Thursday, June 11, 2009

Excuses, excuses.

Cheeky Jazz left the following comment on my previous post:

"Hhmph! It seems posts don't grow on trees either." She is surely referring to the fact that I have not posted in several weeks.

Well Jazz, here is what I have to say to you:


Yes I just flipped Jazz the finger, but I like her, so I mean it in the nicest possible way. But have you ever tried to type on a keyboard with this damn contraption on the middle finger of your dominant hand? (I dislocated my finger and tore the tendon - dull story. Let's just say I did it cattle roping at a rodeo. Or hang gliding. Yes, that's it, hang gliding.)

But that's only one of my excuses for not posting in a while. It's a good one though, really plays the sympathy card.

The other impediment to me recording my scintillating prose, or drivel, depending on one's opinion, is TIME. I can't find enough of it. I have been out of town where there is no Internet every weekend since Easter. (Pictorial post on that coming soon. What......? Who just muttered "I won't hold my breath?") Weekday evenings are taken up with domestic science, and trying to get a little gardening done before the plants eat the house. If you live on the hyper-fecund Wet Coast of BC, you know what I mean. I swear we can sit in the yard with a beer, and watch the morning glories grow a metre by the time we are ready to fetch the second.

Blogging sites are blocked by firewalls at my workplace, so I can't even get an illicit blog word or two written or read while there. Even if I could I would only do so on breaks of course. (See you in that early meeting tomorrow boss.)

Tonight I should actually thank Jazz instead of flipping her the bird. Because I would much rather write than fold laundry, clean the kitchen, pull weeds, or scrape the peeling paint off the front porch. And thanks to Jazz I said "bugger that" to those chores, and opened my lap top. Which I will shortly use to journey to your blogs that I love to read, and actually take time to comment.

But tell me, where do YOU ALL find, steal, or borrow the time? Any hints?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It doesn't grow on trees?

"Sweetie, you know how I've been searching for a new purse?"

"Have you?"

"Yes, we've talked about my hunt for a well made purse with a long shoulder strap and lots of compartments."

"Hmmm, if you say so."

"Well I found the perfect one."

What I am not saying yet is that I found it months ago at Roots Canada, but refused then to pay the outrageous price. Yesterday I saw it was on sale by 30 percent, which took the price down from in-orbit to only sky high.

"That's good" replies B, soaping up my back. I have deliberately begun this conversation while we are in the shower, where B is usually a little, um, distracted.

"I have a confession though, it was a mite expensive." (Massive understatement)

"Hmmm, whatever."

Good, he is distracted

"Well actually, it was more than a little expensive", I admit.

B is hardly even listening to me now, as he mumbles, "It wasn't over $500 was it?"

"Hell no!" I am relieved that he would calmly imagine I could have spent that much.

"Over $300?."

"No." Phew!

"Well it couldn't have been that expensive then."

B nuzzles my neck, and this is the perfect time for me to say "It was only $210."

"WHAT!!!! TWO HUNDRED AND TEN DOLLARS! FOR A PURSE? I didn't know a purse could cost that much!" B shrieks.

"But, but, you said..."

"I was kidding."

And paying way more attention than I thought.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Overdue housekeeping

I got back from the Great White North a week ago. After my last post from Yellowknife I went on to the town of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, on the edge of Wood Buffalo National Park. Besides Buffaloes, there is an amazing wildlife fact about Fort Smith, but I'm going to only tease you with it for now. I will wait until I return in June and hope to actually get a photo of this phenomenon before reporting about it here. Stay tuned.

One of the reasons I love my work in the North is the opportunity to get into small communities, work with, and meet the people there. I am always impressed by people in these communities who work so hard to combat the demons of social, economic and historical problems that too often plague remote northern, mostly First Nations communities.

On the charter flight back to Yellowknife, we were served coffee from a thermos, and cranberry bread baked by the co-pilot's wife. Now that's great airline food service!

On arriving home, B and I immediately headed for our refuge. Our escape to a little piece of Heaven. Our cabin. This is the view from our deck on Easter Sunday.

And now for some overdue housekeeping. I was recently given awards by both Ian and David. I am especially honoured because I must be one of the most unsatisfying people to bestow a blogging reward upon. I am often shamefully late in acknowledging them, and I never follow the awards rules. Instead of passing on the awards, I invite you to read Ian's and David's fine writing. (See, I told you I don't follow rules well.) Thank you Ian and David.


