Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

Sigh-ns of Life

I did not think it was going to take me two weeks to revisit the world of writing here. I had initial envisaged a 3-part tribute to  my dad whose birthday would have been this last week. One of the intended posts – a publishing of something I’d written in the midst of processing the news of my dad’s illness and the throes of being 16, a heady combination. I’d decided against that post anyway because though I can forgive myself my perspective and attitudy writings at that time, that doesn’t mean I feel it would be appropriate to share them. Too many people in my family would not appreciate that if they knew and I think I’m okay with that.

My two other mid-thought posts have not manifested either though and for only practical reasons like working much too long hours, being away, and being sick. Thankfully, despite all this and today’s exhaustion, I’m in good spirits and hope to re-emerge into the world in short order. In case I don’t however, because I’m dying to communicate but incapable of sitting here much longer, I decided to provide random poetry that happens to be typed up on my computer. It’s random in that I’m just going to pick something that I find in short order. Lucky you!

Voce*

A cast-off piece of maltreated gold has no idea of its continual worth and influence

People have tried to change it, fix it, break it, but it stubbornly, successfully stood strong

 

If, in despair, it buried itself within the rocks of once boiling lava…

 

It would be difficult for those who still looked on it amorously –despite the wrinkles of a grinding life-

To forgive escape

 

Gold’s brilliance endures many eruptions.

 

* Portuguese for the respectful form of “you” – I know there’s a term but it’s not coming

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Mr. Lonely, Portuguese-ness?, Wild Animals, Writing | 5 Comments

Trespassing Prey – Part 2

 An adoring fan (I kid) inadvertently encouraged me to put up more of this story I wrote a number of years ago. You can find the introduction here, if you’re so inclined. In the interest of avoiding a 12-post series, this section is lengthy. It’s also from a less succinct period of my life. I seek forgiveness.

As always, the first kilometre was tough, finding a rhythm and warming our muscles up to the idea of a good deal of work ahead.  We breathed the air in deeply, enjoyed the scent, shared our excitement, and thought about cougars.  For a while, we used a good deal of energy avoiding baby frogs that were making the journey from their nesting place to their new marshy home. They lightly hopped across the trail.  We enjoyed their energetic movements and cracked up about being easily distracted, lacking diligence in our attention to potential cougars.

After a brief break at the three-kilometre mark, we hiked on.  Here, the real work began, the climb became much steeper, which I hate, and covered with small fallen trees, which drove us crazy.  Every fallen tree required a strategy.  Most were a metre or more off of the trail – too high for either of us to straddle, very difficult to go under with a full backpack. We were further delayed because we had to stand around and complain before and after, again and again.  Luckily, a cougar did not choose such an opportune time – with one of us caught under a tree – to come sniffing.

Along the way, we fantasized semi-seriously that if a cougar were to attack us we could slay it with ease using the knife provided by Beth’s dad.Beth would keep the head as a trophy.  In a stroke of serendipity, the cougar would be female and lactating, to ensure that I could have some milk afterwards, for my stomach. Especially in the absence of my stomach medication – yes, that’s right, in my late night stupor the stomach pills had not made it into the backpack. Sigh.  This tidy cougar-hunting scenario amused us for quite some time as we hiked, satisfied with our plans.

After another 5km or so consisting of fallen trees, steep terrain, the inconvenient realization that I’d also forgotten my cell phone and our ride wouldn’t know when to pick us up, the trail levelled off and we came to a clearing with a cabin, thus concluding the lower portion of the hike.  We intended to drop off our wares, do the second leg of the trail and come back down to the cabin to sleep.  Our plans were foiled somewhat. The cabin itself did not have hospitality written on it – anywhere.  It was dank and dark, and seemed to host many visiting/nesting/pillaging creatures. Our tent was far more appealing and we set up camp in a nearby clearing.

But first, we had to find the trail to the peak of Mt. Cartier, which would apparently make the arduous hike entirely worth it.  Everyone had told us that after the cabin, the trail continues, but try as we might, we found nothing. We could go no further without a severe fight with some devil’s club.  After a number of attempts, we despairingly gave up on reaching the peak and glimpsing the fantastic view of the entire valley. No cabin, no peak, no view.

