Rhymes, Rants & Accolades from North Central BC

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.

 

THE BEARS AND ME

circa 1990 Sense and Nonsense

My first unhappy experience with a bear happened one dark night during the early nineteen-sixties when I was employed as company cook at an isolated sawmill camp. A section of the cookhouse had been partitioned off to make sleeping quarters for our family.

In those days I did not have a problem with insomnia. Except for an occasional breeze in the nearby pines, the world outside my bedtime window was usually as still as death. But this night my husband and I were awakened by a crashing cacophony of sound that cut through the silence like a jagged knife. My heart beat so fast it almost popped my pajamas. The hush that followed was even more disquieting.

We fumbled around for matches to light the gasoline lamp and discovered that the lower pane of the bedroom window, the base of which was at least six feet above the ground, had been shattered. Splinters and shards of glass lay everywhere–on the floor and on the double bed where our two small daughters still managed to sleep soundly.

It was several long minutes before we comprehended what had happened. The faint rattle of clattering cans outside in the darkness clued us in. We surmised that a tall black bear (or perhaps a short grizzly) had planned to climb through the broken window and feast upon cookhouse goodies. Our presence had put a damper on his appetite and he was scrounging in the cook house dump instead.

But Mr. Bear was able to exercise his climbing muscles that night. The following morning we learned that our brand new Volkswagon car had been used as a stepping stool for our visitor to launch himself up and onto the flat roof of a nearby shed. And then crawl back down again. Numerous dents and claw-marks marred the shiny new paint job.

I guess some bears are like teenage girls–they just want to have fun. When our children were small we used to camp out a lot. We always made sure no food was left in or around our tent that would attract bears. One day after returning to camp from a boating expedition to the other end of the lake, we found our canvas home-away-from-home in shreds.

The tracks of a sow bear and her cubs in the sand along the shore led to a disheartening disarray of torn pieces of fabric and metal poles that had been our almost-new tent. Claw imprints deeply embedded in foam plastic mattresses, and the illusive trail of our gasoline lantern which had been playfully rolled into the bushes, told the story of a fun-filled afternoon.

They say the biggest part of prejudice is fear. We once lived where there were a great many saskatoon bushes and every year the bears would come to camp on our lawn. Our dog got so bored with chasing them, she decided that they belonged there. She saved her warning barks for invading squirrels and the neighbor’s cat. When it was saskatoon season, I seldom ventured outside the house.

But bears were around at other times of the year too. One spring day I loaded the camera and pedaled my bicycle a few kilometers down the road from our place. I stashed the bike alongside an old logging trail. The dog and I proceeded happily through the bush in search of interesting camera shots. It wasn’t until after we were back on the road again that we saw the bear.

The large black blob was in the middle of the road about 100 feet away. It seemed to be intent on moving a piece of road kill and did not see us. For a minute or two I stood absolutely still, rigidly clutching the handlebars of my bicycle and hoping desperately for a car or anything with four wheels and an engine to come along and clear the way.

My bicycle, even propelled by high-octane adrenalin (produced from fear) would not be fast enough to dodge an aggressive bear. The dog stood still too. She looked at mewith a puzzled expression on her face. I knew she was thinking, “What’s with this cowardly woman, anyway? It’s just a bear!”

The bear looked up from whatever he was chewing on. Bears are supposed to be short-sighted, but so am I. And even without my glasses I would have no problem spotting him. Flinging my bicycle into the ditch, I proceeded to wallow, burrow and straddle my way through a thick forest of rose bushes, briars and brambles to my neighbor Sindee’s house. Our dog ambled disgustedly behind. But she quickly forgave my cowardly transgressions when Sindee offered us both a ride home in her truck!

1999  Sense and Nonsense

The other evening my friend Donna related a “comedy of errors” tale concerning a recent trip to the Coast. Her journey, as were those of her two daughters who flew in from various parts of the province to join her at the Vancouver airport, was complicated by delayed flights due to weather conditions, an automobile fire, and a misunderstanding as to what was their ultimate destination. When the three gals finally got to meet at the correct hotel, Donna recalled that everyone had a good laugh.

I shuddered inwardly as Donna related her story. Our family almost never laughed at any of my foiled travel plans. Not right away, anyway… My youngest daughter has yet to giggle about how I once lost Vancouver’s Granville Street—not once, but twice on the same day.

It happened during our trip to Expo in 1986. She was eleven years of age. We had already survived a comedic “error” or two on the train ride down from Prince George, as well as a close encounter with a missed ferry on a side trip to Saltspring Island.

