Saturday, January 20, 2018

Thinking out loud at six in the morning

When I moved back to Nova Scotia in 2010 I bought back my old house. It happened to be on the market when I was looking for a place and, well, it was hard to resist. I knew the house had problems but I thought, "Better the devil you know..."

The main problem I foresaw was that the man who bought the house from me finished the basement. It had been an unfinished basement with water leaks, he fixed the leaks (or so he thought) and completely finished the area, putting in a full bathroom, a bedroom and a rec room. He also took out the old floor furnace and put in a full furnace with forced air venting into all of the upstairs rooms. He did a lot of work on that house, most of which I thought was a big improvement. But finishing that basement seemed to me kind of risky. I bought the place anyway, thinking that if it came to it I would tear out the work he did there.

As of last week, it has come to it.

This past year has definitely been my year to battle the element of water. I live in a province of weird geology and waterlogged soils, with as much water below ground as above, and plenty of it falling from the sky in one form or another. A building contractor once said to me that all of the houses on my street are really just little boats bobbing on an unseen river. Every time someone digs a hole in the ground, the river changes course, and there's always someone digging a hole in the ground.

Anyway, there was a soft spot in the laminate flooring in the rec room which I thought meant that there was a bit of rot in the subfloor due to the now-fixed water leak in the nearest basement wall. This past fall I found an excellent contractor who has done some work for me and I asked him if he could fix the soft spot. He said he could. He removed the laminate carefully so he could replace it after fixing whatever he found underneath and sure enough the subfloor was rotten, very rotten. He had a bad feeling about it and we discussed it, I gave him the go ahead to remove more laminate to see how far the problem went. In my heart I knew it was going to be bad, the time had finally come. So I was not as shocked as he had expected me to be, more resigned to the inevitable.

In a couple of days they had removed all of the floor in the rec room. They swabbed it down with bleach and said they'd come back when it was dry to rebuild the floor. That was three days ago and it is still not dry, in spite of fans and heaters. Bob the contractor came back yesterday to take a look and we discussed what to do next. I am sceptical about rebuilding, the thought of covering over that floor and not being able to see whether it is leaking or not scares me. Bob thinks he can fix it so it won't leak, he thinks it will be safe to rebuild. To that end he has saved as much as possible of the unrotten materials to reuse. But he also thinks there is more rot under the bathroom that will have to be dealt with.

Right now there is nothing to be done about that because all of the furniture and salvaged building materials are being store in there and the other two small rooms of the basement. He thinks the other two rooms are safe, it's just the bathroom that looks bad, and that can't be torn apart until all of the stuff stored in there (plus the bathroom fixtures and washer and dryer) are removed. But since there's no place to remove all that to, the bathroom will remain in place until the rec room is dealt with one way or another.

And then of course there is the small matter of money to pay for all this. The way I am looking at it is that eventually I will have to sell this house, I don't see it as my last permanent home. Having a basement in reasonably good shape is a good thing, the cost is an investment that will eventually pay off. Bob is a good person who does good work at reasonable prices, he has a lot of experience and I trust his judgement. I've had him do enough work for me that I trust him beyond simply doing a good job. So the timing of this disaster is not so bad, I at least am not scrambling to find someone to fix this problem and I did know that sooner or later this was coming.

Nevertheless it is not pleasant and I am losing sleep over it. I wish I could talk my brain into relaxing. I almost made it through this past night, but I woke at 4.00am with a severe leg cramp that forced me out of bed and that was the end of sleep for me.

What really worries me is exposure to mould, there is simply no way to close off the basement from the rest of the house until the job is completed. I owned and lived in a leaky condo out west and the exposure to mould caused a severe illness that lasted half a year, during which time I could not work or do much else; at its worst just getting from the bed to the toilet was a major effort. That scares me. The smell coming up from the basement scares me. The thought that this has been going on for years, probably since before I bought the house, and that I've been living over it all that time scares me. The fact that Bob's breathing changed within hours of setting foot in my basement scares me. Scares him too, he can't afford to get sick.