We didn’t pout for long before we quickly set to work making our home.  The sun shone, I started building a fire, and Beth, wielding the cougar knife, began preparing our tent site.  Each of us was quite happy to do our work. We pitched our tent, enjoyed the view and our dinner in the sun and chatted about nothing particular. Though it was most certainly on my mind, we still had not talked about the date. We were holding a stubbornness contest and neither of us wanted to be the first to bring it up.

After dinner I took it upon myself to figure out how to get our food and toiletries up a tree so that no bear would make us into a grocery store.  I threw everything in a garbage bag, tied a rope around it and looked fruitlessly for THE TREE.  Very few of the trees had unobstructed branches that I could manage to get the rope around. But oh how I tried. People always made this sound so easy when giving “bear aware” instructions, how hard could it be?  Very, apparently.

Eventually I picked a target, setting my sights on a branch approximately 5 metres above my head.  I wished myself luck, cocked my arm back, and threw the rope as hard as I could.  In a moment lacking triumph of any kind, the rope peaked a metre below the branch and fell limply to the ground at my feet.  Not to be deterred, I tried again, with a similar result.  I had no more success the third time.  Or the fourth.  I quickly became frustrated; my patience for my own failures is quite limited. I had no hope in hell of getting that garbage bag up to somewhere that a bear could not reach.  The fallen trees that we had been cursing along the hike now seemed very appealing – at least I could stand on one.

So I settled for an even lower branch, perhaps two metres above my head.  Pathetic.  I threw the rope, angry at my failure, hit the branch and almost knocked myself in the head with the rope as it came back down.  We were sure to be robbed tonight.  But refusing to sink further into patheticness, I threw the rope again and thankfully (for my self esteem), it came down on the other side of the branch.  So I pulled the rope, heaving the garbage bag mightily into the air before relishing in my heroic moment. I had Amazon woman strength.  Proud, I lowered my gaze from the glorious branch and looked straight ahead.  Sigh.  My heart sank.  The bottom of the garbage bag hung directly in front of my eyes.  Any heroism left in my feeble body was swiftly deflated.  How lame!  A two-month-old squirrel could have used the bag as a piñata.  I might as well have left a stick beside it to make things easy.  Alas, I assumed that this was better than having the bag in our tent and gave up, shamed and perplexed.

Exhausted and fearful of getting attacked (by mosquitoes as much as by cougars) we crawled into our tent to start one of those classic too early to sleep sleepover-type discussions. Beth’s mind, like mine, is over-active at night and we both struggled to find even a fitful rest.  I had silly dreams about dates and frogs and cougars and woke up every ten minutes changing positions. Every time Beth’s foot kicked the corner of the tent, the opposite corner, at my head, would pucker and scare me, waking me up frightened and sleepily alert. Beth got even less sleep than I did, disturbed by my kicks and tossing and turning at every sound and silence.

In the morning, we woke to a warm tent.  The daylight brought with it, as it always seems to, a sense of relief and safety.  We were alive.  Not even our toes had been gnawed off, and though uncomfortable and tired, we woke in good spirits, pleased with our adventure. This air of reassurance unfortunately was soon challenged by my physical condition.  The warm tent, the excitement, the lack of my usual milk remedy and stomach medication was starting to take its toll.  In search of some soothing protein, I found and delved into some peanuts.  I’m not sure where the peanuts came from because the food was supposed to be hung, but they were there and I ate them desperately.

Regardless, I was soon rushing to unzip the tent – the date’s tent, conveniently.  I mostly managed to direct the pathetic contents of my stomach away from the tent but to my horror was not completely successful. Is it a bad omen to throw up on the tent of the person you went out with 36 hours previous? Between “moments” I managed to get dressed and go sit by the fire pit to spare Beth any more of my scent.  I did my best to feel better, eating and throwing up alternately, while she packed up our entire camp without complaint.