Prior to that excruciating mother-daughter bonding experience, she had believed her mother to be a reasonably intelligent human being and not inclined to make stupid mistakes. So much for childhood illusions. If I had ever been on a pedestal I fell off it during that trip.

It was nine a.m. when we departed from my aunt’s place in the Vancouver suburbs. In my hand I clutched a detailed set of instructions as to what buses to take to reach the Expo grounds. Number one thing to do was to get off the eastbound at the Granville St. intersection. “A piece of cake,” I thought happily and relaxed in my seat. I had noticed Granville Street on previous trips to Vancouver. It was big. It was probably the biggest street in the city.

As I have so often pointed out to my daughter, however, Granville street is really quite small where it starts out in the toolies.  It doesn’t get large and distinctive with traffic lights and other decorations until just before it enters the downtown area. How was I to recognize it when it looked exactly like all the other streets? Besides if we hadn’t ridden the bus all the way to the end of the line–in Burnaby–we might never have had the opportunity to ride the newly installed Skytrain. After we found it, that is.

The second time I lost Granville Street we were on foot and leaving the Expo grounds. We had walked upon it. Our sneakers had actually touched the cement sidewalk…and then, Presto – it was gone!

I had only left it for a few minutes to lead my daughter under a bridge and down a few side streets and alleys. I hoped to find a short cut to a bus stop instead of having to walk about a half mile to a crosswalk. I was out of luck. By the time we returned to where I thought we had been, Granville street had disappeared!

It is now thirteen years later and I believe my daughter has forgiven me for my Expo indiscretions. She now has a small daughter of her own who will soon learn the awful truth: Just when you think you can depend on them, mothers are capable of screwing up–big time!!

Circa 1997 Sense and Nonsense

It is a strange world that we live in at the present time, especially for those like me who have survived the era of one-channel television (and even that was blurry!) as well as the Volkswagen beetle in winter–before they came equipped with heaters that actually worked.

Back then the choices were few. The main factor to consider when making a purchase was “Can we afford it?” The correct reply to that was usually “no” but that was often ignored, perhaps because such frightening phrases as the bottom-line, high interest rates, and inflation had yet to be invented.

These days the choices for acquiring anything at all, even everyday insignificant items, are manifold. Whenever a typical housewife (or house husband) ventures from his/her home and into the business area of town, a carefully composed list of necessaries clutched in hand, the usual first stop is the post office.

Perhaps there will be a letter from a daughter or a son? But no, these days they are into e-mailing across the world to strangers in Ecuador or New Guinea, sometimes twice a day. Mother and Dad reside downstream on the same river but they do not receive even as much as a message in a bottle!

Oh well, there is plenty of mail in the post office box. No cheques though… These are deposited automatically in the bank without benefit of having been touched, caressed, or even endorsed, by the one whose name appears upon them. But the envelopes with bills in them stand up crisp and erect amongst the stack of junk mail.

Actually the bills themselves are junk mail. The phone bill contains deals on telephones which do everything but wash the dishes. Bank statements include advertisements for RRSPs and life insurance. Cable T.V. is offering yet another tier of channels. All within the same envelopes as last month’s invoices. You can’t just fling them into the post office trash barrel which is already overflowing at half-past-nine in the morning.

So many choices these days! The consumer’s shopping list probably begins with a trip to the drugstore. Sometimes it ends there too. Our pharmacy has so much food on its shelves that I can sometimes skip my daily excursion to the grocery store. On the other hand, the prices on those generic brands of personal care products at the grocers are tempting…

“Personal care products” is a modern day term that describes what used to be soap, shampoo and women’s (shh) “stuff”. Nowadays the value of each of these requires the assistance of a Philadelphia lawyer, a dermatologist and a cosmetician to help you choose between the rows and rows of similar products.

Plain old ordinary shampoo now comes in 20 different selections, each color-coded and numbered according to hair and scalp conditions; whether your hair be permed-dyed-thick-thin-dry-oily-sensitive-young-old or various combinations thereof. There are also “natural” shampoos that contain fruits, vegetables and/or egg white. Hair conditioners, gels, mousses and sprays are similarly graded.

Moving down the aisle toward soaps, lotions and feminine hygiene, one encounters similar or greater dilemmas when it comes to making choices.I have heard horror stories of women locked in agonies of indecision over whether to purchase a #19 Salon Selections shampoo; an Oil of Olay moisturizing body wash that may or may not contain a chemical beginning with the letter “d” that can be harmful to white mice; a box of Kotex with wings, or any one of umpteen different alternatives.

