Friday, November 26, 2010

More waiting

I am not a good waiter. I am having a very hard time with keeping my spirits up. The weather is just great for feeling sorry for oneself, it alternates between snow and rain, with the odd period of just plain overcast and cold.

I try to keep busy, I make lists of things I should do before I move into my house and then attempt to do some of them. But it's a tough slog.

The last couple of days I have gotten a library card, made appointments for various move-in things to be done (phone, furnace inspection, blah blah blah) and done an awful lot of window shopping for needed furniture items. The selection is poor and the prices high. Oh for an Ikea!!

I am not sleeping well, I have a hard time getting myself moving because I just don't feel like it. And I keep counting the days. Time crawls backwards it seems like.

And I worry. What godawful things are the tenants doing to all my stuff in the house?!? The property manager assures me they are good tenants but I don't care, they have my stuff and I don't. They have my house and I don't.

I feel like this is all one big fat mistake and it's too late to do anything about it. I hate it.

So, it's the 26th and I have five more sleeps to go. When you are not sleeping well the nights are very long, and five nights seem like just this side of eternity. And apparently the weather will not be any better for some time to come.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Arrived. Arrived but not quite home yet. The tenants in my house will be out on the 29th and the property manager wants the 30th to ensure everything is shipshape for my move-in.

The truck is loaded to the gills with my stuff and the kayak sits on the roof, waiting. It is getting snowed and rained upon but there's no place to put it so what can you do. Mike tells me that it should be no big deal, another week of this shouldn't be a problem.

I called my mechanic to discuss the fate of the truck, he wants to "give it a listen" because he doesn't think things are as bad as I think they are. Besides, he says, we can just plop another engine into it, shouldn't cost me more than $1500 or so.

I'm thinking, Yeah but, a new vehicle with new features (and reliability!!!) would be kinda nice...

Of course a mechanic would rather see the old truck repaired and saved than a new vehicle that doesn't need repairin'.

I long for the good old days when I could set out across the continent without wondering what terrible truck breakdowns I am letting myself in for this time.

But then, sitting here at my friend's house waiting for the day when I can move into my own place, I start doing the back-of-the-envelope calculation of how long my money will last me, what can I afford and where do I have to start cutting corners. The net result is, my travelling days may be over. Unless I come up with a new source of income.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The last leg

This post covers the period of November 17 - 20, 2010, the trip from Toronto Ontario to Wolfville Nova Scotia.

I ended up leaving Toronto a day later than planned. The week before my doctor had sent me off for a round of standard tests, the kind that you are supposed to do periodically. I had not expected that but rather than explain the situation to her I just went off and did it. Well, it turned out one of those tests had a questionable result and they phoned to make an appointment for me to do some follow-up testing.

I told the lady that I was leaving the city that very day and so would do the follow-up in Nova Scotia, she freaked and strongly advised me to hang around for the appointment, the next week. I said that was just not in the cards.

So the lady in question asked me to give her an hour or so while she made some calls, and then called me back to say she had me rescheduled for that afternoon. Reluctantly I agreed and postponed my leaving until the next day.

As it turned out, the follow-up test was negative, there was no problem after all. I suppose I should have been relieved, but mostly I was just annoyed at having spent my day in a medical facility and postponed leaving for nothing.

The thing is, I had been carefully following the weather along my route and I knew I had a brief window of fair weather if I left as planned, now that window was closed. If I hung around for another week another window might have opened, but all this waiting is starting to get to me. So I left first thing the next day.

My plan was, drive to Ottawa and stay with a friend there over night, then drive from there to Nova Scotia in a day and a half, with one night on the road somewhere in New Brunswick. I did manage to do that with clear weather all the way, but it was bloody cold. And I had one of the coldest nights I have ever spent, at an Irving Big Stop near Fredericton.

