Rhymes, Rants & Accolades from North Central BC

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THREE YEARS HAVE PASSED

Three years have passed
since his deathday.
I feel nothing,
as if the horrific
event never
happened.

Some other family
standing around.
Him on oxygen,
not saying much.

The baby looking
worried.
The grand-niece
in her gum-boots.

Me, chatting up
a storm.
Other patients
in worse shape
than him.

Some still alive.
Some not.

Tuesday’s his birthday.
I’m not missing
his deathday.
But I will miss
his birthday.
once again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY TRIP TO JERUSALEM

Day Trip To Jerusalem [SCRIPT TO GO WITH SLIDE SHOW]

Mar. 9 We had lined up a tour of Jerusalem via a travel company . Had to leave Haifa on the 5:30 am. train in order to catch the tour bus leaving from a hotel in Tel Aviv. Our guide that day was a perky young woman who spoke English well with only a slight accent. She explained that Tel Aviv is a relatively new city having only been in existence since 1909. There had been a settlement nearby- in what remains of some stone-faced construction on the city’s outskirts in an area known as Jaffa. As we neared Jerusalem there were a series of housing developments in the distance on the hillsides (everything is up and down in this country) The motif of the newer buildings is similar to older style- limestone facades with rounded, domed edges in white and cream colours that are still the favoured architecture in most parts of Israel.(Except for Tel Aviv with its western style hotels and office buildings.) Our guide said the land on these suburbs of Jerusalem city had originally been part of Lebanon (preceding 1948? can’t recall what wars were with whom?) There were several sites along the road where relics of military vehicles and equipment had been preserved in honour of soldiers who’d died in wars with Arab countries, such as the 6- day war with Egypt (in 1967?)

 Cue mosque spirals)Slide labeled beginning our tour of old Jerusalem: broken down building.

We began our tour in the old city of Jerusalem, strolling through myriad alleyways and ancient buildings with stone floorings as old as during Christ’s time – so many remnants of the past but also restorations of ancient structures of historical significance to Jews, Muslims and Christians – many within arm`s length of each other. The so-called ‘wailing wall’ (Western Wall) our guide explained, dated back many years. It had been destroyed – much of it- in the various military skirmishes over the centuries. There are now two stark looking, uneven sections of the wall reserved for people to pray- one section strictly for the Muslims and the other section for those who practice the Jewish Faith– (We weren’t shown the Muslim section) Bee walked over to the wall to join those who were in prayer- there were bits of paper stuck between cracks all over the wall – written prayers placed by individuals, Rabbis, etc. I waited nearby in a plastic chair –at the time the weather was cold and windy- possibly contributing to my somewhat depressed state of mind? as I contemplated upon the schism between two religions – both worshipping the same God.

cue caption “marketplace” Slide labelled “following our guide”

Our guide led us through walled alleyways that combined Muslim marketplaces featuring stalls similar to what we’d seen in Akko with the ever-persistent – and very loud- vendors attempting to sell their wares (prices sometimes went down to almost zero but very few buyers.) Their stalls were intermingled with intriguing doorways leading to churches, including one called the Via Dollerosa, maintained by Fransiscan monks (A couple of monks had made it through the milling crowds earlier lugging a huge wooden cross.) Later on, one popped by where we visited and distributed thick smoky fumes from a container.

 cue red tarp hanging- stone shack) Slide “we went through this very dark church on the way to the main part of the church”

 The most significant part of the tour for me was making our way through the huge, magnificent Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was extremely dark and low ceilinged where we entered – quite frightening for me as I could not get my eyeballs adjusted between the darkened tunnel and the candlelit areas- there were stone steps here and there with no railings to cling to. Bee had to guide me along as we crept through the narrow passageway. The church was enormous with many rooms. Our guide told us four or five Christian denominations continue to worship there to this day. Originally constructed during the 12th century, it had been almost totally destroyed. It has since been rebuilt and restored with colourful mosaics all over the walls and ceilings- final completion of mosaics in the 1920s and 1930s. One large panel in the ceiling we photographed was actually part of the original 12th century artwork. The rooms all featured many colourful chandeliers and tapestries, with numerous displays portraying the life and death of Jesus.

cue final view of city. Slide  labelled “commemorative stones on way to Hollocaust Museum”

The final leg of our tour was of the Holocaust Museum in New Jerusalem. It was a huge building divided off into oddly and narrowing shaped sections with disturbing content throughout. I could not handle too much of it -although it was a very well set up museum with photos, films and artifacts of that horrific period of time in human history. I did find the Nazi media propaganda of the times interesting -although deplorable. One newspaper cartoon depicted a large boot with a Nazi insignia on the sole– there seemed to be a joyous attitude about how much fun it would be to step on a tiny insect-sized Jewish person. Really creeped me out!

