Friday, July 31, 2009

Can you hear me now?

I am writing this at a campground – The Campground with No Name – somewhere west of Cranbrook and east of Creston, B.C. We got in here about 7 o'clock tonight (Friday), having come from Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, where we slept last night. There was no internet service in Duck Lake, and there is none here, but at least we have power and water and a place to sleep. We are surrounded by trees and mountains, which I find a pleasant relief from the prairies. Remember when I exclaimed over the beauty of the Saskatchewan sky?

I've figured out my problem. I have a short little span of attention. The prairie sky looks great to me when I first see it, as do the waving fields of grain. Shortly, though, I hear a voice in my head whispering “Is this all there is?” And yes, by gum, that's all there is. My mother used to call it “acres upon acres of nothing but acres”, and Robin says “miles and miles of nothing but miles”, but it's all the same. I feel my mind curling up in a little ball and whimpering. This afternoon, when we came over Crowsnest Pass, I could hardly contain my joy.

Just before the pass, there's a place where the mountain fell down, some years ago. We drove quickly through there while I clicked my camera.

I wasn't so joyful when we discovered that in this part of the country, there aren't any RV parks (or precious few). There are RV “resorts”, where you're welcome to stay if you buy a lot. Uh, no. I began to think we would have to drive all the way to Castlegar, where I know there are RV parks – and that was a worrisome thought, as this is a long weekend. Back in Ontario, it's called the August Bank Holiday, and in BC it's called BC Day. I don't know what the rest of the country calls it, but basically it's August and we need a holiday, so we made one up. I was worried that we would drive all the way to Castlegar (another couple of hours, I think) and find that there was no room at the inn, as it were.

Anyway, I spotted this place and we pulled in at the store that also serves as the office. I asked for a space.

“How big is your rig?”

“Twenty-four feet”.

“Sorry, we don't have room for you.”

I trudged back to the Turtle. Robin had got out and was looking around. A woman approached me and told me we could have spot #4.

”But the young man in the store told me you don't have room.”

“He's wrong. You could fit into #4.”

She turned out to be the owner, so we took her word for it. Robin put the Turtle into spot #4 while I went inside the store again and paid the bill. The young man was apologetic and a little embarrassed. I told him not to worry. I was just grateful to have a place to lay my head.

A coyote crossed the road in front of us today. Apart from that and the difficulty in finding a place to stay, that's about all that was remarkable about the day. I'll post this as soon as we reach civilization. That should be tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Burning the midnight oil -

Two parties in two nights. I've eaten wonderful food in delightful company, and come home too late to blog (midnight is beyond the witching hour for me, but I was having too much fun to leave).

The day before yesterday, we boarded the little barge and were ferried out into the lake, where we sat and watched our host and his cottage buddies do their daily water skiing.

They have a slalom course set up, and there's an ongoing competition. When I wasn't watching the skiing, I was photographing water lilies - or the light on the water.

Watching the water skiing brought back memories of my one and only attempt to stand up on a pair of water skis.
I seem to be too bottom-heavy for that sport. My attempts did provide amusement for the whole company (read "provoke hilarity among"), though, so I guess my performance was successful in some sense. That was many years ago. I shudder to think what would happen if I tried it now.

Later, I went for a one-hour walk in the woods with our hostess. I forgot to gird myself with Deet, so I came home bloodied, but I enjoyed the walk nonetheless. Then, we were off to the party. There was chicken cooked on the barbecue (beautifully), along with multiple side dishes - oh, and as an appetizer, we had escargot. There's nothing like roughing it, is there?

Yesterday, it was too cool and rainy to go out on the lake, so we drove to town to run some errands and have a little flying fun in our host's tow plane. Along the way, we stopped in at a used bookstore run by an old friend. We said a quick hello, then headed to the airfield. I didn't have my camera with me, so I'm afraid there are no photos of the plane. It was my duty to use the camcorder to record the take-off. I did that, then drove back to the bookstore. (There was quite a brisk wind, so I decided against flying - or my stomach did). Back at the bookstore, I found volumes 5-7 of Anais Nin's journal, another of her books, a volume of Alice Walker's poetry, a Lillian Hellman book, and a copy of Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy. I had to close my eyes and sit down, lest I find any other irresistible books. Once seated, I accepted the offer of coffee and a muffin. We chatted, the proprietor and I, until my phone rang to tell me it was time to go pick up the menfolk.

In the evening, more old friends came over for a steak barbecue. By then, the outdoor thermometer was reading 16C (60F) and the fireplace was crackling. A fine time was had by all, and it was just about midnight when I got back to the Turtle.

This is our last full day here. It's absolutely pouring out, so we're watching videos, reading books, blogging (s-l-o-w-l-y), drinking tea. Tomorrow morning, we'll head out bright and early - or dark and early, as the case may be - aiming for the first car wash big enough to take the Turtle. I hear it's hot out west. Maybe the weather will have moderated by the time we get home.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting here -

I do have photos of Casper, but I think I'll wait until I'm back home to post them, as they require some serious recall (three museums). Meanwhile, though, I'll show you what the trip from Casper to here looked like. It was rather spectacular.

We left Casper Saturday morning and drove to Glendive, Montana, where I was able to post a bit - but I didn't have the energy to sort through photos. Now, the trick is to remember where I was when I took a particular shot.

