Saturday, June 29, 2013

Island hopping and more visiting

View from train crossing Fraser River in New West
I am on the train heading for Seattle to visit a friend there. I have a "window seat" but really it is between windows so not much of a view. And I overhear another passenger saying that the real view is on the other side of the train anyway. Oh well.

I've been scrambling around, Vancouver Island, Hornby Island, Gambier Island, Whistler, back and forth between North Vancouver and Langley with stops in between in Vancouver proper. Too busy to stop and write about it.

Also repairs to the truck, had to replace all of the tire rims and in the process found out that one rear brake was leaky. After that was fixed then a front brake hose gave out. Then I thought the heater core gave out but I think now that it didn't, I was just low on coolant and there was a bunch of water under the floor carpet that was causing the windows to steam up. The source of the water is as yet unknown but most likely due to intense rain the other day.

My brother did the rear brake repair. It took a long time and he was not pleased to be doing that job, a lot of things went wrong. It took him a whole day. He thought I ought not to be driving such an old truck so far. The mechanic who replaced the tire rims said as much too.

Totem in the woods, Denman Island
Hornby Island deer
Hornby Island water tank, in lieu of fire hydrant
Hapi is staying in Langley and I think she is reasonably content there but I sure do get an ecstatic welcome when I do show up there. One time, she jumped up into my arms and then Hiro thought he should jump on me too---he never jumps on people---so he jumped on my back. Sam had to haul him off, between the two dogs they were going to knock me over. It was gratifying though that Hapi missed me so much.

I think the time I spent on Gambier was the most relaxing, we didn't do much except the occasional dog walk with my hosts' dog.

Whistler was interesting, my hosts there took me to see Nairn Falls and the Sunday Market, and on Sunday evening we went for dinner at one of their friends' place. It was quite magnificent, with a fabulous view from the deck and windows of the mountains, surrounding forest and lake below. Their house is situated on a high slope surrounded by tall trees. The slope is so steep that from the deck you are looking at the tops of the trees below. Besides myself there were four couples, all of whom were recently returned from world travels. Our hostess wanted each couple to give a ten minute synopsis of their travels before dinner, so I heard about Peru and Equador, China, the West Indies, and the El Camino. There were some interesting things from each trip.

View from Whistler home deck
One thing I learned is that there is not one El Camino but many. You can go back again and again to try a different one and some people do exactly that, making the El Camino a kind of obsession.

One night I had dinner with some friends in Vancouver who were recently returned from a vacation on the canals of England. They discovered the canal boats several years ago and every year now they go back to explore another canal. They quite love it. They also often take a guest along so who knows perhaps one day I'll get an invite and go too. It did sound quite lovely.

The train is still moving slowly through the Vancouver area, we are just now crossing the bridge from New Westminster to Surrey over the Fraser River. It is quite neat to see my old home from a very different perspective. At the rate we are going we will reach the US border in maybe an hour! It is probably a 15 minute drive on the highway.

One day in Vancouver I was going to meet a friend in the morning and go for a walk. She had something to do in the afternoon, we thought that I could find something else to do and then we would meet again for dinner. We decided to walk in Van Dusen Gardens, which was very nice but rather brief. I've been there before but each time has also been brief so I hadn't ever seen the entire Gardens. This time I decided to stay in the Gardens while my friend went off to her other activity and I quite enjoyed spending another three hours systematically following every trail and path in the Gardens. I can now check it off my list, I have well and truly "done" the Van Dusen. Of course it changes with the seasons but that's another story. My favourite part of the Gardens was the Canadian Heritage area, where among other things they grow many plants that First Nations use for medicinal purposes. Very interesting.

Harp concert in the Gardens
Model of Haida dugout canoe in Van Dusen


Afterward my friend picked me up and we went to All India Sweets for their all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet. It hasn't changed much, although for $5 you can now get a meat addition to the vegetarian buffet. There are a couple of TVs in the restaurant playing Bollywood movies and music videos all the time, I quite enjoy that as well. They are so colourful and joyful, it is hard not to be uplifted by them. My opinion anyway.

The train has picked up speed so maybe it won't take an hour to get to the border after all.

Once I get back from Seattle I will be just about ready to head back to Nova Scotia. I had intended to be back by this weekend but I won't even leave until sometime after the weekend. There was just so much to do, so many people to see.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Coastal visiting

I've been couch surfing a lot the last week or so, Langley, North Vancouver, Sechelt. Next up: Hornby Island, but that is a few days away so in the meantime I'm visiting friends around Vancouver and trying to get my truck fixed.

While in Sechelt I accompanied my friends there to a workshop at a potter's place. It was a workshop called Spirit in Clay conducted by a former church minister-turned-potter. I was there for only part of the workshop, a couple of hours while my friends glazed their pots and another couple of hours watching the kiln be fired up.