So sleeping is difficult.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Full on winter

The long pond before the snow
According to the internet most of Canada is experiencing record cold weather, with the exception of Atlantic Canada which is experiencing only "seasonably" cold weather. Well I am here to tell you that is simply not true, this is definitely not "seasonable". Maybe warmer than central Canada, but still not seasonable. If it were just the thermometer temperature it would be very cold (for here), but the constant wind just makes it that much colder. We had one day last week when it was not windy and a degree or two warmer than usual, making it positively balmy in comparison to the days before and since. Taking Hapi for her morning walk is a flirt with frostbite. I thought I had enough firewood for two winters (I try to keep a year ahead), but I've been burning through it at a wicked pace and we're only at the beginning of the winter heating season.

Ice, ice everywhere! A couple of people who walk their dogs regularly at the Reservoir have really nifty ice grippers, I see their distinctive footprints on all the trails. I managed to collar one of them and ask where they got their footwear, but by the time I got to the website where they could be ordered, they were sold out. My inferior ice grippers will have to do for now.

The long pond is frozen sufficiently for skating (15 cm/6 inches) and some brave souls have cleared the skim of snow from part of the pond and already been out on their blades. I don't know how they stand the cold wind! But they are mostly kids and we all know how fearless kids can be about cold (Where are your mittens? Why on earth did you take them off?!?). The uncleared snow on most of the pond is meagre enough for the kids to skate right over it.


This past year has been my year of water issues (I have a bit of a history in that regard). First there was the sewage backup. Then I had a basement flood in part of the basement that I'd never seen water leakage before. Sewer pipe replaced, drainage tile installed and a finally a sump pump installed. Then a few days ago I discovered that water pipes behind a finished wall in the basement had frozen. I got them thawed out but I don't know if they burst or not so I turned off the water to those pipes to postpone having to deal with it until the spring. I suspect that the hot water pipes are fine but one of the (three) cold water pipes is not. A problem for another day.

Hapi usually sleeps in the basement but lately has moved upstairs. I am not sure why. It could be she is lonely because I have stopped sleeping in the basement, but that never stopped her before. Although she is noticeably more "clingy" (affectionate) as she ages. It also could be that she is finding the basement stairs more difficult, but she still goes down to the basement, she just doesn't stay there. It is definitely not the cold, she still likes to spend the coldest part of the day--the hours around sunrise--outside sleeping in her doghouse. And she occasionally still spends an entire night out there. Her doghouse is not insulated but it is positioned out of the wind. If she lived forever I still would not figure her out, her doggy brain is unfathomable.

Is it safe?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bygone colour

October 2016
A while ago I went plein air painting with an artist friend. I described the trip here. I am not totally pleased with the results, but I do have to keep reminding myself that I'm just a beginner so I should cut myself some slack.  So here are the results. Note that each picture appears darker on the left side, that is due to the lighting when I took the photo of the picture.

This was one I did a while ago from a photo in my artist friend's basement, as a kind of introduction to painting. My friend showed me a few things I could do so I cannot take responsibility/credit for every single brush stroke.

Practice, from photo
This one is from our first trip to Rock Notch Falls. Again, I had help.

Rock Notch Falls #1
This is from our second trip to the same location, but a different vantage point. Same waterfall, different view.

Rock Notch Falls #2
And the last one, also from the second trip, turning my easel around and painting the view behind me. I was concentrating so hard on the job that after one painting I was exhausted; my friend painted two or three in the same time span. However on the second trip to the falls I did manage to scrape together enough energy for the second painting.

Rock Notch Falls, behind me
I would like to keep up the activity through the winter and I have a standing invitation to my friend's basement. But I don't think I'll be doing anything this month, too much else to do.

+ + + + +

In other news, I had the maple tree in front of my house cut down yesterday morning. The picture at the top of this post is what it looked like when it was still healthy.

Tree down
It was diseased and had a split in the trunk, so it was likely that sooner or later that tree was going to come down in a storm. There were four lines---three phone or cable lines and one power line---running through it, so having it come down unaided would have been a disaster. I will miss greatly the shade it provided to my living room in the summer, but the liability of the tree was outweighing its benefits. Its roots were the cause of my earlier sewage disaster, and this fall it no longer displayed any colour. The leaves just turned black and brown and then fell off.