I do remember that as we traveled northward, the landscape changed, became greener. Once we were in Montana, I remembered how lovely a place that is.I did my share of the driving, but when I was driving, I kept wishing I could take photos, because there was so much to see and remember. Who was talking about the photo album in her head? Reya, maybe? Mine is very full now.

The real "Wizard of Oz" moment came when we crossed into Saskatchewan. I had memories of Saskatchewan from our trip through there six years ago, but all my memories had to do with dead straight roads and millions of grasshoppers. The year we came back here for a visit was the year of the fires. Pretty well all of B.C. was on fire that summer. We smelled smoke all the time while we drove. Once we got out of fire country, we encountered plagues of various insects. In Saskatchewan, it was the grasshopper. Icky memories. This time, Saskatchewan was a delightful surprise. Not only was there the huge sky - something I had grown to love about Montana, as well - but there was the yellow. And the green. And the blue. I couldn't stop taking photos. I remember at one point seeing a field of canola (rapeseed) glowing bright yellow on one side of the road, and a blue field of flax on the other side. It was hard to stay in the car, and not skip off through the fields like Dorothy.

I was just smiling to myself, wondering why that Oz image keeps coming to me. Now I remember. It was this photo that prompted it.

We kept on whizzing along, as we wanted to get to Wellman Lake by nightfall. As it turned out, we arrived with the setting sun. I've lost track of what time it really was, as there was a time change involved, but I think it was 10 p.m. local time, twelve hours after we left the campsite in Manitoba. The last part of the trip was interesting.

The road was mud and gravel. It was dusk. I rode shotgun, keeping an eye out for deer as we drove, lest our long day's travel end in disaster. We arrived muddy (well, the Turtle was)and tired and very glad to be here.

Speaking of deer, these are the critters we saw along the way: a coyote, a llama hanging out with a herd of cattle, two hawks in one field, a pelican, a moose, lots of antelope (that was in Wyoming, actually), deer, and horses.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

O, Canada!

We made it safely to Wellman Lake in Manitoba, where we will be spending a few days with old friends. We are surrounded by mud and mosquitoes, and we are watching lightning in the distance. The Turtle is filthy, having come through a rainstorm on the dirt and gravel road that stretches 30 km or so from the highway to Wellman Lake.

I guarantee you, there will be photos. I will gird myself with copious quantities of Deet and head out to photograph the lake and surroundings, just as soon as the sun comes up again.

Meanwhile, I've had a very long day, so good-night, everyone.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Anybody home?

I'm not, but I'm on the way. Well, I'm on my way to Manitoba for a brief visit with friends, and then I'll be on the way home. We left Casper, Wyoming at about 9 o'clock this morning, and we've settled in for the night at Glendive, Montana. We got here at 5 p.m. I haven't had the courage to go out for a walk, because I think it's still hellishly hot outside. The air conditioner is churning away, keeping the Turtle cool inside. Turtle's shell is festooned with ex-grasshoppers. I think I may just stay indoors.

Speaking of walks, I haven't had any since I left home. Nor have I paid much attention to my weight loss goals. I can tell, too. I feel puffy. This is what I ate while I was at my sister's house: brisket done on the barbecue; potato salad; deviled eggs; homemade pea soup with corn bread; birthday cake; another birthday cake; a third cake that was not a birthday cake (more on that, later); Chinese dinner out; a lovely chicken dinner at the Petroleum Club, with cherries jubilee for dessert; six Pringles potato chips; and anything else that wasn't actually tied down. Did I mention that my sister is a wonderful cook?

That third cake, the one that wasn't a birthday cake? I baked that, myself. It was an almond-meringue torte, a specialty of my mother's. Gracie couldn't remember it. Now that she's eaten it, she still can't. It seems it must be a recipe that Mom acquired after Gracie left home. It's very, very good. It goes like this:

Mix up a yellow cake mix (2x9" layers). Put the batter in prepared cake pans. Make meringue (I used 4 egg whites). Spread the meringue over the batter. Sprinkle sliced almonds over the meringue - one package from the baking section of the market covered both layers - and then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the almonds. Bake the cake as per package directions. The meringue bakes down to a crispy crust.

When the cake is done, cool it. Make up a package of vanilla pudding and cool that, too. Then split the cake layers. Put the bottomest layerette on a plate and spread half the vanilla pudding on it. Put the second (almond-encrusted)layerette on top of it, followed by the third. Spread the rest of the vanilla pudding on that, and top it with the topmost, levelest almond-encrusted layerette. For some reason, I like this cake best after it's been refrigerated for a while, but it's great when it's fresh, too.

You will note that I used cake mix and pudding mix. Our mother, having grown up during the Great Depression, thought that cake mixes and such were gifts from god. It would never have occurred to her to bake anything from scratch (except pie crust, which she made splendidly). I'm sure this cake would also be delicious if made from scratch, but I've never done it that way, because it wouldn't be traditional. ;>)

So. While I was with my sister, mostly I ate - but we also talked a lot, and she introduced me to the show "Malcolm in the Middle", which she only discovered recently. She says that Jane Kaczmarek is in fact our mother - or rather, her character is. We watched the show together, laughing and reminiscing.