… Stay tuned for trespassing, paranoia AND police.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Hiking, Wild Animals, Writing | , , , , | 4 Comments

California Part 1: the central coast

Being masochistic and heat-hating, we continued a lengthy drive from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas by driving all the way to the outskirts of Los Angeles. This meant we managed about 690 miles or 1,100 kilometres in a day. Next up? Coastal life was on the menu, from Lompoc to Salinas along the coast.

Still recovering from desert punishment, I was mildly perturbed (steaming mad) when I missed the “Welcome to California” sign and got only this:

I am Canadian. Cacti crack me up. Especially cacti that look like fraggles.

My interest in the law had little to do with how cool this courthouse in Santa Barbara was:

I can only dream that this light actually lights up when court is in session:

Thinking optimistically that I would be keen to cook vegetables on the road, I could not wait to hit the famous (overcrowded) farmer’s market in San Luis Obispo:

And who knew roasted corn had so many condiment (ewww) options?

Eventually we made it to William Randolph Hearst’s castle and ranch to see what it’s like to be rich, love art and cultural objects, and be crazy. These are just a couple of the dozens of ceilings he collected. L’il ol’ me didn’t know you could collect entire ceilings, walls, or fireplaces.

If I had my own movie theatre, I guess I’d have something like this lighting the way:

One of hundreds of statues contemplating nakedness:

or contemplating a visit to a roman bath:

Getting in touch with my Mediterranean roots, except not really:

Next stop, off the ranch, I managed to catch an elephant seal in something other than the “I’m dead” position. I wish you could see how they move. Imagine jello doing the worm.

One of the many views at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

And finally, the requisite crazy coastal bridge with fog coming in or out, as it did most of the day. This, of course, has nothing on the upcoming Golden Gate fog.

Next stop: Yosemite!

September 28, 2011 Posted by | Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue, Wild Animals | , , | 5 Comments

Anemones are my Shiny Happy People

Like R.E.M (the band, not the sleep stage), I too have a work for which I am most famous. And by “work”, I mean blog post, and by “famous”, I mean less completely unknown. People don’t tend to pine away in the hope of being remembered for some embarassing/non-representative/unimpressive moment in their lives. Some would rather be known for their body of work. Some would rather not be known at all. Some, of the 15 minute of fame variety I’m thinking, don’t mind a bit.

  • Drew Barrymore will always be the cutie from ET and the subsequent poster-child for everything you don’t want to happen to your child actor

Courtesy of hecklerspray.com

It’s a little silly to write about this at all given how little traffic my blog gets, but I just can’t get over this weirdness. I can’t say phenomenon because that word conjures a notion of something that actually matters. I have no illusions of grandeur. This does not matter. I know I’m a drop in the river of creatures.

But I find this interesting all the same. At some point, google and my blog post on the word “anemone” became very close friends. While that post was fun for me and all, it’s not really anything to write home about. It certainly represents no particular authority about anemones. However, 43% of all views of my blog (excluding the homepage) have been of that “cash” cow, the anemone! I’m not actually bitter about it. I’m more flummoxed than anything. The wonders of the internet world.

R.E.M. said goodbye yesterday, announcing their official breakup after 3 decades of goodness. I have an attachment to R.E.M. rooted in my 13-year-old discovery. Here’s to you Berry, Buck, Mills, Stipe:

September 22, 2011 Posted by | Bad TV References, Brackets, Wild Animals | , | 5 Comments

Now featuring a few hours in Idaho/Entering Utah

The next installment in the documentation of the Minor American Roadtrip:

A trip always means choices. On some trips, that choice means driving straight through Idaho twice without much regard for Idaho’s self-worth and what it has to offer. Sorry, Idaho. I’m quite certain you have your charms and wonders, but I’ll have to explore them another time.

What little I did experience of Idaho was pretty fun and memorable though.