Glazing pots
The latter event was quite interesting, it was an outdoor homemade gas kiln designed and built by the potter's son, a skilled potter in his own right. We watched flames and smoke shooting out of peekaboo holes in the kiln walls, the potter was controlling the rate of rise in temperature by viewing cones in various parts of the kiln and then opening and closing the holes to lower and raise the temperature. Quite fascinating.

Kiln flames
Sometimes the potter would open a viewing hole, flames would shoot out and he would blow them back in to be able to see the cones at that particular viewpoint. Seeing him blowing the flames back in was like watching an imaginary hero battling a flaming dragon. The cones are designed to melt at particular temperatures and they come in sets so you can tell the temperature by which ones and how many are melting and keeling over.

Viewing the cones
The entire family had lived with a tribe in South America, I guess as missionaries or something, and they had interesting stories to tell about that. They now live in a kind of old hippy house on the BC coast, a funky little place that felt quite comfortable. We were offered mate which I didn't drink but my friends did. It is I gather similar to coffee or tea in effect. One of my friends probably had too much of it and was babbling on like a maniac. It is supposed to be healthier than tea or coffee.

My friends' dog is old and probably not going to live much longer. She is partially deaf, blind and lame. I spent a lot of time with that dog, she licked and licked and licked. Watching her try to climb up on the sofa was excruciating, but she made it and laid her head in my lap. She's not supposed to because she leaks, but after watching her great efforts to get up it is very hard to tell her she's not supposed to.

Hapi and Hiro were very glad to see me when I returned to Langley, Hapi made it clear she considered me hers and Hiro should just stay away. We took the dogs for a walk together and then later I took Hapi by herself. At one point we found a place by the Fraser River where we could let both dogs off leash to romp in the water and the mud. They had a wonderful time getting wet and dirty and chasing each other up and down the shore and into a nearby field. A flock of Canada geese watched from a safe distance offshore, I think the dogs were using "their" bit of shore and they were waiting for them to go away. The river current was quite strong so sometimes the geese appeared to be swimming backwards: facing upstream but moving downstream.

Hapi and Hiro in the Fraser River
Wet dogs playing
Hapi is a little more agile than Hiro, she climbed up a muddy embankment and Hiro attempted to follow and slipped and fell backwards. Hapi immediately turned and went back to him. He was fine, they resumed their chase game on the shore below.

Later we met a woman walking her malamute, she was very interested in our dogs. She had just gotten her dog and was finding him tough to control. At four years old with yet another new owner he was pretty independent. She was hoping we could give her advice, but really, with a dog like that you need professional help. He was very handsome, blond-and-tan in colour, and very interested in Hapi and Hiro, I think they would have gotten along but there was a fence between them and my son was reluctant to let Hiro cross the fence. Chances were good it would have been fine but no point taking chances.

I am enjoying being on the west coast again. There is a very distinctive and different "flavour" to this place. I commented to a friend that it felt like being in a different country altogether and she agreed. She's been to Nova Scotia and has the same feeling about going there. Hard to describe, but interesting how different places can be in the same country. This place feels very lush. Lots of green, giant trees, mountains, ocean, rushing rivers... You see it in native art, the lushness of the environment it comes from.

Even the suburbs here have that feel, you can see the mountains from almost everywhere and the trees are still giant, looming over the houses by several house heights. The environment you live in shapes you, you get that meeting people here. I can understand why people put up with terrible rush hour drives home to the suburbs, the peace of those residential areas is quite intoxicating.

I was returning to the mainland on a ferry and waiting to board while watching cars drive off. The cars were full of folks getting out of the city for the weekend, you could see that in their smiling faces, the bikes and kayaks and surfboards strapped to roofs and bike racks. People complain about the ferries all the time, but they do provide an essential service, however inadequately or expensively.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Final destination, the lower mainland

Mount Robson, near Alberta-BC border
The trip to Vancouver took 3 days, I think I could have done it in 2 if I had pushed. There were no further tire or wheel incidents.

Once I crossed over from Alberta to BC the road traffic increased exponentially, lots of RVs and tour buses. A couple of times I happened to stop at rest areas where there was a tour bus, they were generally full of Asians who loved Hapi on sight. We would get mobbed by people with cameras who I guess thought we were part of the whole BC experience. Hapi loves attention and would rub up against all the women, to their great delight.

One woman had the dickens of a time trying to get her photo because Hapi just wanted to be petted and the woman wanted Hapi to pose for her. After much running around and calling and backing up she finally got her photo. It's kind of funny to be the subject of excited tourists' cameras when you are sort of a tourist yourself.

At another rest stop a car pulled up behind me and let their little dog out who proceeded to run in excited circles. Hapi gave chase. It turned out the grassy area was full of prairie dog holes and the little dog's owners were locals who would bring the dog there for exercise. After a few minutes of chasing pop-up prairie dogs the dog was done and they drove on to their destination. I tried to interest Hapi in the game but she didn't get why all those holes were such a big deal.