 

 

 

Slide: pic of Taylor and me

March 11- We are in Edmonton where Bee met her first grandchild Taylor, who is also my great-grandson. Very cute little guy!

I had a weirdly funny experience when we were about to leave from the airport in Tel Aviv. I should mention first that some years earlier I’d had surgery for breast cancer.

….Security for people leaving Israel seemed more lax than when entering- the guards did not carry assault rifles – just pistols.  The processing began with putting bags through a scanner and my big suitcase did not pass the test. It needed to be searched by hand at a separate counter where two agents regarded me with stern expressions on their faces. “Do you have some soil or maybe sand in your bag,” one asked. “Or perhaps some seeds?” “Only rose petals” I replied. (Marcia had given us rose petals as memorabilia) “Nothing else organic.”

“Someone may have put something like that in your suitcase?”he suggested. “No,” I answered firmly. I was beginning to panic. They stared at me stone-faced as I sifted through jumbles of clothing in search of the rose petals that I’d stashed in a plastic bobby pin container. “No need, we found the item,” my interrogator said. Despite his stern face he must have been a trifle embarrassed when he pointed out the felonious article – the weighted false boob I’d packed as a spare to fill the empty left side of my bra. It had been stuffed with barley or similar kind of grain. Bee and I managed to keep from giggling. For me that turned out to be the funniest and most comfortable part of the journey home. We gave a thumbs up once again for El Airlines for their delicious meals, cushions, blankets, entertainment.

 

VICTORIA DAY ANTICS

1999 Sense and Nonsense

Today I commemorated the birth of Britain’s longest reigning monarch by kneeling, scraping and bowing in the drizzling rain, as I attempted to uproot weeds in what will one day be the garden at our newly acquired acreage.  While I reposed upon the dampening soil, my derriere shielded by a garbage-bag-encased cushion, the spirit of the long dead queen began to envelope my imagination.

I had dressed fashionably that morning in my best gumboots, royal blue sweat pants and almost-matching raincoat with a visor to deflect the raindrops away from my glasses.  It was of supreme importance, I thought smugly, that my eyesight not be impaired if I was to accurately identify the enemy before brandishing my weapon and annihilating its numbers.  Even so I accidentally trowelled a few cowering pansies and—shame unto me– slashed at a fat onion from last year believing in a fit of  majestic rage that it was just another quack-grass.The poor thing had survived the cruel winter only to be crushed by my friendly fire!  Oh well, a queen can get away with such things – especially when it is her birthday….

It was on the Tuesday following the Victoria Day weekend that spring finally arrived in Fraser Lake. An exodus of chilled, soggy tourists towing campers, trailers and boats had cluttered the highway the previous evening reminding me of troops of disgruntled soldiers returning home from a battle they did not win.  We who live here were the only ones left to enjoy the ensuing sunshine.  And it was wonderful!

When it comes to appreciating weather, people in the  Northern Interior are sometimes pathetic.  Last winter was fairly mild but instead of enjoying it I, heard a few lamentations that we should be having 40 below temperatures in order to get rid of the  pine bark beetles. Some suggested that 60 below would be even better and for a period of three months. If that happened we’d be rid of more than just the beetles. I for one would have headed south until my thermometer warmed up.

And instead of feeling lucky when snow levels did not reach the tops of fence-posts, some citizens in our community were seen shaking their heads and worrying that come summer the lakes could be devoid of most of their water. Last week, after we finally had two sunny days in a row, I overheard those same people predict that forest fires would soon be breaking out.

I was not amused.

BERRY PICKING BLUES

It is the middle of August and my berry picking muscles are twitching. Last month I was laid up and missed out on the gathering of what I hear was a super-abundant crop of larger-than-usual wild strawberries. Luckily for me the huckleberries which should be well past their prime, are just beginning to ripen. This year Mother Nature has been slightly off-season with her blessings. About three weeks behind–perhaps because of the late spring?

Right now I am yearning to be out there with other fervently addicted huckleberry hunters: climbing steep, unstable rocky inclines and trudging through swamps, criss-crossed with spiky spruce blow-downs and littered with devils club, to reach the clear cuts where it has been rumoured the biggest and best berries abound.

If only it would stop raining!