Well, not the sign part, but the rest of it. We had a visit with the jerky man whose name I can’t remember. He and google have not yet met up, sadly. He sold elk and bison jerky as well as plain old beef. With a set up like this, we couldn’t help but stop:

I sneakily tried to take his picture as he got right to work on  his sales pitch. As I was digging for the camera, spy style, he yelled out for the little lady (that’s me) to come out, too: “I’ve got saaaam-ples!” he bellowed. This guy was something else. So excited we stopped, he cut small samples from about 12 different kinds of jerky. And he had a system. You start with plain bison, then go to plain elk (it has more flavour and will ruin your pallet for the bison), then you move into teryaki, spicy, extra hot and goodness knows what all else that I can’t remember. Once we disappointed him by buying only one package he launched into the second part of his work: giving directions on the most scenic and entertaining way to get to Salt Lake City, UT. This guy mapped it out for us and we followed his instructions to the letter.

  • First stop: The Montpelier Oregon Trail Centre. Now when I say we followed his instructions, I mean we drove by, slowed down like annoying tourists, and took pictures. I’m sure the Centre had a lot to offer, but as I say, travelling is choices (I’m a big, touristy ass).

  • Second stop: St. Charles (only on the map if you scroll in) for the famous “best” raspberry shakes. I was off dairy so instead I entertained myself in other ways.

  • Third stop: Viewpoint of Bear Lake. He was right yet again. This was beautiful and worth a stop, though the picture doesn’t do it any justice. Technically at this point we’ve already entered Utah, but I’m using my artistic license (not yet expired) to talk about the rest of jerky man’s recommendations within the Idaho post. Idaho really does get the shaft.

  • Finally, the climax: The Bluebird Cafe in Logan, Utah. Jerky Man said that this was the place to get lunch. I believe he said something along the lines of, “a neat little place with a lot of character.” So after a stop at the Logan  Temple, we headed to the Bluebird. Guess which one is which.

What I failed to factor in at this point is that, as lovely as the man planning my day was, we may not have the same taste in restaurants. He really got me with that whole “character” thing of his. And he was right, it was a different sort of place, with murals of Logan’s history, cheap food and a diner style menu. We went in looking like people who hadn’t showered in a couple of days, because we hadn’t, and they stuck us in a back room by ourselves. I was a little uncomfortable but probably also weird looking, so I thought that was ok. Unfortunately, my nose is a little in the air when it comes to food and my meal didn’t thrill me. It was, however, good for a laugh.

Cheers to the Jerky Man, he made our day in more ways than one. Next Post: Utah Continued!

September 15, 2011 Posted by | Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue, Wild Animals | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Next Stop: Wyoming

As will become increasingly obvious, I didn’t spend enough time anywhere along the journey. What I saw of Wyoming was pretty incredible, but I was only in the western-most sliver. There’s really something to be said for places just east of the rockies, foothills and the like, where you’re far enough to get perspective on the mountains on one side and the prairie on the other. I had only experienced that southeast of Calgary before, but the feeling continues further south. I can’t remember exactly, but we crossed the continental divide an insane number of times, back and forth in Yellowstone National Park and weaving through some crazy valleys later.

My poor calculations about how long it would take to get to Yellowstone from Glacier National Park meant that we arrived at the park gate at about 11pm. A deer had dashed out in front of us, lightening flashed ominously ahead of us, I was keenly aware that we didn’t know the area well and that the park road would not be a freeway. Yet we plowed on, not willing to give up our campsite in the height of summer. Right after taking the first picture, of the park sign, we stopped to consult the map and ran into a ranger. He pulled over to ask us how we were, my paranoia must have been heightened, I thought for sure we were in trouble for something. But we were free. After about 10 minutes of driving my traveling companion passed out and I began imagining grizzly bears dish-like faces appearing in my windshield right before driving of the edge into the ominous darkness on one side of the road. I eventually had to shake the passenger seat to get back to sanity. It was an hour and a half of torture before we got to our campground.

An aside: I’ve begun to realize about myself that pure “nothingness”, as us civilized types might see it, actually sends me into panic. On the one hand, I suppose it just indicates that I’m aware of my weaknesses, my dependence on technology, people who know how to do things, etc. On the other hand, I think it’s sad that if I’m in a remote enough place and there’s only one other person around, I have no sense of security or peace. Lights, structure, and additional people all give me great comfort but my intellectual self says I should just enjoy the wildness.