There was lots of scenery, mountains and big trees and rushing rivers, it was nice to see but I am afraid I've become a bit inured to mountain scenery in my old age. Nothing new.

My truck, parked below one of the sites of the big forest fire of 2010
I stayed at my friend's brother's place again the first night out from Hay River, only this time he wasn't there. However he had told me that the lock on the back door was broken so I could just let myself in if I wanted to stay there again while he was away. It was and I did. The next night I stayed in a rest area that was fairly nondescript but I was the only person there. It rained. I got up early and drove away without breakfast, figuring that I would stop as soon as the rain did and make coffee and breakfast then.

When I did stop for breakfast I let Hapi wander around. Another car came in, a man got out and whistled. Hapi made a bee-line to him. Boy, if that guy had wanted to steal my dog he would have had no problem at all. A few moments later another truck and camper pulled in and a guy got out and started walking towards Hapi and me. He asked if she was a malamute. When I said Yes he said he had a giant malamute in his truck. I looked and sure enough there was a giant dog face in the side window of his truck. He said that his wife spotted my dog in the rest stop and instructed him to pull over, that there was another malamute there.

He let his dog out and sure enough it was giant malamute, all 180 lbs of him. Giant malamutes can run to 250 lbs so as giants go he was actually on the small side. He was excited to see Hapi but I think Hapi found him a little intimidating. What a goof. OK to intimidate a shih-tsu but doesn't like being intimidated by giant dogs herself.

I stopped for gas in Abbotsford, from the past I knew it was the cheapest place to buy gas in the entire province. Believe it or not, gas in Hay River is cheaper than in BC, the price in Abbotsford was on a par with Hay River. In Vancouver itself the price is $0.10/litre more expensive. In BC they have a carbon tax that makes gas quite expensive, but everything in Vancouver is more expensive than anywhere else, which is why I don't live there anymore. That and the rain. Beautiful, but expensive and wet.

The long anticipated reunion of Hapi and Hiro was a little anticlimactic: Hiro was delighted, Hapi not so much.

Sam was out when we arrived there but he gave me the door code via text message so we were able to go in. Sam was away all day and left Hiro in a darkened apartment with all the curtains drawn, so when I opened the door I could not see him at first. He came to check out who was at the door, sniffing and sniffing. I watched his tail rise and wag faster and faster, until his whole rear end was wagging as he sniffed Hapi all over. Hapi looked quite alarmed.

Hiro's rear end just a blur of tail wagging,
Hapi looking a little apprehensive
Hiro made all sorts of efforts to get Hapi to play with him but she would have none of it, she was looking at me with a kind of "Get me out of here" expression. Hiro would tap her on the shoulder with his paw and bow and scrape in front of her but that didn't do any good. The only time he could get a rise out of her was when he greeted me, she was jealous and tried to push him away. When Sam finally arrived home Hapi recognized him instantly and was ecstatic to greet him. I no longer existed for her.

Here I was thinking that she would miss and be happy to reunite with Hiro, when it was really Sam her heart belonged to!

The next day we took the two dogs to an offleash dogpark and they did play with each other like old times. After that things seemed back to normal between them, I think Hapi is quite content to be with Hiro now and especially content to be with Sam again. I am leaving her with him while I go visit friends, she didn't even notice my unpacking the truck and driving off without her.

Hiro and Hapi at the dogpark
Sam lives in cohousing which is quite a tight-knit community, I got a lot of stares from people who wondered who I was when I walked around the shared areas. But several started up conversations to find out and once they knew who I was and why I was there welcomed me and were very friendly. Most of Sam's neighbours remembered Hapi from when she lived there before and were glad to see her back, as Hiro is inclined to howl when left alone and they all thought Hapi being there would put an end to that, even if only temporarily.

I do hope Hiro is not doubly disappointed when Hapi and I leave more or less permanently.

There was a community dinner while I was there which I attended with Sam. It was in honour of a renter who was leaving and there were several short speeches by residents wanting to acknowledge how much they had enjoyed this renter's presence in the community.

One resident told me there were 90 members, of which 30 were children. Sam didn't think there were that many children. It is certainly a space designed for families as well as single people. There are quite a lot of older people there who like it as an "aging in place" kind of community.

The building layout is one central hub with two wings of residences. The hallways in the wings have glass roofs so the lighting is all daylight, with a few "street lamps" at night. The hallways are called "atriums" and are quite wide, like small streets. Many people have chairs, couches and tables in the area by their front doors, so it does give the impression of a friendly neighbourhood street.

When kids are playing in the atrium the echoiness of it makes the noise quite loud but they are fairly strict about quiet in the evening. In addition the building is on 5 acres of land, half of which is left wild, mostly an unmowed grassy area with a stream running through it, and the rest is lawn and garden. There is a good sized allotment garden for residents where many people grow vegetables.