During yesterday’s wet weather I extricated a batch of last year’s wild blueberries from where I had stashed them in the deep freeze. They were still firmly attached to their vines amidst a wealth of healthy-looking green leaves. When I had picked them, I entertained the notion that the freezing process might make it easier to separate the itzy bits of fruit from their abundant foliage. Not so. My husband compared my tedious efforts to that of picking fly specks out of pepper. But it was raining and I had nothing better to do.

After that I made some blue-huck-toon jam, which turned out to be delicious. The one berry in the trilogy that was this year’s variety was a few cups of saskatoons from the only productive bush in the neighborhood.

We had slavered in anticipation upon noticing all the saskatoon blossoms earlier. The theory has now been voiced that our chilly spring made it difficult for pollinating bugs to survive and carry out their duties.

I would like to share my lazy woman’s recipe for saskatoon or huckleberry pie. After years of mopping my oven because of overflowing juices (unless I beefed the filling up with too much thickener which rendered it inedible) I now cook the berry mixture on top of the stove. The bottom crust has to be baked first before being filled. (Otherwise the pie may still muck up your oven during the longer baking process.) Following that, you need only to secure a top crust in place and brown. (If you are really lazy as I am, you use the frozen crusts from the store.)

SASKATOON PIE FILLER (Makes 3 or 4 pies and is freezable. The recipe is from my friend Mary in Fort Fraser.)

4 cups saskatoons
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
Cook until thick. (For huckleberries omit the water, almond extract and lemon juice. You will probably need more corn starch and sugar.)

ALBERTA CLICHES

1999  Sense and Nonsense

I caught the flu bug just before Christmas. Although my husband and I refrained from kissing and engaging in any germ-exchanging activities, he managed to catch it anyway.  We spent the holidays hacking and coughing and complaining, each one of us convinced that the other was not nearly as sick as we were.  It became a competition as to who deserved the largest portion of pity.

I guess I won. About the second day into the New Year, my husband entered his usual early morning disgustingly-cheerful state of mind. Much of his early years were spent on a farm in Central Alberta and, as such, his vocabulary is littered with a repertoire of colourful “made in Alberta” clichés.

He finally noticed that I was not as well as he was. “You poor thing,” he stated compassionately, “You look about as miserable as a mule in a hailstorm.”

My face opened slightly in a horrible caricature of a grin.

“What was that?” he inquired. “Could it have been a smile?”  He peered into my sombre countenance but I was not ready for any more banter. He turned away and I heard him mutter, “Must have been gas.”

Later, after strolling outside with the dog through snowflakes “the size of cigarette papers” and in the process, becoming “as wet as a new born calf” he entered the room and complained about the lack of wattage in our kitchen light bulbs. “It’s as dark in here as the inside of an Angus cow at midnight!” he snorted.

Alberta clichés often allude to a small part of the human anatomy that is not exposed to the sun’s rays. The other day my husband listened to a television commentator who was expressing a particularly uninformed opinion about gun control. “That fellow talks as if he has a paper anus,” he growled. (He didn’t exactly say ‘anus’)

“When it comes to knowing the facts, he is about as lost as a pet hog in a snowstorm!”

The other day when I emerged from the utility room with a basketful of laundry, a broom, a mop and the vacuum cleaner, my husband was taken aback. “Oh no, you’re back in cleaning mode!” he exclaimed. “Why do you have to tackle everything as if you were killing snakes?”

The look I gave him was “colder than a mother-in-law’s kiss” and “sour enough to make a pig squeal.”

 

HORSE SENSE

1998 Sense and Nonsense

I am from the generation that loves country and western music. The old stuff– not the guitar-busting, belly button revealing, new style of warbling. I like Garth and Shania but it’s the classic horse loving, gut-wrenchingly lonesome kind of music that stirs my country soul.

Every once in awhile I like to visit a barnyard for old time’s sake. And for old time smells. One thing I notice is that while cows are still popular, horses are becoming a creature of the past. When I was a farm-raised kid in the Cariboo our horses did everything. Not only were they expected to pull various pieces of equipment around in the fields during plowing, sowing and haying seasons, they were our everyday transportation.

In my mind’s eye I can still picture the huge harnessed  rear ends of Paddy and Peggy, as they slowly ambled down the dirt road toward town, pulling a sleigh in winter and a wagon anytime after the snow had gone. In 1947 our town consisted of a general store with post office, and a feed shed. I don’t recall any gasoline pumps although there was a red Chevy pickup that shared the road and scared poor old Peggy every time we met. She would usually attempt to break and run, despite being hitched to Paddy who was heavier and much calmer–to the point of being almost comatose at times. He was that way when we kids wanted to ride him. If he was not in harness, Paddy didn’t believe he should move at all.