Somehow, we fit in visits to three local museums, a trip to the mall, two singing engagements, and a six-hour round trip to Fort Robinson in Nebraska. I did take some photos, and I'll post them some time soon. Right now, I just wanted to let you know that I'm still out here. Now I'll go see what you've had to say while I was away.

p.s. I should mention that the hint about vapour lock seems to have been right on the money. We had no vapour lock today, even though we were up at around 5,400 feet early in the day. We're down to 2,265 feet now, so I doubt we'll have any more trouble with the vapours.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We're here! We're here!

We've been here for hours, but this is the first time I've been able to grab a moment for posting. First, there was the birthday barbecue for my sister -

No, actually, first there was the engine acting up when we were already in Casper, two miles from Gracie's place. I was afraid we wouldn't get here at all, but we limped in (chug, chug, restart the engine, chug, chug) to find a houseful of guests and a party in progress.

There was a brisket of beef done on the barbecue, potato salad, deviled eggs,cucumber salad. (Did I mention that I'm trying to lose weight? Not now, not here, no way. Life is too short.)

Oh, yes, and then there was birthday cake.

After a while, everybody but Gracie and Robin and me left, and Gracie and I got to work, learning "Sisters, Sisters" and "Dear Hearts and Gentle People" to sing together. A few minutes ago, we called our Texas sister and sang to her, just to make her jealous (not really - It was just to bring her into the process. She can't be with us, and we miss her).

Somewhere along the line, somebody told us that the way to deal with vapour lock is to remove the gas cap for a moment, then put it back on. Dead simple. So now we know, and so do you, should you ever need to know.

Posting will be sporadic this week. All is well. I'm just having too good a time. Be well, everybody.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nearly there -

We are in Billings, Montana at the Yellowstone River RV Park and Campground. We went through Butte around lunch time, because we never got around to leaving Missoula until 10 o'clock. We discovered the shopping district and decided to shop for dinner and check out Target for Cold FX. I gave up and bought some Cold Eeze. I certainly hope it works, because it tastes vile.

I talked to my sister last night and told her we would be arriving around lunch time tomorrow (Sunday). We plan to get a really early start so that we get to Casper before the heat of the day.

Today we had at least four vapour lock stalls. We've talked about it, wondered if the fact that we fuel up early in the day has some bearing on the matter. The trouble seems to start about 2:30 in the afternoon, by which time we've used quite a bit of gas. What's left would be hot, right? And there would be room in the tank for vapours to build up? Maybe we'll make a stop for fresh, cold fuel around noon each day on the return trip, if it's still this hot out. At 5:30 this afternoon, we chugged into a gas station and filled the tank again, and also added some magic stuff to try to counteract the vapour lock. At that point, it was 36C/96.8F outside. We were about 40 miles from Billings. Once we had refueled and added potions, the engine behaved very nicely, all the way to Billings. I imagine that the fact that we've been up over 6,000 feet at times, and haven't been below 3,000 feet for a long time, is not helping matters. I ask you, why can't they put these mountains at sea level?

I took the photo above while we were sitting at the side of the road - around 4:00 p.m., I think. When the engine died, I said "Oh, well. I'll just regard this as a photo opportunity."

I spent about ten minutes outside the rv, taking pictures, before I decided to retreat to my knitting chair with a book and a large glass of water.

This last photo was taken as we were driving along. I had to erase a bug splatter from the middle of the sky (windshield). I hope I did a good job, but just in case - no, the Big Sky of Montana doesn't look like a kindergarten fingerpaint project.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The best laid plans -

Ah, well. We didn't make it to Butte, Montana, but we did get as far as Missoula, about two hours west of there. The day was very complicated. First of all, I woke up with a sore throat (remember, I'm supposed to sing with my sister in a few days, so this is cause for a bit of panic), so for the first four hours of the trip - all along the 35 mph freshly-oiled section of Hwy 395, and beyond - we were popping into various drugstores in search of Cold FX, which it appears nobody in eastern Washington has heard of. I just discovered that my Wyoming sister hasn't heard of it either, so I have a feeling this cold, if it happens, will have to run its course without any herbal roadblocks in its way.

Anyway, I gave up on the Cold FX, and we kept going, got onto the I-90, and drove through an awful lot of construction zones all the way through Washington and Idaho, into Montana. Nine miles east of the Idaho/Montana border, as we were coming down a steep hill in one of the construction zones, the engine quit.

Fortunately, my husband was driving at the time. I have doubts about my ability to manhandle the steering wheel under those circumstances. He put the Turtle in neutral and we coasted along, trying from time to time to re-start the engine. It would start, but then it would die again, almost immediately. A mile later, we came to a turn-off toward something called St. Regis. There was a tiny village at the exit, with another S- name that I've forgotten. It had a bar, so we sidled up there, having left the rig parked on the very wide shoulder. We weren't at all sure how to get ourselves rescued, because we had no bars at all on our cell phones, so we inquired about local tow companies, local mechanics, what might possibly be our problem - and one of the guys at the bar said it might be vapour lock. Duh. Because we were going downhill when it happened, that had never occurred to either of us - but I speculated that perhaps the problem had arisen just as we were cresting the hill, and it just took a minute or so for the engine to die.

We were much cheered. Vapour lock sounded a whole lot better than the fuel pump/fuel injection/computer problems we had been postulating. We walked back to the Turtle, opened all the vents and windows - as it was still 30C outside - and I prepared a soup, salad, sandwich dinner. By the time we had eaten and cleaned up the kitchen, the engine had cooled some, and we went on our way. That was about ninety miles back, and the problem hasn't recurred. We're going with the Vapour Lock Theory until and unless we're proved wrong.