Friday, April 03, 2009

Through the rabbit hole

As you can see by this photo from my hotel room, I am back in Yellowknife for work, after less than a week home in Vancouver. Yesterday evening here was surreal. First of all, it was still light at 8:15 at night. Not just light, but sunny. At this time of year the days lengthen by about 10 minutes per day.

As I walked to a restaurant for dinner, a man came running toward me from the legion hall. "Can you give me a ride to the airport?" he shouts. "I hafta get to the airport."

"No," I reply, "I, um, don't have a car."

"Bullshit, all you cops got cars."

"I'm not a cop."

"Yes you are, I can tell by your clothes. And I seen you in your cop car before."

I looked down at my clothes: A red Mountain Equipment Co-op jacket, boots, blue fleece hat, mittens,and jeans. Jeans with bright embroidery around one leg. (Yes, I still embroider my jeans. You can take the girl out of the '70s but.....)

I just shrugged and walked on as he continued to implore me for a ride to the airport in my cop car. Incredulous, a block later I pulled out the little camera I carry in my pocket, and pointed it at my foot. Does this look like the leg of RCMP-issued trousers to you?

I opened the door to the restaurant, having found it easily. My northern colleague, who was meeting me there, had explained "You can't miss Thornton's, it is in the same building as the bowling alley". I expected bowling alley ambiance. What I saw was this:

A maitre de whisked my jacket away, seated me, and gave me food and wine menus. This was no Bullock's Bistro.

But what happened next truly set the world spinning upside down. The waiter asked me for I.D. when I ordered a beer. He carded me??!!?? I looked for his white cane or seeing-eye-dog. None. At my age, this is not flattering, or funny, it's just plain wrong. Bizarre. The last time I got asked for I.D. was 16 years ago at a bar in Whistler. I had been wearing ski clothes, a hat, and sun glasses when I went in. A bouncer came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and said "Miss, I need to see your I.D." I turned to him, took off my hat and sunglasses, and began fumbling in my pocket for my wallet. The tactless punk then looked at me and said "Never mind Ma'am, that's O.K."

The only explanation I could think of this time was this establishment must have a policy of checking every patron, no matter how decrepit, for I.D. Or the waiter was bucking for one helluva tip. But when my much younger colleague arrived a few minutes later, she ordered her wine without incident.

I commented to my dinner companion that the restaurant was not very busy. There were only two occupied tables, although she had told me earlier that Thornton's was very popular. "Restaurants around here are all slow right now," she replied. "It's the start of home barbecue season, a spring ritual." WTF? BARBECUE SEASON? Granted, the day had warmed up somewhat from the -24 chill I walked to work in that morning. But Barbecue season? This is what the start of the barbecue season looks like here:

After a delicious (and crazy expensive) dinner of shared tapas, I walked back to my hotel. A couple of the local Franken-Ravens, (bigger, cleverer creatures compared to their southern cousins) followed me, hoping I had saved some crumbs from dinner for them. I have been followed from a restaurant by ravens before up here.

It was a strange, enchanting evening. The north always surprises me. I love that.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Highway of Heroes

While I was away last week, Canada lost four more soldiers in Afghanistan. I was working long hours, and did not have much time to read the papers or listen to the news. I was aware of the deaths, but I am ashamed to say they did not register with the usual heart wrench I feel at such news.

Today it registered, hard, and I cried for the senseless loss of those four young soldiers. And for the men and one woman that have already died in this Canadian mission. It was a video I saw for the first time on Rositta's blog that hit me.

Now, I don't normally get political on this blog, other than to occasionally curse politicians or bureaucracy, but that's just sport. And I am not really going to get political now. But I will say that I do not support Canada's mission in Afghanistan. It is a combat role, not the traditional peacekeeping role of which Canadians can be so proud. And more importantly, I don't believe combat can solve the complex situation in Afghanistan. I don't pretend to have the answers to solve the strife in that country, although if you have an hour or two and would like to discuss it with me I have plenty of ideas and opinions.

Regardless of my opinion on whether our troops should be there, I have nothing but respect for the individual soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Their dedication to duty, bravery, and belief in the work they do, makes me proud. (And they have done some good work on a grassroots level, just not a long-term solution level.)