The other thing I will miss is that I used to have a bird feeder in that tree that I could watch from my living room window through the long winter months. Some of the local chickadees were not happy about the loss of the tree, they came by to watch and even at one point perched on the chain saw while the feller took a smoke break. There is no realistic alternative to hanging the feeder in that tree so this winter the birds and I will have to do without. That I will definitely miss, perhaps even more than the summer shade.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Halan'olo fa tian-janahary


This is a piece of printed cotton fabric I've had for years, someone gave it to me when I lived in Ottawa. It is about six feet by four. A friend went to Madagascar for several years and gave this to me as a souvenir.  When I first got this the internet did not really exist in its present form, you couldn't look up stuff on it as easily as you can now. But every once in a while I'd try to find out what the words on it meant by entering them in the browser search field, my latest effort rendered a translation of "Humility is a natural idea".

In my most recent issue of Aramco World there is an article on kangas, and it turns out that that is what this is, a kanga. It is an East African piece of clothing, women often wear them in pairs: one piece covers the body from the armpits down, the other is draped over the head and shoulders. They are usually very colourful. Men wear them too, often just draped over their shoulders.

A kanga has three main features: a central pattern, a border pattern, and a saying along the lower border edge, usually in Swahili. This one is in Malagash, the language of Madagascar. Malagasy people like the central pattern to be a picture of some kind, often a pastoral scene. This one is obviously not pastoral, but very striking.

I used to think that the words on this piece of fabric were somehow related to the picture, but it turns out that they are not. In fact if the translation is true it seems to me almost antithetical, there is nothing humble about this seascape.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A glimpse into family history


So, last week a long-awaited (16 years!) package arrived at the post office for me. It is a painting that was given to my grandparents back in the '50s that my mother inherited and I in turn inherited from her. But it came with a condition: it must first go to my mother's sister for the rest of her lifetime. Who knew she would be so long-lived (95 years)! She died a year ago so the painting finally became mine, but since she lived and died on the west coast her children gave the painting to my brother (also on the west coast) to take care of sending to me. We dithered for a year about how to do that and finally he put it in the mail a few weeks ago. Surface mail being the cheaper option and an extra week or so of waiting after 16 years not being outlandish, that was how it arrived. Unscathed (we worried about it).

I posted a photo of the painting on Facebook and then in the Comments section my brother and I argued about its origins and meaning. It was an interesting argument that among other things involved internet searches of family history and the posting of various photos supporting our differing opinions. Yesterday my brother sent an email message to various family members seeking further information, it will be interesting to see what evolves from that.

Portion of a wartime letter from family friend to my grandmother, 1916 give or take
The painting supposedly represents a visit to my grandparents' summer place by persons unknown (or rather, disputed). I believe it was painted by our great-aunt Evelyn and that she is one of the figures in the painting. My brother thinks it might have been painted by a family friend representing his visit to our grandparents. The family friend was a wartime buddy (World War I) of our grandfather's with a great sense of humour and cartooning ability. My brother's supporting evidence is the photocopy of a letter written by the friend taped to the back of the painting when he received it. My evidence for supposing that Evelyn painted it is a written inscription on the back of the painting gifting the painting from Evelyn to our grandparents, and another painting I possess that she painted (indicating that she was indeed capable of producing this piece of art).

The family mansion, 1896. My great grandfather and possibly Evelyn sitting on the verandah
In the course of our internet research, we found several photos of Evelyn and our grandmother at the home of their grandparents in Toronto (actually, I think it would have been the outskirts of Toronto at that time). Turns out our great-great-grandfather was very wealthy (the founder of a bank that still exists today) and his home was a mansion that might be considered a Canadian version of Downton Abbey. I have a notebook written by Evelyn in which she describes the life at her grandparents in very Downton Abbey-like terms: servants, stables, governesses, and her mother having no idea how to cook or even hold a broom. And as it turns out, I briefly attended the church (as a child) that stood on land that he donated from his large country estate. That church is a prominent church in central Toronto today.
Evelyn is the young woman in a white blouse standing on the steps, my grandmother is the young girl all in white sitting on the grass. 1900
The thing I found most interesting about all this is that the photo of my grandmother at age 7 or 8 looks remarkably like me at that age. I was not fond of this grandmother when she was alive, but she played a big role in my young life. Among other things my father disliked her intensely and my parents very nearly divorced over that. I remember that period of time too well, it was quite frightening for a young child. However the storm passed, my father did come to terms with his mother-in-law, and the marriage survived. I regret that I did not get to know her better, from what I have learned of her life she was an interesting person in interesting times.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What we remember