Men, with their purported left-brained agility perhaps do not have a problem with decision-making? Selections of personal care products for them seem to be far less complicated anyway. The only important thing for them to remember is that disposable razors come in pink for gals, and blue for guys. But I do have a problem with a talc that is being advertised (constantly) on television for male itch. In this day and age of equality, where is the feminine equivalent?  There are also similar products advertised to combat foot itch, and winter itch. What if your elbow itches in springtime? Oh well at least there is no gender bias there.

Purchasing personal care products for animals is becoming confusing. I have heard there is a now a shampoo that has been specially formulated for both people and their dogs. (It better be cheap. My dog is extremely hairy!) Last winter I went shopping for some Kitty Litter. We do not have a cat, but I thought I would sprinkle it on our icy walkway to provide traction underfoot. But cat hygiene in the nineties has been upgraded. The stuff now comes in three choices: clumping (whatever that means?); deodorized and non-deodorized. Making the decision was too much for me and I left the store empty-handed.

 

SENIOR CITIZEN-HOOD

1998 SENSE AND NONSENSE by Doris Ray

As I approach my junior-senior citizen-hood (I’m about to enter the sixth decade of my life) I find myself blaming most shortcomings on the fact that I am now youthfully deprived. Especially my poor memory. The truth is I cannot recall ever having much of a memory. Even as a kid I had the uncanny ability to devour the contents of an entire book and, almost immediately, forget what the plot was all about.

This has been pretty exasperating especially when it came to mystery novels of which I have read zillions. (At least I THINK I have?) Halfway through a suspenseful whodunit I realize that the storyline is familiar. I am faced with the dilemma of whether to carry on–like Captain Scott on his epic journey to the South Pole–despite the bitter knowledge that I am not treading these pages for the very first time. Or else return the book to the public library. (If I haven’t yet recalled who the villain is, there’s always the option of sneaking a peek at the final pages.)

There have been times in my life when insignificant trivia drifts past and attaches itself to my brain like a barnacle, never to be removed to make room for more useful data. For instance I can recite (in my sleep) a poem from a fifth-grade reader that begins:

“God bless our wide Dominion/ Our fathers’ chosen land/ And bind in lasting union/ Each ocean’s distant strand…”

I was puffed up like an adder just now, whilst writing out those profound lines. Then my word processor humbled and humiliated me by insisting that there is only one “o” in the word “ocean’s”. When did they change that…??

My friend Audrey tells me that our memories do not necessarily fail us as we grow older. It is only our recall that deteriorates. I’m sure she’s right. The minute I turned fifty I lost the ability to pick peoples’ names out from the dusty files that clutter my brain. For awhile I used mental imagery. The trick was to associate the person whose name you wished to remember, with a specific item. The mental image of that item should trigger your sluggish brain into zeroing in on the person’s name whenever you were in need of it.

To impress the image into your subconscious (which is the smart part of the human mind) you picture the item dangling from the person’s nose. For instance “Ray”might suggest a poisonous fish or ( if you liked me) a glint of sunshine gleaming off my proboscis.

The problem now is that I have reached a stage in my life (it’s perfectly normal they tell me) where I cannot recall what item it was that I had pictured dangling from whose nose. I once confused ex-mayor John Backhouse of Prince George with Michael J. Fox. The furry creature quickly became lost in that mustache and after viewing “Spin City”, the tiny building beneath Michael’s nose seemed oddly appropriate…

That’s a lie! I still love Michael J. from his other T.V. sitcom – whatever its name was?

Perhaps age is not the culprit after all. Although I eat a lot of vitamins and herbs that are purported to improve my mind’s retentiveness, my memory is not as sharp as my ninety-three year old Native Indian friend’s.

When I asked her why, she said, “The trouble with you white people is that you eat too much sugar. It makes your brains sticky.”

(Circa 1990) SENSE AND NONSENSE

I work as a home support worker which means I do a lot of cooking and cleaning, something like what I hate to do most in my own home–housework. But in a client’s home it takes on new meaning and importance (Over and above the fact that I get paid). When I first started, the job description was called “homemaker”. But somewhere along the line that became politically incorrect.

It’s funny how perception and attitudes are influenced by words? It seems these words change their meaning as time goes by. Take the word “housewife” for example: Yucky. We assume the poor woman is stuck in a one-sided relationship with a big dumb husband who doesn’t appreciate her. If they have children, she is a mother which is not necessarily a good word anymore either.

We need to invent new words to perk up old jobs and responsibilities. Mothers could call themselves Child Care Givers. (An actual job position that you get paid for whenthey’re not your kids.)