What made me cry were images of the soldiers coming home on the Highway of Heroes. For those who are not Canadian, let me explain. The bodies of dead soldiers from Afghanistan arrive home by plane at the Armed Forces base at Trenton Ontario. There, they are met by their families, dignitaries and government officials. From Trenton their hearses travel 170 km. to the coroner's office in Toronto, accompanied by their families in limousines. The route is closed to all other traffic as they pass. As soldiers began making that last journey along highway 401 a few years ago, more and more people started to gather along the highway and overpasses to show pride, respect, and sorrow for the fallen, and support for their families. Local police and firefighters joined in. Now, virtually the whole route, which takes an hour and a half to drive, is lined by people saluting, waving flags, crying, or waving in tribute.

I am proud that, despite the fact that there is little support in Canada for our continued combat presence in Afghanistan, we do not hold it against our soldiers. They deserve only our respect. And I hope the journey along the Highway of Heroes (now officially named) gives the devastated families some comfort, in knowing that they are not alone in grieving their sons' (and one daughter's) sacrifice.

Here is the video. The Ontario Provincial Police created this tribute, and it is the OPP "Voices in Blue" that sings in it. Maybe the fact that I have a 22 year old son makes this more poignant for me. But I bet you too will not have dry eyes by the end, no matter how you feel about the war in Afghanistan.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Divine fish and dancing sky

I pause. Is this really the restaurant? I shyly open the door to this log building, which was built in the thirties as a store on the lakefront. A vivacious woman with abundant blond curly hair escaping from her baseball cap grins and yells out, "Look, our new waitress finally showed up."

"What's the pay for your waitress job?" I reply, immediately feeling at home. She, I find out later, is named Renata, and she is the chef, waitress, owner, dishwasher and entertainer of Bullock's Bistro in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

"Come on through, sit down," Renata invites, and leads me into a dining area about the size of my hotel room. All seven tables are full, so I take a stool at the tiny bar. "If you want a drink, help yourself from the cooler over there. Today we've got fresh whitefish, pike, trout, pickerel and arctic char, and all the meat on the menu." The meat on the menu is muskox, caribou, and buffalo. Fish can be battered, pan fried or grilled. All meals come with salad and freshly made fries. There are two choices of home made salad dressing: garlic or feta cheese.

I order pan fried arctic char. This delicate, pink fleshed fish looks like pale salmon, but has a flavour unlike any other fish I've tasted. It is only found in arctic and sub arctic waters. I try to get some every time I come north, but it is hard to find and rarely appears wild and fresh on menus.

For a single diner, there is no lack of reading material, on the walls, the ceiling, and even on the funky caribou's horns.

While watching Renata cook, which she does right behind the bar, I strike up conversation with my bar stool neighbours, both here on business like I am. One is a lab technician from Calgary, the other is a cable T.V. consultant from Florida, on his first trip to Canada. He is enchanted by the north. "They will never believe me at home when I tell them I drove on an ice road!" he says, shaking his head. He offers me a taste of his Great Slave Lake pickerel, which is sweet, firm, and a serious rival to my mouth watering arctic char.

Renata and her one helper keep the whole place laughing with her stories and banter. She serves my coffee with a warning: "Honey, be careful, this coffee will make your bra pop off." (Huh?)

Time to go. I zip up my parka, pull my hat down making sure it covers my ears, put my big mittens on over my gloves, and step out of Bullock's. After a moment I realize dogs are barking everywhere, all over town. Then in between barks I hear why; wolves are howling across the bay. The haunting sound of singing wolves brings sweet tears. When I was a girl my Grandpa Gordon taught me how to call to the wolves through a birch bark megaphone at our family cabin in Quebec. It took a lot of practice, but I got good enough to make them answer almost every time I called them.

As I walk back to my hotel, the northern lights dance and weave over my head. I have seen them several times on this trip, from my hotel balcony, but never so bright. The lights of the big city of Yellowknife (pop 17,000) had dimmed my view from the hotel. But here by the lake on the edge of town they are spectacular.*

What a wonderful place this is!

*(I do not have my good camera or a tripod with me, only a point & shoot, so I did not take the northern lights photo above. But it is very close in colour and pattern to the lights I saw that night.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

North of sixty

Ignore my whining about winter in my recent posts. Today I am going to rave about it. Seriously. It is cold, very cold, and there is fresh snow on the ground. But I am revelling in it! Look at me over there on the left, smiling in the snow. No, I have not gone mad.