Remembrance Day fast approaches, and with it my conflicted feelings about it. Different years I have chosen to honour or not honour it, this year I choose not to. I was asked to go to the local Remembrance Day service and also to usher for the Soldiers of Song performance (in honour of Remembrance Day). I will not go to the service but I will usher for the performance, mostly out of wanting to remain in good standing as an usher.

I get that Remembrance Day is supposed to honour the fallen soldiers of all our wars, from World War I on. I get that the country wants to remember them as heroes and to portray modern day soldiers as heroes too. I won't argue the point, always good to honour people who represent ideal virtues (courage, loyalty, sense of duty, etc.) However, honouring soldiers is so intertwined with honouring the fighting of wars that I just can't do it.

The men who enlisted for the armies of World War I were sold a bill of goods. That war was all about international politics, nothing more. Not freedom or democracy or protecting the defenceless, just politics. Many soldiers ended up living under atrocious circumstances and dying ignominiously. Those that could not stomach it were condemned as deserters and cowards, the penalty for which was summary execution. The women back home (in European countries at any rate) protested and marched in the streets and the news of that was suppressed so soldiers on the front lines wouldn't know about it. Desertion and cowardice were serious problems. And then of course there was the spanish 'flu.

By the time of World War II, aviation had progressed to the point that bombing entire cities from the air was possible and considered a legitimate form of warfare. Non-combatants were now fair game, in the hopes of convincing their governments to surrender. Atrocity piled on atrocity. Again soldiers were sold a bill of goods, although perhaps not quite as blatantly as for the first world war. There was Hitler after all (one can argue that he was the direct product of World War I but no matter). No one cared about genocide or holocaust until after the fact. The Canadian government had blood on its hands for its policy of refusing safe haven for Jewish refugees, and for its treatment of Japanese Canadian citizens.

It got worse. The Korean War resulted in the partitioning of Korea. The war in Vietnam was just a horror show, millions killed and the landscape destroyed. Each time soldiers enlisted for patriotic reasons fabricated by their governments. Canada did not join the war in Iraq, but in a pact with the devil the Canadian government agreed to pick up the slack in Afghanistan so American soldiers there could be reposted to Iraq. Rape and pillage have always been considered a legitimate compensation for victorious soldiers, only very recently have we thought twice about that. And good luck unravelling the complexities (and atrocities) of Syria, or Palestine, or the various wars in Africa.

Ostensibly wars are fought to protect freedom and democracy and make the world safe for peace. It hasn't happened. It is ludicrous to say that waging this war will end war for all time, or at the very least prevent the next war, and yet that is the justification. Buffy Sainte-Marie (who was in Wolfville the past few days) got it right in 'The Universal Soldier'.

It is sickening. If there were a day to remember the awfulness of war and to promote peace I think I could buy into it. Or what about honouring the non-combatant war dead (as they do in the Netherlands)? They die and are made homeless in far greater numbers than soldiers. Or how about the families of soldiers who must cope with the behavioural fallout of emotionally damaged veterans? Never mind the victims of rape and pillage.

I recently read the poem 'In Flanders Fields' on Facebook, the anthem for Remembrance Day. Ostensibly the poem honours the war dead, but here is the last stanza:

"Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

In other words, don't let the war stop, or you will be rendering all those soldiers' deaths meaningless. I say, those deaths are already meaningless, that is the real tragedy, and exhorting us to continue the war is just the most awful advice I have ever heard.