There is underground parking and workshops on the basement level. In the central hub area are a children's indoor play area, a common kitchen-dining-meeting area, several studio areas for art and dance, a guest suite, a TV room, a common laundry room and large lobby area with nice plants and comfy old furniture. and of course the requisite community notice board.

Dogs are supposed to be leashed but apparently I was the only one following the rule (and I wasn't even aware that it was the rule, I was just doing it out of caution). I gather this is a bit of a bone of contention between dog-owning and non-dog-owning residents. Like any community there are ongoing dramas and issues, but the general ambiance seems friendly and relaxed. If I could afford to buy into such a community I certainly would consider it. Sam would like that, if only to keep the two dogs together.

Today I am at a friend's place trying to work out schedules for visiting with family and old friends. It's a bit tough, I am trying to fit into my friends' schedules and just when I think I have it all worked out, someone changes their own schedule and that has ripple effects all the way down the line. So today I have fired off emails and text messages to all affected and am awaiting replies in order to rework the schedule. I have a month so hopefully it will all work out in the end. My friend is out for the day attending to family business (ailing parents, etc etc) so I am at her home with the cat.

Since the last time I was here (2010) there have been significant renovations, I am staying in the brand-spanking-new guest room cum TV room and I just had a shower in the super-dooper latest and greatest of shower stalls.I had to be shown how to work the controls. I tried it on my own first, but couldn't figure it out.

Before I leave Vancouver I also hope to try the super-dooper bathtub, its controls look a little more straight forward, although they did tell me that it uses up the entire hot water supply to fill it. So one must book its use at a time convenient for all.

And that's it for now.



Sunday, May 26, 2013

Heading west and north into long days and short nights

Me and Hapi above Alexandra Falls, NWT
Since last post I have visited friends in Edmonton, spent the Victoria Day long weekend in Hay River NWT with family (Josh, Kim and Eva), and arrived in the lower mainland BC. All pretty much on schedule. Didn't visit brother in Timmins due to snow storm there that I didn't particularly want to drive through. Unfortunately I think I made the right choice, it sounded pretty bad in the news afterward. As it was I did hit snow on the alternate route I took, but not significant amounts on the road. Just kind of miserable.

I found nice places to stop overnight, once on a snowy beach on Lake Superior, once on a lake near the Ontario-Manitoba border, and once in a park-like area in a valley in Saskatchewan. The first night on Lake Superior was the only really cold night, about -5C, but I had enough warm bedding to get through the night comfortably. There was a rime of frost inside and out of the whole truck in the morning. I stayed with friends in Edmonton, and they in turn gave me the address of a relative halfway to Hay River where I stayed the following night.

Saw a turkey buzzard, snow geese, three black bears, either two beavers or one beaver twice, numerous deer, some elk, caribou and mountain sheep?/goats? Hapi chased the beaver but they were close to their waterway and slipped into the water before she was anywhere close. Happened twice in on the same creek, which is why I don't know if it was the same individual or not.

On the road from Edmonton to Hay River the scenery gradually changes from large flat fields to forest to muskeg-like terrain. In the last part there was lots of waterways, and almost every body of water contained a beaver dam and/or lodge(s). I bet that entire landscape is created by the beaver. Some of the lodges were huge, at least one I saw was half the size of my own home. One place had four of them in a row, no more than 8 feet apart.

Two of the bears I saw were just sitting on the side of the road, watching the cars go by. A car in front of me stopped at the first bear, presumably to take a picture, and the car occupants and bear just looked at each other for several minutes. I debated whether to wait or pass, and then the car finally pulled forward. The bear waited. I could have stopped and exchanged stares with him too, but wasn't sure why I would want to do that. So I drove on. The second bear was not as interested in staring, it ambled off into the forest when the car ahead of me slowed down.

Hay River is not the prettiest town, definitely not a tourist destination. Most people bypass the town and keep driving to Yellowknife. Hay River is more of a frontier working town, the terminus of the railroad where supplies and equipment are off-loaded onto barges to cross Great Slave Lake and go north down the Mackenzie River. The river is open to barge traffic all summer all the way to the Arctic Ocean. The lake is not yet clear of ice so the barges are all lined up in the port waiting for that momentous occasion.

My son and his family live in the old Hay River townsite. Back in the '60s that area flooded badly and people were encourage to move to higher ground, but a few stayed and after a while others moved in as well, so it is a regular neighbourhood now, it's just that the town powers-that-be would prefer all those people to move elsewhere. As it is they are required to have their homes up off the ground a minimum distance and many houses appear to be sitting on jacks. My son's home is a trailer raised about 5 feet from the ground. His home is so well insulated that his heating bill last winter was actually lower than mine. Windows are all triple-glazed.