All this stopping and starting did throw us behind schedule, though. Tomorrow, we plan to drive to Billings, Montana. That will put us four hours from Casper, Wyoming, our destination. I talked to my sister tonight and told her to expect us at noon on Sunday.

Things I did not get pictures of today: Several - half a dozen or so - blades for wind turbines - great huge things - on flatbeds at the side of the highway. I kept forgetting to bring my camera up to the front. It probably wouldn't have come to much, anyway, as they were very close to the road and I probably wouldn't have been able to get a whole blade into a photograph. It was like sitting in an airliner and looking out at the wing.

However, I can post the first of the photos I was talking about last night. This was taken at Hope, B.C., looking out across the Fraser River. At least I think it was the Fraser River I was looking at. A very old European gentleman accosted me as I was getting back into the Turtle after taking the photo. He asked me if I knew what that water was. I told him it was the Fraser River, as far as I knew. And where does the Fraser River arise? he asked. I couldn't tell him. He advised me that in the time of the Nazis, I would have been shot. Well, excuse me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I remember this.

I'm sitting in the Turtle, parked at the RV park behind the Christina Lake Motel in Christina Lake, B.C. We left Burnaby this morning at about 7:30 and finally settled in here at around 4:00 this afternoon. Along the way, we stopped briefly in Hope, where I took photos of the river to show you. I didn't even try to get any photos of Mt.Baker as we drove along, because it looked for all the world like a huge white cloud. I kept having to remind myself that it was a mountain. It looks a lot bigger from over here on the mainland, and the snow appears to go all the way to the bottom - though that can't be right. It's July.

I took some more shots from way up the mountain above Osoyoos, where it is high desert and very, very hot. We stopped at a fruit stand in Similkameen and bought Rainier cherries, blueberries and raspberries, all of which we have been sampling (and sampling and sampling).

When we got to Christina Lake, we decided to stop for the night. There are several RV parks right down next to the lake. They have shade trees. They are all full. We pulled into one right behind the rig that got the last spot. The upshot of that was that we had to come back to the top of the hill overlooking the town and take a place at the RV park that doesn't have any shade, and isn't next to the lake. However, it does have electricity and water - and a swimming pool, of which we have availed ourselves.

I got the bright idea of going out to take some photos here, for Friday Photo Shootout. That was a couple of hours ago. I took a walk around the motel and photographed some of their odd little decorative objects, uploaded them to my computer, started writing a post, tried to add the first photo - and it's still loading. I did give up at one point and play cards for a while, but then I came back and started it uploading again. It's been making swirly motions around that caution sign with the exclamation point in it for about half an hour now. There was a period when we couldn't get any connection at all, but that problem seems to have eased up, so at least I can post an update, I hope. I am able to vote for Rebecca again, over at Tweeterwall, so I trust that this post will find its way through the vastness of cyberspace. (Oops. The photo finally gave up its effort to load.)

Anyway, that's why the photos I took at Hope and Osoyoos aren't here - they'll turn up another day - and that's what I meant by "I remember this." Why is it that the wi-fi at RV parks is so hopeless?

Never mind. Tomorrow: Butte, Montana, I think.
Friday "Home" Town Photo Shootout -

Coming to you from the Christina Lake, B.C. Outpost

Note: I wrote this post yesterday (Thursday) and tried to post it, but my internet connection wasn't good. It was horrid, in fact. It took me two hours just to post the post I wrote saying "I'd like to post some photos, but I can't" or words to that effect. So - now, I'm in Missoula, Montana, asking you to cast your mind back to yesterday, when my "home" was Christina Lake, B.C.


The Turtle is on the move, you see, and tonight (Thursday) we are staying in an RV park behind the Christina Lake Motel. We are going to try for Butte, Montana tomorrow, but I don't know whether we'll get that far (692 km/400-odd miles), and I don't know whether I'll have wi-fi there, so I thought I'd post some photos from Christina Lake, instead.

Unfortunately, we were unable to get a space in any of the lovely, treed, shady RV parks right down by the lake, so we're sitting up here in the balcony, as it were, in the park with no shade at all. The sun has moved along far enough that our outside thermometer is no longer in direct sunlight, so I checked it a few minutes ago. 32 Celsius. That's, um, (32X 1.8) +32 = 89.6 F.

We had dinner (store-bought roasted chicken and a big salad), then headed for the pool, which was blessedly cool. Then I came back to the RV, checked to see what tomorrows Shootout theme was - and figured I could handle that. So I went for a walk. That left me with a big question in my mind.


Stymied, I walked around the motel in front of the RV park, and I finally found some odd objects. This is an ash tray. It's full of sand. That's how I know it's an ash tray.

and this, it appears, is a combination ash tray and notice board, with a bit of garbage can thrown in. It looks to me like a baby change table, recycled.

The rest of what surrounded the motel was pretty mundane - RVs, picnic tables, the pool - but these bits of homemade kitsch were just what I needed to see.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Turtle on the Move

After all the excitement, we decided to wait until this morning to leave, just because we were having all we could do to put one foot in front of the other without falling down. I did sleep in the Turtle last night, because my toothbrush was here. The alarm went off at 5 a.m., but I already had water heating for tea and coffee by then. Our ferry is scheduled to leave at 7:45, so we have plenty of time to get ready.