Postscript: I wrote this to avoid doing my writing class homework and also because it is a bleak November day threatening snow. In a bleak mood.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Painting Rocknotch Falls


Yesterday may have been the last gorgeous autumn day here. It's storming today, high winds and some rain. The wind will probably strip the last of the coloured leaves from the maples and oaks which provide the majority of the non-yellow fall colours. I have a maple tree in my front yard, but it is a Norway Maple, non-native and diseased. All the Norway Maples around here are diseased, something that causes big black spots to appear on the leaves in mid-to-late summer and obliterates their autumn colours. Right now my maple still has most of its leaves and if it weren't diseased it would still be green. But it's presently a terrible mix of green, brown and black. I have someone lined up to cut it down, but not until it has lost all of its leaves which won't be for several weeks I think. The tree is ugly, sick and has a split in it which does not bode well for its survival anyway. And there are phone and power lines running through it. While I have appreciated the shade it provides in the summer time, it also drains all of the moisture from the lawn and was the culprit in my sewage backup a few weeks ago. It is also the only suitable place for my bird feeder, so that will go as well. A winter without the birds.

The Master Artist at work

I mention yesterday because I went on a painting expedition with a local artist to one of her favourite sites. It is an old mill site on a river (McMaster Mill, on the Rocknotch Road), with several waterfalls. Beautiful at any time of year I guess, my friend has been coming here on a regular basis to paint. One of the things she likes about this spot is that is (or was) undiscovered, so she could spend several hours painting without interruption. However this old mill's days of anonymity must be over because after setting up our easels we had an almost constant stream of passersby interested in what we were doing. I am a complete novice at plein air painting, a near-novice at any kind of painting. Our subject was the area of the river just above one of the waterfalls. I brought Hapi along and she enjoyed wading in the river, standing out in the middle (a very shallow river) and letting the water rush by her. She managed not to go over the waterfall. When she was bored of that she lay down on the riverbank and napped.

Hapi and our subject matter

My friend is trying to teach me to paint. I don't know how successful she is being, I found it very hard and am not impressed with the results. Although she says one cannot expect good results until one has practiced a lot, and for now I should just be enjoying the process. Maybe so, but I did find it hard and after an hour or two was ready to just go for a stroll with the dog. In the meantime she completed three paintings, the first she said was to loosen her up and the others just to play with it. So her first painting did bear some resemblance to the scene before us, the other two were quite different. I think my problem with painting is that I am trying way too hard to make my canvas look exactly like what is in front of me, so I get very hung up on details. And I really don't know how to make the paint look like the actual scene so it feels very frustrating. I can't figure out how to make the colours and how to make the texture and three-dimensionality of it. Not to mention the reflections on the water and the movement of the water toward the waterfall and then over the edge into the pool below. Then I look over at what my friend is doing and her picture looks quite lovely even though it's not an exact copy of the actual scene.

She told me to put the painting away for a few days and then look at it, see what I think of it then. She thinks this may be the last plein air session she does this year, it will probably be too cold to go out again. But if she does go she will call me. When someone offers to teach you something that you've always thought you would enjoy doing, you don't turn down the offer. She said she has done a lot of painting workshops and she did not like it when the instructor never instructed but just let you go at it however you could and watched you flail around, all the while nodding approvingly. She preferred instructors who gave you instruction and criticism, so that was what she was trying to do. At one point she said if I thought she was being too bossy she would leave me alone but I said I appreciated her efforts. Knowing nothing I am open to advice and suggestion, but the learning process can be exhausting. I was glad when it was finally time to pack up and go home.

The viewing platform

But it was gorgeous there. Some local residents have put in walking trails and plaques giving the history of the place, and also a viewing platform for a couple of the waterfalls that are in a deep gorge.

The view

Monday, October 16, 2017

Excision

Branches, 2001

It is not easy to excise a character from a story.

Working on my fantasy story, now into its third draft, I thought that it might be easier to write and draw to a conclusion more quickly if I got rid of some of the excess characters. There are a lot of them, they keep appearing as possibilities that seem good at the time. But each new character complicates the story, they are all hellbent on their own conclusions which don’t necessarily coincide with mine or my original main characters’.