There are no sewer or water pipes in that neighbourhood so their water tank is filled several times a week and their sewage tank emptied once or twice a week. The water tank sits in an alcove off the hallway and is made of translucent plastic so you can tell at a glance how much water remains. One day I was there we were not running the washing machine or dishwasher, and flushing the toilet sparingly because the tank was low. Since a water delivery was scheduled for the next day they didn't want to order an extra delivery.

The first full day I was there Josh booked a Cessna (named "Snoopy") at work to take us all for a little flight. We flew over a waterfall (Alexandra Falls on the Hay River) I had seen on the trip to their place, it was fairly spectacular.



Here is that waterfall viewed up close on the ground. Lotta lotta water! We visited there the next day and the photo of me at the beginning of this post was taken then.


We flew over the new town and the old town, we saw their house from the air (recognizable by the trampoline out front).

Hay River (new town) proper. 
The airport, the railroad terminus and the old town site would all be off to the far left of this photo.
Hay River old town, can you see the trampoline? 
Hint, upper left quadrant, third lot in on first road running up/down in photo
We did a couple of shopping trips in the main town so I got "the tour" (here's where I work, there's the firehall, this is the grocery store, over there is the high school...) and once Kim and I drove through the reserve since she had never been there and of course neither had I. What can I say, it looked like a reserve.

Every evening we took the two dogs, my dog Hapi and their shih-tsu Brewster for a walk in the neighbourhood and over to a vacant field where they could be let offleash. Brewster was initially excited to have a new doggy playmate but when Hapi responded to Brewster's invitations to play he was quickly overwhelmed. Having an 80-lb malamute leaping over him and growling in his face (a play growl) was not quite his idea of play. After that they were content to share space but not attempt to play with each other.

I was in Hay River for the Victoria Day long weekend, and met Josh's boss at the airport as well as the chief pilot and his wife. We had dinner with them and in the course of various activities that weekend met several other friends and acquaintances. My overall impression of the town was that it is a pretty typical working frontier town and the community is fairly friendly. Not a beautiful place but kind of interesting. People hunt and fish and work hard. No shortage of jobs or work. The evening the other pilot and his wife came by was marked by a big homemade lasagna dinner and a few beers and the sharing of local gossip. We were going to do a fish fry, but the local fisherman had nothing on hand as they were between seasons.

I never saw darkness there. It is not quite the time of year when there is no night at all, but we never stayed up late enough to see the dark and it only would have lasted a short time before it became light again. Judging by the local hardware store, people were just gearing up for spring planting of flowers and vegetables. Lawns were still brown and there was still some snow lying about, but it was warm and spring was definitely in the air.

We went to the beach on Great Slave Lake on a lovely warm sunny day; we had to cross the snowdrifts in sandals and flipflops to get to the sand and beyond about thirty feet of open water was the ice. The lake was still frozen.  Great Slave is huge, at least as big as any of the Great Lakes in the east. Hapi waded in but the rest of us were happy to just sit on the sand and enjoy the warm sun. Brewster loves snow so while Hapi waded and we sunbathed, he ran around in the snow. To each his own.

See the ice on the lake in the background?
Hapi relaxing on the beach :)
Hapi picked up a few ticks on the trip and a lot in Hay River. Every day I was picking a half dozen or so out of her ears and around her face. Ticks there are called winter ticks and they do not carry lyme disease. Their primary host is caribou. I was still picking them off her when we got to Vancouver, by that time they had been on her several days and were gigantic, easy to see and quite gross to pick off. Lots of blood involved. I think we got them all, she now has a lot of bloody scabs where they used to be.

I had a slow leak in one tire that I first noticed near Sault Ste Marie in northern Ontario. I needed to get air in it every morning and that would last until the next morning. I just didn't want to stop long enough to get it fixed, due to my tight driving schedule. When I arrived in Hay River Josh told me there was a shortage of air in there, I would not be able to get the tire filled at any gas station, but there might be air at the airport. So I bought a cheap compressor and filled the tire with that, but after only one fill-up it conked out. You get what you pay for.

The morning I left I stopped at the local tire shop to see if they could repair the tire quickly, they could and did but in the process discovered that my tire rim was in dire shape and unsafe to drive on. So they put my spare wheel on instead and advised me to get all the rims looked at and replaced as soon as possible.

I continued on to Vancouver, getting the wheels checked at a tire shop in High Level Alberta as instructed. No problems there so I have only occasionally kicked the tires to see if they are wobbly or not. So far so good but I will definitely get the matter attended to before leaving Vancouver for home.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Changes, minor and otherwise

A few mishaps, minor and not so minor. Exhaust system needed attention in PEI, one hour and $50 which is minor, I think. Uneventful trip from PEI to Toronto and a great visit in the city. I love the old neighbourhood and it was really nice to be back. Hapi was on her best behaviour, did really well with the dogs in the dog park. She had one brief set-to with Dobby, her host, but after that they got along fine.