I still don't know where we're going. I mean, I know our destination, but I'm not so sure about our route. Vancouver today, then maybe Osoyoos, B.C. tomorrow, or farther inland. Then, at some point, we'll veer south and travel on the other side of the border.

In my haste to get going, I forgot all about posting my BetterU Tuesday results, though I did weigh in - I've lost another two pounds this week. I am not carrying my scale to Wyoming. Something tells me I'll have some regrouping to do when I get back. I'll be living on Weight Watchers dinners, salads, and low-fat subs while we're on the road, but the Wyoming portion of the trip promises to be a little off-programme. There's that birthday cake I'll be baking in a few days. Then there's the fact that my sister is a very, very good cook.

Just for John Hayes (and for me, as a kind of exorcism that I can tell you already is not working) I am going to embed a little video. I have been hearing this song for weeks now, on the CBC. I hunted for it on YouTube, but I was only able to dig up two performances. On the first one, the song doesn't start until two and a half minutes into the clip, so I didn't want to use that. On this clip, the song starts right away, but the sound is awful and the cameraman can't sit still - but that's my point. This song is irresistible. I was hoping that if I found it and posted it and listened to it a couple of times at my leisure, I could stop humming it. Nope. The words, if I remember correctly from the radio, go something like: "We should dance, we should dance. It would make us laugh - and live a little longer. We should dance, we should dance for an hour and a half - and feel a little stronger."

Now, having planted this earworm, I'll get busy and go on holiday. Hasta luego.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Change of Plans

I'm just popping in to say that all of a sudden it appears that we'll be leaving tomorrow for our little holiday - so life is a flurry of laundry and shopping and making sure I remember passports and out-of-province medical insurance and oh, I'd better tell Jane we're leaving early, and all that. I'm trying to get to everybody else's blog, but if I don't comment for a few days, do accept my apologies - Life will return to normal (that is, I'll be in travel mode, blogging faithfully every day, reading all your blogs and comments) very soon - sooner than expected, in fact.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Somebody Else's Original Poetry Sunday -

There's a new poem in my life. A friend on another site found it and posted a link. I'll do the same here. The poem is Daddy Longlegs by Ted Kooser. To read the poem, click here.

Mostly, though, today has been about music. I have been thinking about music all day. The CBC (radio) had an entire programme devoted to Brahms, which made my heart sing. As for singing, I caught part of the Choral Concert this morning. As often happens, I heard something that I had sung in one choir or another. I love that.

It got me to thinking about the fact that we'll be leaving for Wyoming on Wednesday, and a few days later I'll be performing with my sister Gracie. I think I'd better get busy.

I know we're going to sing "Sisters". I wonder if I'll be expected to dance. I hope not. I mean, I would love to - but I'm afraid our act would turn out to be more of a comic turn than we intended. I'm watching the YouTube video so that I'll have the lyrics memorized, if not the steps.

Beyond that, we're separately thinking of things to sing. I'll probably do My Funny Valentine, and maybe Blue Moon. We'll sing a few things together - things we used to sing together when we were kids, like Now Is the Hour and Moonlight Bay. I suggested Sentimental Journey, but only in jest. Gracie gets motion sick every time she hears that song. I'm a mean widdle sister.

This afternoon, I watched 'Spectacle', Elvis Costello's show. He interviewed Elton John. The two of them were talking about someone I've never heard of until today, and I can't believe I've gone all these years without knowing about him - David Ackles. Am I the only one whose musical education is so sadly lacking? (If the answer is yes, please don't feel obligated to tell me so. ;>) ) This is his Road to Cairo -

Finally, I watched a show about music and the brain. Sting got into an FMRI machine and thought about music, listened to music, composed a bit of music, all while researchers took pictures of his brain. Fascinating stuff. I wanted to embed Sting's Fields of Gold, but YouTube won't let me, so once again, click here.

Much of the programme was devoted to the connection between music and emotion. I was reminded of the first time I saw the movie Cabaret. There was a scene that took place in a Biergarten. A young man stood up and sang Tomorrow Belongs to Me. The scene was a foreshadowing of the rise of the Nazis to power, and it was chilling. At the same time, the young man's singing was so beautiful, all the people in the Biergarten found themselves drawn into his emotion, standing, singing - and as I watched the scene, I felt momentarily pulled in, as well (kicking and screaming). I found the experience frightening, but it made me realize as I never had before, just how powerful music is.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Speaking of love gone wrong -

Today, I was talking to Poetikat about Thomas Hardy's books. There was a time when I was so smitten with Hardy's novels, I read them all, one after the other, gobbling them like honey-roasted peanuts. I couldn't stop. That is, I couldn't stop until I got to Tess of the d'Urbervilles. I started reading Tess, thinking I would love it, as I had loved all Hardy's books. I think I got to about page three before I said aloud, "Will somebody please kill this cow so I don't have to read about her for another X pages?" (What was it? 400 pages? I've forgotten.) I put the book down and walked away from it. Thus ended my affair with Thomas Hardy.