So for the third draft I picked a couple of what I thought were minor characters and wrote them out. I rewrote one pivotal chapter without those two and it went not too badly so I proceeded. The next chapter was also not so hard, but it did mean I had to substitute another existing character for one of the two that were now missing. The third chapter after that was drastically foreshortened due to the missing characters, and by the fourth I was running into problems. It seems that at least one of my missing characters was more integral to the action than I had thought and taking him out was causing some difficulty. How do I explain things without him there to ask the right questions or give the right answers?

Now I was starting to rethink the operation. Did I really want to continue without that missing character? I tried to see into the future of how the plot was going to proceed without him, and it was murky. Perhaps he wasn’t as extraneous as I thought he was. The other missing character I could still do without, but he was related to the first one and I would have some serious rethinking and rewriting to do if I got rid of one and not the other. They were kind of a package deal. The whole idea was to simplify the story and speed up the action, and instead it was having the opposite effect. It is not easy to excise a character from a story.

Sometimes I think my life would have been entirely different and so much better if only I had done this or not done that, if I had turned left instead of right, or vice versa. But is rewriting one’s life any different? Could I really eliminate this or that character from my life and have it not become more complicated than it already is?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Numerological musings

Snow in July on a mountain in northwestern BC, in my screensaver collection
The other day I was idly following links on the internet and ended up on a numerology website where you could enter your name and birthdate and the numerologist would give you an analysis of who you are, your strengths, your weaknesses, etc., etc. Being idle I entered the requested information and listened to the analysis. There were a few bits that I thought were an accurate description of me and some other bits that sounded totally off, about what I expected. I think that on hearing the accurate bits I was half-hoping he would be totally accurate and I would have this newfound respect for numerology. Didn't happen. Then there was a pitch for me to submit my email address so he could send me more detailed information and I could learn deep secrets about myself. That didn't happen either.

Completion of tipi erection in Black River
Later, I watched a movie on my computer and then did something else while the computer went into screensaver mode. I have it set to display in random order photos from my digital collection, which spans some 45 or so years, almost a half century. One of the things the numerologist had said was about how adventurous I was, which I mentally put on the "not accurate" side of the report. I hardly consider myself adventurous. Restless maybe, but not adventurous.

Stop in Saskatchewan on my first cross-country roadtrip
But apparently those screensaver photos tell another tale. They stirred memories of all sorts of things I had done in those 45 or so years. At several points the screensaver put several photos together in a sort of collage which really brought home the point: I've been a lot of places and done a lot of things!

At The Farm in Tennessee
I'm not sure how I would define "adventurous", somehow it still doesn't fit right. Maybe I am equating "daring" and "adventurous", or maybe when I sit here quietly in my little house watching a movie or browsing the internet or reading a book, I think that this is not what an adventurous person would be doing with her time. I got a phone call late in the afternoon from someone asking if I was going to go to an event around suppertime. I hadn't heard about this event before and was kind of looking forward to not doing anything so I equivocated. Maybe, maybe not. Later I thought that if I'd heard about this event earlier I could have planned around it, I just wasn't into spontaneous action. And that would be totally wrong for an adventurous person. An adventurous person would just say, "Sure, I'll do that! I don't need no stinkin' plans!"

Kayaking to Tobacco Caye, Belize

Monday, October 9, 2017

My friends and family cross-country tour


As I said in my previous post it was my intention to write about my trip, but so much time has passed that I feel like it is almost ancient history now. I'm also now uninterested in sifting through all the photos I took to post any here. However, here goes.


I dislike flying however it seemed like the only thing I could do to make this trip happen, so I flew. Halifax to Vancouver (with brief stopover in the Edmonton airport), Vancouver to Castlegar, Kelowna to Grande Prairie (another stopover in the Edmonton airport), Grande Prairie to Toronto (stopping over in the Calgary airport this time), and Toronto to Halifax. There were also ferry trips (from Vancouver to Victoria to Hornby Island and back again, also to the Sunshine Coast), a train trip (Toronto to Barrie), and a couple of long distance bus rides (Nelson to Kelowna and Barrie to Toronto). Every single one of them uneventful and on time, which I consider a great stroke of good fortune.


An airport is an airport is an airport, but one of the most striking things for me was my second stopover in the Edmonton airport (en route to Grande Prairie). It was evening and the lights in this part of the airport were dimmed. In the centre of a large rotunda was a grand piano and a very talented pianist-singer. I don't know her name but she was amazing. It was welcome diversion from the typical waiting-in-an-airport. Kudos to Edmonton International Airport.