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Our last stop in Wyoming was Jackson (the hub of the famous Jacksonhole valley), a Banff-like town embedded in the foothills. In the middle of everything and nowhere all at once. Elk racks and wagon wheels decorate the wide streets. In the summer, it felt like a party.

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Irritated, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Self-reflection, Travel and intrigue, Wild Animals | 3 Comments

Warning! Lecture Zone: Generalize at your own risk

There is one blanket statement that I can accept: “Blanket statements are the devil.”

The Dictionary of Rose, 30th ed., 2011 defines blanket statement as “a jerk-bum method of communicating that involves stereotyping to the nth degree and lumping the worst of anything in with the best and the averagest anythings.”

Clear? Probably not. What I am getting at is our willingness, me included, to say things that we don’t really mean. I’m talking about things beyond light-hearted exaggeration and sarcasm (though maybe we – yes, as a people – are far too willing to be insincere and coy rather than directly saying how we feel about something or someone). Call me some sort of accuracy fascist, or hater of artistic license, but I think casual society (how’s that for a phrase?) and the language pendulum have gone too far.  It’s just too cool to slam, disavow, and point out the worst. Criticism has its place but we should also be capable of giving positive feedback, and recognizing strengths, beauty and wonder.

Aside: I have been known to be hyper-critical in my day and I will acknowledge this. I can definitely overdo it, and focus more on the negative than the positive, though I’m learning I cannot hold a candle to some.

But my point is not our willingness to criticize. My real issue is one specific symptom of this critical culture: the earlier mentioned blanket statement. To achieve the desired effect of our statement, do we really need to say or imply that all X are/do/have Y? Really? How has language arrived at this place? Has it always been this way?

Essentially, I think we’re (often) too happy to make these all or nothing statements without acknowledging exceptions. Granted, you cannot follow every sentence with “well, not everybody.” But is there any reason we can’t use words like “sometimes” or “on Tuesdays” or “I feel like”? Heaven forbid we occasionally go so far as to say, “maybe I’m wrong but…” or “ it seems, in some cases”!

I could get over it. Just words, right? Sticks and stones and all that. However, I think carelessness with language has real harms. It stifles debate (because if you’re wasting time responding to garbage, you don’t get to make a real point) and contributes to the type of hyperbolic non-conversation that has been so damaging for example in recent American political debate. On a touchy feely level, it also just hurts sometimes or at the very least it annoys me – always (oops, there I go). Observe the table:

Statement Accuracy Level harm-unfairness-annoyance
Wool is itchy Not true The wool industry suffers from your negligent statement and what about lovely merino?
Women love shoes and shopping Not true If I don’t love shoes and shopping, I’m not a “real” woman
Canada is cold in winter Mostly true, but not everywhere, all the time When you travel to Antarctica in January people might say at least it’s not Canada
Lawyers have to work long hours to succeed Not true If you can’t work 80 hours a week due to life, family obligations or a disability, you  can’t be a lawyer. Too bad!
Mr. T is a useless teacher Not true Useless is pretty strong and I learned things from Mr. T
Canadian water is pristine Potable in most places, but not everywhere It ignores that numerous small communities and First Nations are often exposed to e.coli and other issues
Middle-aged white guys are all bad Not true We’d all be missing out on the lovely middle-aged white guys out there

While my examples aren’t serious, I am. Really, horrendously, embarrassingly serious. I cannot think of a time when a generalization has done any good. Let’s get comfortable with uncertainty and subtlety. Everything has a context and maybe we should be spending a little more time giving context to what we say. Maybe people are also more likely not to misconstrue our statements if we explain what we mean more fully. Or maybe not. See how I did that?

PS: I’m very interested in being/willing to be called out on this. Please.