The catalytic heater I bought worked fine, but the stupid butane lighter I bought to start it with did not. Fortunately I had matches as a backup which was fine just before going to bed, but when I woke up with frozen feet a few hours later, I managed to also freeze my hands fumbling with the matches trying to light the heater again. Crawling back into the sleeping bag piled with blankets didn't help, so I was up well before dawn and back on the road just to warm up. The kind overnight attendant at the Irving gave me my mug of coffee for free.

The upside I guess is that I arrived at my destination just after noon that day, a good hour before the snow started. And I got to watch a pretty impressive sunrise. Not only was the southeast lit up with red and purple clouds but the northwest was also lit up with a purple glow. There was one sundog to the east of the rising sun, but its western mate not apparent in the dark snow clouds in that direction.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Eastward bound

This post covers the period of Nov 2 - 4, 2010, the trip from Winnipeg Manitoba to Barrie Ontario.

Driving through north Ontario is kind of a treat. I did not have great weather but still, the scenery was fine. I made it to Thunderbay in the first day with no problem, and spent the night at Kakabeka Falls just outside of town. I was very pleased with the 'snake oil' additive, the engine noise seemed quieter, my gas mileage better, and I did not appear to be burning oil at the former alarming rate. In Thunderbay I stopped at a shop in the same chain as the one in Winnipeg to find out the name of this amazing little oil additive and maybe pick up another bottle of the stuff for the rest of the trip. As it turned out they told me I could get the stuff at any Canadian Tire store. I didn't bother go looking for the local Canadian Tire but just continued on the next leg of the trip with somewhere between Wawa and The Soo as my destination.

I made it to Wawa with no problem and thought I may as well continue on to The Soo as I still had a bit of daylight left. But the weather went downhill after that, heavy rain and poor visibility. Several potential overnight stopping points turned out to be inaccessible so I continued to drive. By the time I got to The Soo I'd had enough, I wanted off the road. Now my cell phone worked again, so I tried calling my Edmonton friend Inger because she had said she had a friend in The Soo that could put me up, but this was her Toastmasters' night and all I could do was leave a message. I decided to continue driving.

Fortunately the weather cleared substantially after I left The Soo and a few kilometers down the road I found a boat launch place on a small lake that I could stop at. It was quiet and pretty, the lapping of the waves on the lakeshore close to the truck was soothing.

On the third day I made it to Barrie where my brother lives. I got to wash the clothes I had not changed in three days and have a nice hot bath for myself. We watched videos while we ate supper, and then I toddled off to a big soft bed for the night.

On numerous occasions through the prairies and northern Ontario I saw a curious little bird, somewhat smaller than a robin and looking a bit like a sparrow but with white patches on its wings. I have since found out that that bird is the Snow Bunting, otherwise known as the "snowbird" of Anne Murray fame. Neat.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Sun., Nov. 21: Arrived in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, yesterday shortly after noon, an hour before the snow. Spent one warm night at a friend's place in Ottawa and one very cold night at an Irving Big Stop just south of Fredericton, New Brunswick. Cold enough to get me out of bed and back on the road long before dawn.

The snow was beautiful in Wolfville, especially knowing I didn't have to drive in it. Huge soft flakes filling the air, and very quickly a thin white blanket covering the ground. Last night the downtown was beautiful with Christmas lights and decorations in the snow.

Speaking of snow, I saw snow geese in Quebec. Driving by farmers' fields, one field in particular looked like it had its very own snow storm, the whiteness filling the field and boiling in the air above it. Not snow, but snow geese. Wonderful.

It feels a little strange now, this time I am not visiting but here to stay. Just waiting to get into my home.

Tues., Nov. 16: Still in Toronto, but planning to leave tomorrow. First stop Ottawa, then on to Nova Scotia. Had a pleasant time here visiting with family and my Toronto friends, the Dog Ladies. The truck is almost all packed---I am picking up a few last possessions still remaining in Toronto---and I am almost ready to leave.

Sun., Nov. 7: In Toronto for a week or so, got warm greeting from Dobby and gave Tristan his birthday present.