In Toronto and Vancouver the mass transit has evolved to a new level of sophistication and with the use of a card that one preloads with money for transit fares (Presto in Toronto and Compass in Vancouver) and Google Maps, you can travel effortlessly and without lengthy wait times at bus stops. I  bought a Compass card (refundable) in Vancouver and used it a lot; it would have been nice if I could have used it again in Toronto but instead one must buy another card for that city. I had some leftover subway tokens from when I lived there so I used them instead, and my stay in Toronto was only a few days so that was enough. Google Maps was amazing, not only does it tell you which bus or buses to take to get to your destination, it also tells you when to leave your home and whether the bus is running late and if so by how much time. So in theory one should never have to wait more than a few minutes at a bus stop.


In those cities everyone is on their cell phone. If they are not wearing earbuds, then their phones are in their hands and they are either busy texting or holding the phone handy in case they might need to text. Once I was trying to get from a bus stop to a museum and someone on the bus suggested I just ask anyone at the bus stop how to get to the museum because everyone knows and can tell me. But when I got to the bus stop and looked around for someone to ask directions from, all I could see were people wearing earbuds and I didn't like to interrupt whatever they were listening to. I finally found someone not wearing earbuds and he pulled his cellphone from his pocket to look up the location of the museum. Then I felt silly, I had my own cellphone and could easily have looked it up myself. I am just not in the habit of relying on my cellphone for direction.


The other places I visited were a little more "primitive", they either lacked cell phone coverage or internet signal or bus systems. The flight to Castlegar was to visit a friend in a small town an hour's drive away. Silverton is an old mining town now mainly home to summer residents only. It is on a lovely lake surrounded by mountains, the mining operations long since abandoned. The highway that runs through it is a favourite of motorcyclists who love its curvy new pavement through a narrow valley. My friend lives on the main street of the town and the traffic is predominantly motorcycles in the daytime and trucks by night. It is a broad street with homes on one side and store fronts on the other side, and walking down the middle of the road is easily done provided one keeps an ear out for motorcycles. My friend had two inflatable kayaks which were light enough that we could carry both of them at once the few blocks down to the lakeside. And the water was warm enough in early September to go swimming every day.


The impetus for the trip was the birth of a grandchild in Alberta; the secondary purpose was to visit friends and family across the country. Over the entire five weeks I stayed at either friends or family places so it was a huge social occasion for me. I enjoyed that very much. I think my timing was such that no one felt particularly burdened by my presence, or I hope so at any rate.


I had good conversations with all of my sons (and grandchildren) and very much enjoyed the company of old friends. I also got to see an aunt, uncle and cousin in Ontario that I rarely see. My uncle Bill has been in a nursing home for over 14 years after an unfortunate stroke when he was 70 that left him physically incapacitated. He had recently had one leg amputated and they were considering amputating the other due to pain. He was on morphine but clearly still in pain. However he was moved almost to tears when five of us, all family relations, arrived at his bedside. He is my Dad's "kid brother", the last of that generation of the family alive.


The grandchild, Coen, was six weeks old when I arrived there. His seven year old older sister is---as one person put it---a real firecracker. Intelligent and sassy, used to being the centre of attention. Coen almost did not survive his birth so his parents are understandably attentive to his every cry or fidget. The family dynamic is somewhat tense due to lack of sleep and adjustments to a new family member.  But it was the first time I interacted with my granddaughter, she does not like to talk on the phone (or Skype) with people she doesn't know. I think we established a bit of a relationship, but four days is not really a long time to do so.


There was a lot more but I'm going to leave it at that. While visiting friends in BC I was nostalgic for the days when I lived there and was being encouraged to move back. I definitely considered it, and who knows it might happen in the future. However coming home to Nova Scotia was very good, despite the sewage emergency. I have to say that I am grateful that I live here. Moving away is the furthest thing from my mind right now. But ask me again in the spring, I may change my tune after a hard winter (some folks are forecasting such already).

Hapi's brother Hiro, in Victoria