March 25, 2011 Posted by | Bad TV References, Brackets, Childhood Complaints, Irritated, News, Wild Animals | | 4 Comments

The Orca Playground: To Watch or not to Watch

Personal work on a project has made the issue of better regulation of marine tour operations (and all marine boaters) an issue dearer to my heart:

Whale watching is a pretty big deal along the southern coast of BC, including Victoria and Vancouver (and into Washington). Outfits garner a lot of attention from tourists, bring considerable revenue to the area, and educate people about marine wildlife. However, orcas, and particularly the southern residents prevalent in local waters, are endangered. Food stocks and contaminated marine waters are the two biggest threats to orcas, one of BC’s favourite icons. Noise disturbance is also a very significant threat. Our waters and the animals that occupy them are exposed to constant boat traffic. The long-term effects of these disturbances on whales are unknown. A recent court decision found that Canada has failed under its own law to designate critical habitat for killer whales. In the meantime the critical habitat is consistently invaded by creatures it is not so critical to (like us); some of these creatures do not know how to minimize their impact.

These facts justify a precautionary approach to the protection of orcas. The precautionary principle requires that people and governments take action to prevent reaching a point of no return. Scientists have already identified these threats to orcas; strong measures must be taken to prevent further damage while we continue to learn. These precautionary measures can and should include substantial changes to the Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations…

-Report: Recommendations to Reform the Laws Protecting Orca from Boat Traffic, p. 5.

Please see this recent article in the Vancouver Sun. (If it makes it any more enticing, yours truly had a hand in this story.) If you’re really keen you can see the full report on which the article is based. To hear two perspectives on this  issue, listen to the podcast of a recent debate.

January 4, 2011 Posted by | Law, News, Wild Animals | , | 2 Comments

The Rotten Fruits of my Labour

A self-hater would stop working so that she can spend four days painting right before Christmas. Yep, it was awesome. First victim = kitchen. Goal 1: Somehow tone down/neutralize that painful 90s powder blue paint, counter and tile. Brown methinks.

Kitchen - before

Kitchen - before

Admittedly, my before pictures are pretty akin to those pictures you see in brutal ads that compare the non-made up, no hair style pre-bowflex/ab-cruncher/whonoswhut person with a glamour model. I am not trying to sway the audience of two, I just forgot to take the pictures sooner. Now for the bedroom. Goal 2: Teenage vindication against the white-ish wall.

Bedroom - before

Bedroom - before

Alas, this is where the joy in this post ends. Against all my convictions, I did not follow my paint instincts. Lesson learned. Our bathrooms also have the horrid powder blue counters but the cupboards are brown and this works okay for me. I wanted to do the same brown in the kitchen but was warned numerous times of making the room too dark. I heard it enough that I actually took heed. But how, I ask, can I possibly become less stubborn if it doesn’t pay off to listen to people? Now it looks “contemporary 90s” – and slightly purple. And the tile still has to go.

Kitchen - after

Kitchen - after

After the kitchen disappointment – it’s fine, but I’m not loving it like I love the creamsicle – I started on the bedroom. Yup, I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment. For those of you wondering, there’s something vindicating about smearing a blood look-alike on your walls. Maybe that’s just me.

Such a rebel

On the up side, the bedroom is the colour I intended. Downside? It was the most impossible paint in the world. 3 days and 4 – yes 4 (grr) – coats later there are more offensive bloody drips and other errors to constitute some sort of indictable paint offence. I even managed to get the carpet. Of course, I could have prevented some of this by priming. All tolled, there is a significant damper on my toil. But in low lighting and after all of those caveats I do like it.

Bedroom - after

I’ve also developed a sympathy for realty photographers. It is impossible to make a room look normal without the appropriate lens.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Irritated, Wild Animals | , | 2 Comments

Words (and other things resembling words) that warm my cockles: #7

(As a lover of words, phrases, lyrics, plays on words and so on, and someone seeking ways to better celebrate the little things, I’ve decided to develop a series dedicated especially to these linguistic trinkets.)

nuzzle

I love this one, especially at this cozy-seeking time of year. It’s got the fun of the “double-zed l” (so well-known), which makes it feel like a comic book BLAM! and the connotation of love and snuggling. I also picture lots of wool and blankets.

The cat’s been diggin’ the nuzzilng lately. She lost another layer of chicken-ness and will now sprawl out on your lap and nuzzle away, even if you fidget.

Now to get this word out of my mind – it’s been worse than a bad song lately.

November 20, 2010 Posted by | Wild Animals, Words that warm | 4 Comments