I visited with some old friends, did a bit of shopping, saw a movie and hung out with the kids and grandkids.

Then today I was going to leave early to drive to Timmins. Hapi had a seizure. Out of the blue, never happened before, and scared the daylights out of me. I think it scared her pretty bad too.

So I decided to stay over one more day which meant I couldn't spare the time to see my brother in Timmins. Unfortunate but I just didn't feel good leaving not knowing what Hapi's health status was. Called a vet who said there really wasn't much to do, that generally they don't treat a single seizure because it is too hard to know what caused it.

Later in the day I spoke to a dog owner of an epileptic dog and she told me there was little point taking my dog to a vet unless she seized frequently.

By now I feel better about it and that I can probably handle this. Worst comes to worst and we'll change our travel plans but chances are good that nothing at all will happen. So I plan to leave first thing tomorrow. Hapi seems back to normal.

We have 4 days to get to Edmonton, it will be a bit tight.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My itinerary

May 3: Fanning Brook, PE
May 6: Toronto, ON
May 11: Timmins, ON
May 15: Edmonton, AB
May 17: Hay River, NT
May 23: Langley, BC

All assuming I get out the door today.

Packing seems endless. I am sure I will forget something important.

Dog is terribly nervous. She doesn't know she is coming with.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TTFN

Well I think I need to make it official, after 2 months of no posting I think I might be done here. I am no longer even going to try. If it happens it happens, but I think it won't.

In a few days I am taking off on a 2-month road trip westward (and northward) with Hapi. We will visit friends and family, and Hapi will reunite with her brother? other half? in BC. It will have been two years since Hapi and Hiro last saw each other so I am very curious as to whether they remember each other. I hope so.

I had a dream the other night that when they met it took a minute or so of sniffing before they recognized each other, or rather Hapi recognized Hiro. Hapi went nuts, doing her excited writhing dance under Hiro's nose while he just stood there. I don't know if he was just being reserved or if he didn't recognize her. Anyway, we shall see.

The truck is almost ready for camping, a couple more things to do for the trip. I haven't packed yet. I am still trying to iron out details of when and where I will be stopping to visit, it is tricky trying to coincide with multiple schedules. The longest leg of the trip, around 4500 km, may have to be a rush job of driving non-stop for 6 days. I would have preferred something a little more leisurely. Also I am cutting it close for black fly season in Ontario and presumably northern Alberta and NWT.

I love being on the road, I wish I was already there. But too many things have to be taken care of before leaving, so the target date is May 1, the dropdead date May 3.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Some more winter


('Snow angel' on a nearby frozen pond)

Recovery from the flu has been slow for me. I still feel quite lacking in energy. Last week I started back on regular activities, exercise class and choir practice twice a week. That on top of regular dog walks was quite exhausting. The last choir practice I attended I had to stop about half way through, sometime in the middle I stopped being able to read the music (just looked like a a whole lot of polka dots and lines to my stunned brain) and my voice quickly followed. I stayed, hoping somehow what we were practicing would sink in on some level. This week is reading week at the university so that affects everything around here, both the exercise class and choir practice are on hiatus and I am relieved.


(Hapi sleeping through the blizzard)

Winter continues, another blizzard last weekend. Not a huge amount of additional snow, but lots of blowing snow and ice and power outages. I was surprised the other day to find out that most of the town lost power for 10 hours or more. My power remained! I later talked to a neighbour who used to work at the post office and he said that he thought our street was on the same grid as the university and that's why we didn't lose power. Apparently the university has better power service.


(The Gaspereau River in winter)

Today Hapi and I went up the Gaspereau River. At the head of the trail a wood stick about 4 feet long was leaning against a tree, I picked it up as I had forgotten to bring my walking stick. I am glad I did.

The regular trail very quickly petered out, there's a section near the start where you have to wade through the Gaspereau and that section was such a mess of open water, ice slabs and snow hiding the breaks between that I didn't want to risk it. Hapi had no problem with it though. I backtracked a bit and found a trail of footsteps heading up the steep bank around that section. The bank is very steep and in normal weather I would not have attempted it but the snow was crisp and icy and the footsteps provided toeholds along the slope. With the help of my wooden walking stick and the icy toeholds, I headed up the bank.

At a certain point there was a brook flowing down that I had to cross, Hapi headed straight down that brook and suddenly a large bird wing appeared in front of her. She stopped, nose to beak with a hawk sitting on the edge of the brook half way down the slope. The hawk didn't move, other than to open its wing in front of Hapi, I guess to make itself look a little larger. I thought it must be injured or sick, it did not attempt to fly or even walk away. I called Hapi away and the hawk folded its wing and watched me. The slope was too steep for me to attempt to reach it, I felt sorry for the bird.