I always wanted a saddle pony but Dad could not bring himself to trust any horse other than the ploddy old team that he loved. Saddle horses were the sports cars of my youth and I was forever petulant that I couldn’t have one. The excuse was that they cost too much money. It was not until my own daughter expressed a wish for a pony and I noticed the fear in my father’s eyes, that I finally understood the reason why I had to walk to school while the neighbor’s kids got to ride horses.

There were a few times when my brother and I had to ride Peggy into town to buy groceries. The storekeeper always referred to our potbellied, swaybacked mare as “the horse built for two”. He would fill our grain sacks with canned goods and staples so that the weight was evenly distributed; then tie them together and help us sling them across Peggy’s ample shoulders. My position was up there behind the groceries, and my brother’s was behind me. I would pretend I was Gene Autry (without the saddle) while my brother who never agreed with me about anything, identified with his favorite cowboy hero, Roy Rogers.

The problem with Peggy was that unbeknownst to Dad, she would bolt every so often causing her human cargo to fall  to the ground. With her big belly and our short legs, there was no way we could hold on. Peggy had an imagination, and would sometimes shy at unusual shadow configurations cast by familiar stumps and trees.

On one occasion she did this while carrying a full load of groceries. The sacks fell apart as they hit the road–with me clutching at them desperately. Dented cans and crushed boxes of crackers and cereal littered the ruts and the ditches. My brother ran ahead to catch the old girl while I attempted to patch up the evidence. I don’t remember what we told Dad but it wasn’t the truth; riding old Peggy was better than not being allowed to ride at all!

Yes, the days when we relied on horses are gone forever. Now the cowboys do their chores while mounted on all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. The following is my attempt to capture the essence of the modern-day cowhand in song:

Last night I went riding on my 450 Skidoo,
The night it was cold and my clothing was few,
The cows got away and then things got worse,
A cowboy is hopeless when he don’t got a horse!

Oh, nobody knows the pain and frustration,
Of riding a Skidoo across this great nation
The pain in my butt and the frost on my nose
And I’m lost as a pet hog in all of this snow!

 

I wish I was home in my house on the hill
With my dearest Mary, or maybe ’twas Jill?
I’d butcher a cow and cook up some steaks,
But this gawdawful machine doesn’t have any brakes!

The End (thank goodness for that!)

MYSTERIOUS MOBILITY?

1999 Sense and Nonsense

There are two things that intrigue me greatly at the present time: one is the crop circles that appeared last year in a farmer’s field in Vanderhoof, and the other is the mysterious mobility of our living room rug. I am beginning to wonder if the two circumstances are related.

There are some amazing similarities between the crop circles, first spotted from the air on August 30, 1998 and the polypropylene braided rug which was purchased about the same time from the Sears catalogue. The evidence, when weighed by a frivolous and prone-to-fantasy marred mind, such as my own, is startling.

First of all the rug is round–which is exactly the same shape as the crop circles. I had debated for weeks about whether to buy the oval or the rectangle, but for some unexplained reason defied the conventionality of my upbringing and ordered the round instead. That in itself is cause for conjecture: when I placed the order could my mind have been manipulated by extraterrestrial messages?

A month or two after we unrolled the new seven-foot in diameter mat upon the slip-proof surface of the existing carpet, I realized it possessed the uncanny ability to reposition itself without any help from us. Every few days the gap at one end of the room became noticeably bigger than the corresponding gap at the other end. At first I assumed that it was my husband who was responsible for its change of placement. But he emphatically denied all household repositioning (including that of the toilet seat.)

The rug is not the old-fashioned braided kind where the colors and pattern of each plait progress predictably up to and unto the final coil. Ours has intricate patterns and symbols throughout (in pleasing shades of burgundy and nutmeg) very likely indicative of an alien language and culture. There is no doubt in my mind that it is extraterrestrial in origin; very likely capable of making changes in its own molecular structure and able to travel through the air at enormous speeds to set down in a farmer’s field and etch out messages to observers on a faraway planet. It then returns surreptitiously during the night, but is tired and does not always uncoil its torso in exactly the same place on the living room floor.

Sometimes I worry about whether I should turn the rug in because it may represent a threat to our planet’s security. The problem is, I don’t see another in this year’s Sear’s catalogue that goes as well with my decor.

 

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