Before that, though, in the flush of my first infatuation, I loved all things Hardy. One year, my husband and I were on holiday in England, taking day trips around Dorset. Before we set out in the morning, we would pore over the Ordinance Survey maps, looking for interesting destinations. Dorset is chock-full of interesting destinations.

One day, we happened to notice a reference to the Hardy Monument. "You're a Hardy fan," said my husband. "Would you like to go see his monument?"

Of course I would. What a silly question. As we made our way along the circuitous route, we joked about how many books you actually had to write before you merited a monument.

It was quite a trip, but at last we found what we were looking for. There was a narrow road winding its way up a hill, and at the top was the monument (see the photo at the top). We parked the car and walked to the tower. I had my camera ready. I could see a plaque, so I walked over to it for a little photo opportunity. I read the inscription. I learned that the monument was not erected to honour my Thomas Hardy at all. It was a memorial to Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Flag Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar - the Hardy to whom Nelson is supposed to have said "Kiss me, Hardy". ( - though, I read, he may actually have said "Kismet, Hardy" - which makes just about as much sense.)

I suppose I got an English history lesson out of that trip, but damn it, it wasn't my Hardy.

When I decided to tell you this story, I went looking for photos of the monument, and along the way I found out that there is a monument to The Real Thomas Hardy. It's located in Upper Bockhampton, on the other side of Dorset.

The next time I'm in England, I plan to make a pilgrimage. Thomas Hardy may have betrayed me by writing that Tess person, but I still love him.


SY6187 Hardy Monument
© Copyright Bob Tinley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

SY7292 Inscription onThomas Hardy Monument
© Copyright Jim Champion and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - Texture

For a list of participants in the shootout, click here.

This is exciting. I've been waiting for a chance to show you this part of Nanaimo. I fell in love with this stonework the first time I saw it. Unfortunately, I don't know who the artist is, but an artist he is. His work is the textural equivalent of chiaroscuro, a rough arrangement of smooth stones.

The walls I love are in a north end neighbourhood consisting mostly of patio homes and condominiums, liberally dotted with intermediate care facilities for seniors. I hope the folks who live in the neighbourhood are able to get out and enjoy the beauty of the place.

I like the use of larger stones to contrast with the flagstones.

The most beautiful stonework is this, a swirling confection that seems to flow like water. I'm going to post three photos together, without comment, because it's just such lovely stuff.

When I came to the end of the wall, I found a patch of dandelions gone to seed. I tried to blow on one while photographing it, but that didn't work. Oh, for a corncob pipe, I thought - I could have blown in the mouthpiece and out the bowl, without getting in the way of my camera. There's never a corncob pipe when you need one.

My visit completed, I headed to the Parkway Walkway for my daily walk. I kept having to stop to take photos, though, as suddenly there were textures everywhere.

This was a part of the Walkway that I hadn't walked before - or not in many years. I found another underpass with graffiti. Hmmph, I thought. This is the high-falutin' part of town, but we have much better graffiti down my way. You'd think these folks could afford some gesso to cover over the old graffiti before they put on a new coat. The medium here is Paint on Paint on Paint on Concrete - altogether a shiny and smooth texture.

The saddest sight was this evidence of Unrequited Love - or perhaps, Love Gone Wrong - that I saw on the fence beside the highway. Life has texture, too - in this case, rough.

I do hope you've enjoyed your tour of North Nanaimo. I had a great time. If I ever become filthy rich, I'm going to hire that stonemason to build me a wall.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Theme Thursday Post - The Laying of Ghosts

Let me say right up front that I don't believe in ghosts. I don't believe that there is an afterlife, and absent an afterlife, where would ghosts come from?

That said, there was once a ghost. I met him only that once, and I've always regarded him as a symptom of advanced pregnancy combined with high anxiety. He came to me in the night.

I awoke suddenly. It felt as if someone had touched my breast - not gently, not violently, but more like a tap, a simple bid for attention. I looked up, and I saw him - the ghost - hovering a few feet from me. He was sitting cross-legged, tailor-fashion, in mid-air. He looked as startled as I felt.

There was light all around the ghost, and it permeated him. No, perhaps there was light in the ghost and it shone through him. That seems closer to what I saw.

It was a very uncomfortable situation. I glanced over at my husband, who lay sound asleep, then turned back to the ghost. I took my time, noting details - which seems strange to me in retrospect. Shouldn't I have been frightened?

His hair was the palest blond, and he had a moustache. He was dressed all in white, in an undershirt and boxer shorts. He was also wearing white socks. The word 'Edwardian' came to mind. I think his moustache was what gave me that idea. His mouth was gaping open, but not like some horror flick ghost's - more like someone who has been startled. My impression was that he didn't realize I would be able to feel it when he touched my breast.

As I watched him, he floated slowly toward the ceiling. Then he disappeared, like the Cheshire Cat - except he didn't leave a grin behind. That was a mercy.

There. I've confessed it. That is my ghost story. As I said, I chalk it up to pregnancy and anxiety, but at the same time, I remember my ghost rather fondly. I've always wanted to apologize if I frightened him.

I've never felt any real need to lay that particular ghost, as his presence in my life has never been a troubling one. But there are other ghosts, and I'm coming to think that this part of my life is about laying them, putting them in their rightful place.

I went looking through my half-baked poems this morning, and I came across something that isn't a poem at all. I think it's the beginning of the story I have to tell, the story to lay the ghosts.