The footsteps now headed downwards and I reached the regular trail on the other side of the impassable section. I tried to walk back to see the hawk from below, however I did break through the ice and snow in one place into the river, not far enough to cover my boot though. I could see the hawk sitting there, it did not turn to look at me or Hapi, just sat motionless by the brook facing away from us. It did not look well.


(Hapi by the river)

We continued on and it was very pretty there, the snow and ice made it look quite different and the trail was very faint, not a lot of people come there in the wintertime. After about half an hour more I turned to head back, I was quite exhausted. Hapi immediately disappeared. When I walk up the river she stays close by I think because she doesn't want to lose track of me, but when I turn around to head back she knows where I am and where I am going so she no longer feels the need to keep an eye on me. So for most of the walk back I didn't see or hear her, I didn't know if she was ahead of or behind me. Sometimes I'd catch a glimpse of her through the trees out on the ice covering the river, she trots along oblivious of the danger, hunting for critters to chase or capture.

When we got back to where the hawk was, it was gone. I hope it was able to fly away.

I left the wooden stick by the tree at the trailhead for the next person, it was handy to have it, especially on the steep detour where we saw the hawk.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

February

Came down with the 'flu some time last weekend. Knew I was pushing my luck, I had something going on every evening for four nights in a row and I was not sleeping all that well in between, so by Sunday evening I knew I was in for it. Managed to get out for a dog walk on Monday afternoon, but not again until Thursday. Monday and Tuesday I had a fever although all I felt was bone-snapping cold. By Wednesday morning the fever had broken and I was relieved at getting off relatively lightly, but apparently that wasn't really the case.

Getting out for a dog walk is possible, but it is pretty much the extent of my energy for the day. As long as I don't move I feel fine, but the second I try to do anything the complete lack of energy kicks in and I am done.

I have been reading a lot. And I knit a cap. Made some soup, ate some soup.

Hired the girl next door to walk Hapi. Then I called an ad in the local paper for a dogwalker and tried her out too. I think I'll stick with the girl next door. At least she has experience with a large dog that can be aggressive toward other dogs, their family dog is not unlike mine.

My book discussion group is doing February by Lisa Moore this month, I completed that book and also read The Ocean Ranger by Susan Dodd. It all brings back terrible memories. Dodd notes that it has taken 30 years for people to finally be able to write and talk about that, three books came out in fairly quick succession dealing with the subject, Moore's and Dodd's books and also Rig by Mike Heffernan.

I have been all over the map with my own emotional reaction to discussing this book. I was fully prepared to dislike Moore's take on the story, but I am softening my stance. I thought Dodd's analysis was extremely good, I liked the way she mixed the personal (her brother was on the Ranger) with the analytical. I had a hard time relating to Moore's disjointed story, it seemed pointless to me, dismoored. Although that may have been the point. But some of the widow Helen's imaginings of what happened struck home.

There were three Nova Scotians on the Ocean Ranger that night, one of them a friend of mine. I said good bye to him only a few days before, as he was leaving for his two week shift on the rig. His wife was my best friend at school, I spent all that next day sitting with her while she waited for a phone call that never came.

I remember drowning dreams for months afterward. Waking in the middle of the night holding my breath, wondering when I could breathe again. Looking up at nothing but black water.

I also remember helpless rage and horror. The character Helen feels none of that, she retreats into herself and her grief. I can understand that, but it wasn't universal.

But in the end you had no choice but to get on with life. I talked to a friend about the Moore book, she said she couldn't read it. Not that one not any book. Too soon, too hurtful. I can relate to that too.

The other thing I have been reading is Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time fantasy cycle. There are 14 books in the cycle and I have just completed the first.

I had been reading The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin ("Game of Thrones") and finished reading book 5 quite a while ago. Apparently there will be seven books in the series and book 6 has yet to come out. I had been quite into it but by book 5 I was having a hard time keeping track of all the characters and complications, and frankly almost relieved that book 6 was a ways off.

Some reviewers like to refer to Martin as the American Tolkien, however a short while ago I read somewhere that really Robert Jordan had prior claim to that epithet. Never having heard of him I looked him up and found out about the Wheel of Time series which was already completed. I thought it would be interesting to compare and also nice to know that the entire series was already in place. Unfortunately Mr. Jordan died before he could complete it but he left sufficient notes and outlines for his widow to select a suitable author to complete the series.

So far so good. I have the Wheel of Time on my Kindle and it promises to provide many hours of good fantasy reading. Good stuff when you are sick.

While home sick there was a great storm with raging winds and high temperatures that melted all the snow. Now we are back to freezing again, but this time with no snow cover. Although the weatherman says that will all change tomorrow.

Now I'm off to eat more soup.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lang may yer lum reek


(frozen lake that Hapi and I visit occasionally)

I am using the Mac that I bought in December to send this post to my blog, I have not figured it all out by any means. I had been postponing writing until I figured out how to do this but the best way to figure it out is to just do it I guess.