I am in the arctic. In Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Where winter is not just endured, it is celebrated!

So to enjoy the winterness of this brilliant day in Yellowknife, I went where the locals go: on the lake. Yes ON it. Great Slave Lake. Where I watched kite snowboarding.

There were folks walking dogs, skiing, playing on snowmobiles, and flying regular kites on the lake. And visiting the art gallery. That's right, the art gallery in an ice castle. ON the lake.

The windows are made of ice.

I had a lively discussion with the creator, caretaker, and curator of this ice castle art gallery, the "Snow King", A.K.A. Anthony Foliot. He told me his ice architectural skills began when he was growing up in Northern Quebec, and neighbourhoods would compete with each other to make the best snow structures.When the ice is thin on Great Slave Lake in November, he saws out bocks to make the windows in the castle.

So, I had great time today time in the snowy cold. In March. Who'd have guessed it!Oh, and please, while I love all your comments, I ask you to refrain from making fashion fun of my over-sized parka with the real fur hood (ick). It's government issue. I'm working you see. Except for a few fun hours today.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

For the birds

We went up to our cabin on Pitt Lake this past weekend. The weather forecast called for rain, but that's not so bad. We have complete rain canvas for the boat (which is the only way to get there), and a weekend spent curled up in front of the fire with a book, without T.V., telephones, or crackberrys is bliss. (An aside here: although our cell phones do not work up there, we do have a portable marine VHF radio, so we can call for help if one of us cuts off a foot with the chain saw. So don't worry Mom.)

The main reason I was anxious to get to the cabin was to put up the hummingbird feeders. I adore hummingbirds. Thirty years ago a First Nations Elder in a community near where I was working on an archaeology dig gave me the name "Hummingbird" in Salish. I have considered this beautiful, fearless, little creature my totem ever since. We get dozens of Rufous hummingbirds at the lake, flashing in the sunlight, dancing and diving around the hummingbird feeders. In summer, with the windows open, often the first sound I hear at dawn is the soft drum-roll of their tiny wings.

We also get the occasional Anna's hummingbird. This is the northernmost edge of Anna's range. A few will even winter over in southern Vancouver Island and some parts of Vancouver. At Pitt Lake, they are still only seasonal visitors. Their iridescent scarlet heads are breathtaking.

Hummingbirds usually return here about the first week of March. Some years they can be spotted at the end of February. I knew their migration north has been a little slow this year, but it was important to me to get those feeders up and ready. The little jewels arrive exhausted after their long flight from Mexico. (Hell, even I'M tired after a flight from Mexico, and that's just from ordering cerveza on board the plane. I don't have to flap my wings.)

So the feeders are up, but there are no hummingbirds yet. In fact they may be very late this year. If they have any sense.

If any of you in more southern climes see my hummingbirds flying north, tell them from me: "Little ones, you should hang around in California a while. As much as I would love to see you, you don't want to be here yet."

Here are some photos I took Sunday as we were leaving the lake.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pigs flew

Friday I was walking down Howe Street, heading back to my office with my take out lunch from Salad Loop. It was a crisp but bright day, and I was walking slowly, to enjoy the sun on my face. Suddenly a vintage Camaro with two young men in it swerved over to the curb beside me. I could see the passenger studying a map. The driver rolled down his window (He was closest to me, Howe is a one way street) and asked: "Hello, can you help us? Can you tell us how to get to the Lions Gate Bridge?"

"Sure", I said, "go down two blocks to Georgia Street, turn left, and Georgia Street will lead you right over the bridge."

"Great, thanks very much, and you have a good day."

"Guys, I should thank you, for making my day. Two men stopping to ask for directions!!!! I'm calling the Guinness book of Records!"

Monday, March 09, 2009


Just over a week ago I wrote about spring in the air, crocuses and primulas blooming, and the promise that the winter blahs (full blown SAD in my case) would soon be gone. I did not just post those pics to annoy my Mom (although it is tradition, for 20 years or so I have been teasing her yearly with letters, then e-mail, and then blog posts about Vancouver's February flowers). But I had truly felt a lifting of spirit. A hint of a promise that I will soon go outside and feel lovely sunshine on my face, and warm soil in my garden.

But now I have been sucker punched. Mother nature is one sadistic bitch. Look at these photos I took today: