sack of walnuts from her yard. The fallen nuts are a nuisance in her yard. Oh, she appreciates the succulence within but the sheer volume of them from her trees is daunting. The grass needs trimming but first she must collect all the nuts, else she damage the mower, take out a neighbour's window with a projectile walnut or ding a car on the street, or all three.

There's always someone who has a bigger problem than the one facing me on any given day.

So, the past few evenings have seen me while away the time half-watching videos and cracking walnuts. I must say, the floor is a sad sight at the moment. It didn't seem logical to clean up the debris until the job was done - something akin to shovelling snow during a blizzard. There's a nice large bag of freshly-cracked walnut meats in my freezer, a pail of shells on the veranda and some interesting abrasions on my hands.

Did some browsing in a few favorite book haunts on my way home after work last night. Snagged some good treasures: Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes, The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier (she postulates the stories behind great works of art; this one is about a series of late 15th century Unicorn tapestries), A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire (in his 'Wicked' series, alternate stories from The Wizard of Oz), and The Road to Cana by Anne Rice (second in her Christ the Lord project - yes, she of vampire fame has taken a new turn).

The jewel, however, is At Large and At Small by Anne Fadiman. It's been love at first sentence for me. The book is a collection of essays, in the finest sense of that genre, and it's like having a very fine conversation with an intelligent, thoughtful and well-read friend. That is a rarity indeed, in life or in literature.

"...[M]y interests are presbyoptic ('at large') but my focus is myopic ('at small')." she writes in her preface.

My To-Do list is quickly losing its charm (whatever little it may have possessed in the first place) with these beauties crooking their seductive fingers at me.

I have walnut carnage to clear away, floors to wash and tomatoes to process.

The laundry is almost finished. Just a few items to iron (hey, I happen to like ironing, and have some cotton items that need attending to).

The paperwork on my desk is frantically flailing its arms for attention. The partially-finished sewing project heaves a sigh of resignation.

Many just a few more pages of Anne......

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sockeye and Solitude

I know that the season is not officially called Autumn until Sep 23, the autumnal equinox. I'm deeply encultured to consider the Labour Day weekend the 'official' end of summer by virtue of students' return to school, and the feeling has been strongly confirmed these past few days.

Mother Nature, with her lackluster performance on summer this year, has abandoned the whole project entirely this weekend, or so it seems, and seen fit to deliver three dismal overcast days in a row for us to supposedly celebrate a brief cessation from our labours.
If I sound a wee bit pissy, oh well. Bad attitude has sometimes been a specialty of mine.

Where I work, the supposed benefits of a long weekend are far outstripped by the early deadlines and extra pressure in an already high-stress environment. Suffice to say I was quite fed up with my fellow human beings for a time on Friday evening.

Rather than go directly home, I took a long detour. The biggest sockeye salmon run in 100 years has hit BC, something like 34 million fish. Remarkable in and of itself but even more so considering the collapse of the fishery last year.
One of the biggest sockeye runs in the province is close by, the Adams River. And so I went for a drive and found a private little spot on the Huihilli Creek (or Hiuihilli as the sign reads) in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park (it means 'bear' in the Shuswap language).

The photo below is taken from the bridge on the Flume Trail close to the Adams Lake road, looking downstream.

See that small pink spot in the bottom right-hand corner?

Sockeye in its ocean phase.Sockeye in its spawning phase.

Sockeye in Huihilli, looking upstream from the Flume Trail bridge.

And here they are in a spawning bed. Hard to tell from my pics but these are big fish - 60cm and longer. The colours are so bright, the sounds of running water, thrashing fish, the smell of the old-growth forest and dead salmon beached on the rocks - it's a complete sensory experience. Very much what I needed.

Thrashing upstream, fighting for proximity to the females. This is not a passive scene.

After close to an hour, it was getting pretty dark. And then a belated thought occurred to me. I'm alone, sitting by a salmon spawing creek, and bears love salmon, and this is called Bear Creek in another language. Perhaps I should mosey on home.

Saturday was my rest and recovery day. I have a list of chores the length of both arms. However, I needed outside time. The morning was fine, the yard needed trimming.
Ah, the key to the garden shed lock is nowhere to be found. Called Becca at college: "It should be hanging on Dad's tool box."

Nope, looked there and all around.

Phoned Bryan.

"It's on the truck keyring."

Which truck.
"The service truck."

The one you have up north.

long pause.


Oh indeed.
Can I cut the lock?

"Only with a (insert name here, I can't remember) cutter."

Which is....?

"In the service truck."

Second long pause.

Neighbour Adrienne let me use her push mower. Yes, those of you who have been here know what I'm implying. Largish yard, steepish terrain.

And ultimately, just the workout I needed to finally and completely put my week behind me.

I finished just ahead of a wicked thunderstorm that shook the house and drenched the valley.

And then I snoozed half the afternoon away. My 9-12-12-12-9 office hours/day week caught up with me.

Yesterday I drove to Revelstoke for the day, to visit brother-in-law James at mother-in-law G's place. Left early, early in the morning and look the Salmon River Road (can't get away from them fish) route.

Just a few km's outside Salmon Arm (again, I say) the morning sun was very lovely. This is Mt. Ida, backlit by the sun rising over the ridge. It was complete burnt off by a horrific forest fire about 10 years ago, one that devasted the valley for miles and miles.

And looking back south at the valley I'd driven up. It's full of dairy farms fore and aft.

Brief stop to visit Corinne and Ernie at Sicamous, to deliver a book by Jerry Garcia that I hoped Ernie would like (being a serious Dead Head - come on, now, you know who Jerry Garcia is/was don't you!!?).

And then "over the mountains and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go" as the kids used to sing everytime we went to Revelstoke.
Another of the millions of breathtaking waterfalls in the mountains, passed by unseen by millions of travellers on the TransCanada Highway. This one is close by Crazy Creek.

I hope you've had a restful and recuperative weekend. I know my friends in NZ have had a nerve-wracking time of it lately. Even though the earthquake that hit Christchurch was on the South Island, it's a brutal reminder of how vulnerable those who live on the Ring of Fire are. And I count BC in that number! We've always half-joked that we're one tsunami/earthquake away from beachfront property.