This is not shaping up to be a mild winter like last year, so far we have lots of snow and cold and wind. The wind makes it quite bitter out there. Hapi awaits her walk and I am sitting inside where it is nice and warm thinking up new ways to postpone it. Must blog. Must make chicken soup. Must read…

On New Year's Eve I went to see The Hobbit with a couple of friends, after a lovely fish chowder made with coconut milk. In her household two people cannot drink cow milk, one substitutes goat milk and the other almond milk. The third person in the household is a cow milk drinker who cannot abide substitutes. The coconut milk in the chowder was the compromise that all could accept and I was impressed with how good it was as well. No more cow milk in the chowder!

The Hobbit was a bit of a disappointment, even in 3D. I have to say I don't find the 3D feature particularly worth the extra dollars one pays for it. After three Lords of the Rings, The Hobbit was a bit of same old same old, with the added irritation of being a To-be-continued. Oh rats! On the one hand it I feel obliged to see how the story ends in movie form, on the other I am not sure it was spectacular enough to warrant sitting through again.

Midnight came only minutes after the movie ended, people milled in the lobby half-heartedly wishing each other a Happy New Year. We three hurried out to the car and headed over to Shannex, the seniors residence nearby, to visit my friend's father. We had told him we would drop by after the movie to toast in the New Year.

When we got there the residence was completely dark. We went to the front door and hesitated to ring the bell, they were probably closed and locked up for the night. So we went back to the car. I suggested we drive by Neil's window and see if there was any sign he might be still up, and sure enough through a crack in the curtains we saw him in his brightly lit room, clearly not asleep. My friend phoned him. He answered and told us to go back to the front door, he had left a message at the front desk that we were coming so they were expecting us. That we did.

The residence is quite new, with wide corridors, several common rooms including the dining area, TV area and large lobby. In the hallways there are little glass cupboards by each door, residents display small items and pictures that convey a little of who they are in these little glass cupboards. Neil's room is small and simple, he recently moved in and has setup his computer and is awaiting his internet connection. He has a private bathroom, a wardrobe, a desk, a couple of chairs and his bed. It is remarkably similar to his old bedroom in his daughter's house, even down to the wall colour. Much of Neil's life is on his computer, so I doubt he has experienced any diminishment with this move into the senior's residence, other than the temporary loss of internet access. He now dines in a dining room at a small table he shares with another gentleman, he can "stroll" the hallways and outdoor grounds in his electric wheelchair. He used to ride his chair all the way into downtown for the occasional coffee, but it is too far to go now. Instead he can go to the much closer dining room for a coffee with whoever is around.

Frankly, I think I could do a lot worse than to end up here. It was a pleasant surprise to see how nice it was.

We smuggled in a half bottle of wine and some plastic cups and poured a glass for each of us. Neil proposed a toast that he learned during WWII posted in Scotland: Lang may yer lum reek! Which translates to, Long may your chimney smoke!

After that we went home and finished off the bottle of wine, I got back to my own home somewhere around 1.30am. I saw I had an email from a friend out west, who said she was spending New Year's at mutual friends in Whistler, so I phoned them. They are a small group who spend every New Year's together, and when I lived there I did a couple of times too. When they answered the phone they told me that they had just been talking about me and they put the call on speaker phone. It was nice to get together with old friends thousands of kilometres away like that! We chatted for a half hour and then bid each other a Happy New Year and I finally retired to bed around 2.30am.

Not being very good at sleeping in it meant that I spent the first day of the New Year in a bit of a daze, and managed to lose Hapi out on the dykes. I met an older gentleman out walking who assured me he had not seen her and that there were a lot of pheasants in the bushes there so she was probably out hunting and I shouldn't worry, she'd come home when she was done. He said he started walking 3 miles a day when he was 52 and has been doing it ever since, and did I want to guess how old he was. By the look of him I was thinking he was at least 70 if not considerably older, but he was clearly proud of what good shape he was in so I guessed, 60? He thanked me for the compliment and said he would never see 75 again. He also said he wished someone had told him how hard it was to grow old, he did not find life easy. He was out shovelling snow a few days ago and came in so exhausted he had to take a nap. But he was fine again when he woke up.

I went home and Hapi wasn't there, probably still out chasing pheasants. But then I heard a voice calling, Hapi! Hapi!

Who would be calling my dog other than me?

I looked around and finally spotted my neighbour in her driveway. I looked at her and she pointed across the street, Hapi had just disappeared into someone's backyard. She had spotted Hapi in the street and thought Hapi had escaped my yard and she had come out to try to round her up again. But Hapi ignored her. However when I called she immediately came out from behind the house across the street to see who was calling her, and came running when she saw it was me.

You miserable dog! I greeted her. I spent almost an hour out on the cold windy dykes trying to find her when she was already well on her way home.

Well I think I've made her wait long enough, I better take her for a walk. On the leash.

Lang may yer lum reek!