Thurs., Nov. 4: After 3 days on the road I am in Barrie at my brother's place. Truck did fine, I guess the Winnipeg 'snake oil' was just the ticket!

Mon., Nov. 1: I will most likely leave Winnipeg tomorrow, and if all goes well I should arrive in Barrie very late on Thursday Nov. 4. Expecting lots of weather over the next few days, but right now it is sunny and warm and at least a few of the trees are leafy and green.

Sat., Oct. 30: I am leaving Edmonton, planning to spend Saturday night on the road somewhere in Saskatchewan and arrive at my niece's in Winnipeg on Sunday.

We went for lunch near where Inger works (the Maz), walked on Whyte Ave and checked out some funky stores, and then later went to see "Red" at the cinema. It was fun. In honour of the movie we had vodka shots when we got back to the house, Dale downed his in a single gulp. I sipped.

Wed., Oct. 27: I am posting a little behind, so if you're interested, I am currently in Edmonton, waiting for weather further east to improve...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Again with the AGO

I love Toronto. I don't want to leave.

When I am in Vancouver, I love Vancouver and don't want to leave.

When I am in Wolfville, I love Wolfville and don't want to leave.

Anyway, I love being here in Toronto.

I go to the dogpark every morning and see some of my favourite neighbours and their dogs, it's a great way to start the day. However a couple of days ago, three of the dogs---including Dobby---were chasing each other around the field and simultaneously ran into Barbara from the rear, bowling her over and breaking her ankle. The dogs of course were oblivious and careened off as if nothing had happened, but Barbara was left lying on the ground in considerable pain. One of the dogs that knocked her down was her own dog, we are now taking turns walking him since Barbara is confined to home in a cast.

Today I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario and spent a few hours wandering around the different galleries. There were special exhibits of Henry Moore and Shary Boyle, as well as the regular exhibits. I especially wanted to see the African gallery since I didn't get there on my last two visits, however it was somewhat reduced due to the Henry Moore exhibit.

I have never had any particular interest in Henry Moore, I know him only as the sculptor who did The Archer in front of Toronto City Hall. But I learned two things of interest about him that made me a little bit more interested in his work. One was that he studied aboriginal and African art and took a lot of inspiration from those sources, and the other was that he was the survivor of a gas attack during World War I. Of his battalion of 400 men, only 52 survived and Moore was marked for life by the ghastly experience. These two things were great influences in his art, and after learning those facts about him I could see that it was true when I went into the gallery where his sculpture was displayed. His figures have distinctively African appearances, and some of the imagery seems to me a little haunted.

In the African art gallery I watched part of a video of a West African artist talking about his work. He talked about his mother and how she had joined the ancestors, he said how fundamentally different the African view of life and our position in it is from the conventional western view. When I was walking around the AGO that idea reverberated everywhere for me.

Sometimes it seems to me that our conventional view of what constitutes reality is but a thin sliver of what is possible. When we look at things from the point of view of different cultures, we get a glimpse of things we hardly can imagine. Listening to that African artist speak about his mother joining the ancestors, I caught a view of life that is endless, and tried to imagine what it would be like to live within that framework as my everyday reality. Looking at works of art by aboriginal artists who worked within mythological frameworks very different from our European-centred western mythology, I tried to imagine worlds of strange gods and goddesses, spirits and myths that might permeate my everyday life. Where the spoon I ladle soup with is carved in the shape of some totem animal or spirit with a meaningful story I might think about every time I served a bowl of soup. Or not. I might use that spoon so often that I don't even see the carving.

I don't know how well I am communicating what was going through my head looking at all this art, but it seemed like in every gallery I was transported to a different way of looking at the world. When I walked through the European galleries, my conventional worldview came into focus, but I could see it as just another way, one of many.

There were a couple of interesting quotes on the walls of the art gallery. One was that when aboriginal people saw European artists going around painting what they saw in North America, they perceived it as a way for Europeans to possess the land, that by painting it they were tacitly expressing ownership of it. I would guess that European artists didn't see it that way, they probably simply saw it the same way we see taking photographs. Although, isn't it funny that when painting or photographing something we talk about "capturing" it?