This is the way of the river, my river. This is its course, the path it takes down from the mountain well-spring, the clean place of beginning. And nothing I wish, nothing I do can alter now its rush, its inevitable journey. I only cling, shivering, to the bank and watch, and wonder at the swiftness of it all, and wonder whether, if I had climbed long ago to the source, the place where my river emerged new and cold and hopeful from the earth I might have held the whole of the river in my cupped hands.

My river rushes, willful and reckless, heedless of the rocks that bar its course. Unfathomable seeker of oblivion, tunneling through shadow, rising triumphant into dazzling light, It washes my grasping fingers and is gone, like words spoken in anger or in love, carried now unresisting, weeping to the deep, forgiving sea.

For more Theme Thursday ghostly posts, click here.

One more thing - I forgot to mention that I have another poem up at The Found Poetry Project. I really like this one.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What's that bright thing at the end of the tunnel?

Could it be a light? I had the day off today, and I used part of it to go for a walk - an hour and ten minutes. When I got home, I spent some time voting for Rebecca at Twitterwall, did a little yard work, then lay down for a little nap. As of now, I don't feel too bad. I'm hoping that I'm on the way out of my funk. Again.

The first part of my walk was quiet, because I was walking through a residential neighbourhood, but it was also mostly uphill. That part lasted twenty minutes. Then I walked down the E&N Trail from Country Club Mall to Terminal Park Mall. 50 minutes of basically level, straight path with maybe just a hint of downhill to it. It wasn't the most exciting of walks, but by the time I got to it, I was ready for some level.

I was a little concerned that I might get caught in a downpour, but that didn't happen. It drizzled a bit, that's all - not enough for me to quit - certainly not enough to stop the stalwart B.C. golfers from doing their thing on the other side of the highway.

The only problem with this particular trail is that it is sandwiched between the old highway and the railway tracks. When I was about halfway to Terminal Park, where I had left my car, the train came past. It was the little two-car passenger train. I smiled up in the general direction of the engineer, who promptly stomped on the whistle. My right ear was still aching when I got home. It was good, though, to walk a different trail for a change.

Now I'm going to go visit Liza, to see if I can get her to let go of that award. ;>) No, cross that out. The award was still stuck - so I went to see Jules, who gave the award to Liza, and I snitched hers instead. Now it is set up and ready for its new homes. But first, a disclaimer. I intend to pass this - and any other - award on to people whose blogs make me laugh or cry or just feel good. If I give you an award, and you would prefer not to display it (I know some people keep their blogs award-free), I won't be offended. I just want you to know how much I appreciate you.

Oops. I almost forgot the instructions that come with the award. The job of the recipient is to list five of her current obsessions, then to pass the award on to other deserving bloggers.

1. First, I would like to bestow the YBIFF award upon Reya Mellicker, whose blog, The Gold Puppy, is not only beautiful (Reya's photography is a joy to see), but also joyfully, sometimes painfully, honest. I love seeing the world through Reya's eyes.

2. Debbie's Suburb Sanity gets the prize because it's just so damn funny. I never know what to expect from Debbie, except that she will surely make me laugh. It's as her profile says - " I love blogging about the crazy things in my life...and yours."

Speaking of laughter,

3. Joshilyn Jackson, the third and final recipient, whose Faster Than Kudzu made me laugh so hard, I had to read all three of her books. Joshilyn is also my fitness guru, and she manages to make even the weight loss process funny.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tuesday - BetterU - and more

These are my feet, resting from one obsession, subject of another - but wait -

1. First things first. Ahem. This morning's weigh-in:

Late May: X plus 6.0 lbs.
June 1: X
June 15: X minus 3.4 lbs.
June 24: X minus 6.2 lbs.
June 30: X minus 8 lbs.
July 7: X minus 10.1 lbs.

(Hold for applause)

I measured my blood pressure at the pharmacy, but the machine was behaving a bit oddly. It took three tries to get the thing to work at all. Then it said my BP was 142/76 and my heart rate was 67. Holy crap. So I did it again. 129/74, heart rate 69. Well, that's some improvement, but still not at my normal levels. So either the machine was malfunctioning, or that third cup of coffee today was a big mistake - but hey, I didn't even drink it all. Next week, I'll use a different machine.

Joshilyn Jackson is the one who invited me to this fitness orgy. You can follow her progress with BetterU at her blog, Faster Than Kudzu or at the official BetterU website (click on the GoRed icon in my sidebar).

2. Rebecca Woodhead of From Brain to Bookshelf - My Writing Journey has been campaigning for Ms Twitter UK. Rebecca's original goal was to be the top UK writer in the competition, and she succeeded. She really got into the spirit of things after a while, and decided to try to make the Top 20. We didn't quite get her there, but now those 20 celebrity finalists are gone, and it's (mostly) real people in the competition, so the voting goes on. You can vote every 20 minutes at the Twitterwall. You don't have to be a Twitterer to vote. Please - Vote early. Vote often. N.B. Tonight, for some reason, Rebecca's photo has disappeared from the wall - but her name and link are still there. As of this minute, she is at #15. I hope her photo will reappear soon - but if not, just click on the plus sign in the square that's labeled @rebeccawoodhead.