Now what about men? They are also judged by the labels for what they do, or don’t do. Someone told us the story of the two little boys discussing their fathers’ occupations, back when Endako Mines was the largest employer in the Fraser Lake area. One child gushed about how his dad operated a big piece of equipment at the mine. Finally, he asked his companion what his dad did. The lad looked at his feet in embarrassment and blurted out, “My dad’s just a logger…”

I don’t know what the status of loggers is nowadays, but the fact that they are working at all should give them some points.

What about the poor sucker who doesn’t have a job? In our society he’s about equal to the untouchables in India. If he is on Employment Insurance, he’s considered to be looking for work. And if he works in the bush, that’s definitely “okay” because he’ll be back hocking his power saw or driving his feller buncher after break-up. But in some circles those who are on Employment Insurance are viewed as “digging from the public trough”. (Recipients skulk down alleys or cut across streets to avoid more privileged folk.)

When the Employment Insurance stamps run out (or whatever they call it nowadays when your assets become 100% less than your liabilities) the recipient is forced to go on Social Assistance. Then he is really in trouble—both socially and financially. The rest of us are allowed to kick sand in his face (so to speak). If he once skulked down alleys while he was on E.I. he now crawls on hands and knees clutching his Social Assistance cheque!

It is time to call this human condition whereby a man (or woman if she is the principal wage earner in the family) has reached rock bottom financially, by a new label. We already have something called G.A.I.N., which is short for Guaranteed Annual…(something or other?). Why not refer to Social Assistance cheques as  D.A.R.N.  I.T. (Short for: Did all right. Now in trouble.)

Perhaps that’s the sort of label needed to identify those of us who are down on their luck.

MURPHY AND MINNIE

1990s – 2000 Sense and Nonsense

“What we need around here is a mouse-eating cat,” my husband stated after inspecting the un-sprung trap that he had set out before going to bed the previous evening. Our resident mouse had once again slipped past the trap’s deadly prong, managing to slurp up every vestige of the peanut butter bait. The night before the delicacy had been cheese that he, or as I suspected, “she” had dined upon. And before that it had been bacon bits. Our wily rodent would probably live forever, unless it developed a cholesterol problem.

Our youngest daughter had been clamoring for a kitten for some time. The problem was our big dog liked cats too–too much. If we got one, she would probably chase it through all nine of its lives before we could convince her that it was part of the family. Any cat of ours would have to remain an inside cat. The outside was the dog’s domain.

One morning I listened to the radio and sure enough, there was a listing on the Trade-eo program for a kitten “to give away” in Fraser Lake. My ten year old and I drove into town to pick up the tiniest, wimpyist-looking feline that ever lived long enough to be weaned and taken from its mother. Ithought that our Super Mouse (I saw her once and she WAS big) could easily have dragged that spindly hunk of yellow fur by the scruff of its neck and drowned it in the toilet bowl.

But “Murphy” did not stay small for long. Our daughter looked after the fragile-looking creature, feeding it the finest of fare and smothering it was love. He grew up to be big and tough to match his name, and one day left home in order to conquer the world. He never returned.

But Murphy had done his duty. Our log house was now officially mouse-free. If we spied pepper flakes on the counter we knew them to be from the shaker, not from a warmer, more animated source. Secretly though, I sometimes wondered about the mouse that was. The glimpse I’d had of her reminded me of the fatter of the two cute mice featured

in the Disney cartoon version of Cinderella.  I wondered if, when she (gulp) died, did she leave behind a family? If so, Murphy probably polished them off too.

One day having some time on my hands I composed a poem about our late belated mouse which, in a fit of sentimentality, I had named Minnie. I titled it “The Lifeand Death of Minnie Mouse”. The events described are not necessarily true, but neither can they be proven false:

Deep within the tunneled woodwork
Of an old but sturdy house
Behind the kitchen sink and cupboard
Dwells the family of a mouse
Sixteen children and a spouse
Make their home there in that house

Commuting daily ‘cross the carpet
To the stairway in the hall
Beneath the crumbling cement casing
Minnie Mouse works at the mall
In a rodent restaurant small
Below the stairway in the hall

Now she scampers happ’ly homeward
Winding through the mouldering maze
Paycheck clutched tight in her cheekbones
She has finally got a raise
Proud she is and proud displays
As she scurries through the maze

But a lean and hungry house cat
Waits for her upon the stair
When she exits from the mouse hole
He will have his supper there
Later… those of hers who care
Find her paycheck on the stair.

 

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