The other was a quote from Ansel Adams the great American photographer:

"Myths ... are heroic struggles to comprehend the truth of the world."

A couple of galleries of European art were devoted to Biblical subjects, a good deal of one gallery centred on the story of Jesus' crucifixion. There were also quite a few paintings around the birth of Jesus, and I was thinking about the focus on birth and death so obvious in these paintings. There were no works of art devoted to what Jesus actually taught. I was thinking about how that particular religion, Christianity, seems to focus on a very mythological birth story and a rather horrific death story, and that very little of what Jesus taught seems to be central to the faith. If you want to be considered an official Christian, you need to acknowledge a creed of belief in those two events plus a third, a very mythological resurrection story. I remember once attending a class on the basic tenets of Christian belief, and the major lesson I learned was that the point of Jesus' life was to "die for our sins", which always struck me as a very odd purpose in life. I have great respect for the teachings attributed to Jesus, but not a lot for the strange slant subsequently applied to his life and unfortunate end.

I'm rambling. But thinking about all this in the context of the Ansel Adams quote, that myths are heroic efforts to understand the truth of the world, I just wonder what kind of truth we are getting at in the mythology of Jesus' life, which seems to be the fundamental myth of our European/western worldview. Not that the myths of other cultures aren't equally horrific. There was a painting by Emily Carr of Sonoqua, a kind of northwest coast Wild Woman of the Woods that mothers used to scare their kids into good behaviour ("if you don't behave, Sonoqua will get you!"), and another of an Inuit sea goddess who performed a similar role in their culture. And in one gallery there was displayed a buffalo robe of a 19th century Plains' Indian that was inscribed with pictures relating the exploits of his life, killing one Indian after another and managing to steal a herd of horses. Quite the heroic life.

I guess we humans are fundamentally fascinated by birth and death, beginnings and endings, and the question of whether that's all there is or if there is some greater context for our finite lives.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Last trip home

The truck is not in great shape. We are now making ominous engine noises and burning oil, the gas mileage is way down.

There was an unfortunate side effect to the wiper switch fix in Edmonton, the headlights stopped working. I did not find this out until dusk of the first day on the road, somewhere just west of Regina. Needless to say I had to get off the road right quick. I had highbeams but no lowbeams, I took side roads to get to Buffalo Pound Lake Park to camp overnight.

In the morning the inside of the truck was lined with ice, probably a good thing as it would have dripped on me if it hadn't been frozen. All of Saskatchewan was cold and there was lots of snow and ice on the ground. It was cold and windy, and east of Regina I ran into ice fog which lasted pretty much into Manitoba. However by Brandon it was clear and sunny, and snow was a distant memory.

I made it into Winnipeg by dusk on Hallowe'en, and I am staying with my niece Tara and her family. In "The 'Peg" there are still a few green trees, it is autumn not winter here.

First thing this morning I called a shop in the same chain as the one in Edmonton and they got my truck in right away and fixed the headlight problem, charging the cost back to the shop in Edmonton. I asked them about the engine problem, they really couldn't say much about the prognosis, told me to keep the oil up. They put in some additive---couldn't promise it was anything more than snake oil but at this point I am grasping at straws---topped up the oil, and sold me an extra liter for the road.

So I guess I will do some laundry (I've been sleeping in my clothes because it is cold at night), clean up the truck a bit, make sandwiches for the road and hope for the best. Once I leave Winnipeg I will not have cell phone coverage for almost three days, a bit disconcerting to say the least but what can you do. The weather forecast for the next three days is a mixed bag: sun, rain, snow, warm, cold, windy, fine. November weather.

In Edmonton Dale said, You're on an adventure, you'll laugh about all this when it's over. But until then I am just gritting my teeth and trying to think positive thoughts.

I guess this is the last time I do a road trip in this truck.