3. Liza of Lizabee and Co. gave me an award - my choice of two, in fact. I decided to take the Your Blog is F***ing Fabulous award. I tried, that is, but Liza's blog wouldn't let go of it. "Function disabled", it said. Fine. Officially, the award is right back there, behind the screen. You can't see it, because I've discreetly covered it, to preserve my blog's Family designation.

Thank you, Liza. By the way, it is a distinct pleasure to click on Liza's blog and be greeted by her baby feet photo. That is what inspired the (less cute, I grant you) photo at the top of this entry.

The award requires that I list five things that I've been obsessing about lately. Okay. The first two are rather obvious.

1. My weight.

2. Rebecca Woodhead's quest for fame and fortune through the Ms. UK Twitter competition. Rebecca says she doesn't regard me as a stalker. Heh.

3. Nordic walking poles.

4. Walking (maybe a bit too much. That may be why I've been so exhausted the last few days - that and the 4:30 a.m. alarm).

5. My camera.

Hmmmm. It occurs to me that I can't pass the award on, because I don't actually have it. Hey, Liza! Help!

I have two days off now, so after I sleep As Long As I Want, I'll pop over to Liza's again, to see if the award has come unstuck. ;>)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Husbanding the energy

such as it is -

...wandering over to United Kingdom Twitterwall every 20 minutes or so, to vote for Rebecca Woodhead - the competition ends in 15 hours or so. Rebecca is 40th on the Ms Twitter page. Hugh Laurie is 43rd on Mr Twitter. I'd say Rebecca is doing great, but she's trying to get into the top 20.

...listening to U-Carmen on Bravo - billed as "Smashing update of Bizet's 19th-century opera "Carmen", set in a modern-day South African shantytown where a fiery seductress (Pauline Malefane) sinks her claws into a pious policeman (Andile Tshoni). Their passionate affair leads to heartbreak." I have such a soft spot for tenors.

...looking at the notes I made during the last couple of days, poembryos -

shed my skin, snake-like
shed you and begin anew

the words flowed like water over rocks,
some in shadow,
some glistening
dancing in the sunlight

across white-capped oceans
carrying the venom of fear

Let's dance across
the white-capped ocean,
over the waves of fear,
to a new shore.

Your hand in mine,
we'll twirl...

The words are barely legible, but eventually they may become something. I also noted that Wally Lamb has a new book out - The Hour I First Believed. I have a soft spot for Wally Lamb. I wonder if he's a tenor.

Later...The Wizard of Oz is on - Watching/listening to the Cowardly Lion still makes me break out in a big, sappy grin.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


Sandra wishes to advise that she is A.W.O.L., victim of a completely ungodly work schedule that has rendered her exhausted and mopey. She will return as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, do talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

It's strangely quiet in the Land of Blog. I suspect that a lot of folks are off somewhere, cooking hot dogs, steaming corn, competing in three-legged races, and waiting for the fireworks to start. Good for you, and Happy Fourth.

I will mark the day by posting what is, to me, the quintessential American music. I hope you enjoy it.

Friday Photo Shootout - Celebration of Life

Links to many Friday Shootout blogs are here.

This week, there has been a lot to celebrate. Here on Vancouver Island, the weather has been fabulous, and I've been able to have daily walks at least an hour in length. I've come to love these walks. I can hardly wait to get moving, and I am always aware of how fortunate I am to be able to do that - able to walk, and also able to feel enthusiastic about it.

Earlier in the week, we drove to Roberts Memorial Park, south of town, and we walked down to the water.
The ferns along the path were lush, and the forest seemed to quiver with life.

When we reached the water, a dozen or so other people were there, along with half a dozen dogs. I took this picture of two dogs
who were obviously celebrating their lives, enjoying every second.

Yesterday, the sun was shining again, and we decided to drive half an hour north, to Parksville, which has a lovely beach. The beach was full of kids digging in the sand, there were kites flying, and people were swimming. We hadn't had the sense to bring our bathing suits, so we didn't go in, but we enjoyed watching the folks who did - and I got to sit in the sun and read my book - the best treat.

Today, I will be taking part in another Celebration of Life. This is one I would rather not be attending. In the old days, we would have called it a memorial service or, before that, a funeral. We will be celebrating the life of a man whom I didn't know at all well - only to say hello and exchange pleasantries now and then. He was just my age, and he died last week. This makes me all the more aware of how precious life is, and how brief.

I can't leave you on that note, so here is a song to draw this post to a close:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Theme Thursday - Funky

I searched, but I'm afraid I couldn't find any funky music by Bach or Brahms, or even Beethoven, so I had to move a little out of my comfort zone. This is what I found. Everybody dance, now:

The Funky Chicken!

Wasn't that costume fantastic? Oh, wait - then there's Funky Town -

For more Theme Thursday posts, click here.

Special Edition - The Rebecca Woodhead Ms Twitter UK Campaign

Rebecca's excitement is contagious. She has been nominated for Ms Twitter UK, and over the last day or so she has made great strides in the vote count. I would ask that you hop on over to tweeterwall and cast your vote or votes for Rebecca, so that she can prevail over dozens of Tweeters that those of us who don't live in the UK have never, ever heard of. ;>) Tell 'em Sandra sent you.
Happy Canada Day!

Robin and I both have the day off, so we'll be doing something restful - maybe a trip to the beach at Parksville. We've put off the decision until morning (and I'm pre-posting this). Whatever we decide to do, we'll be flying our flag today.

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