Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Back to the juicer

This is one of those boring posts I write by way of personal diary.

I said I would be back at the farmers market. I lied. I have been feeling perfectly fine some days but tired for no reason on others. The stress of living with a spouse in steep decline could explain some of it, but still. I tried some iron pills again, they seemed to perk me up. That was the clue to go for a checkup. Blood was taken and other bodily samples duly delivered to the lab. I was totally surprised to get a message I had a bladder infection, come get some antibiotics. Apart from "old lady bladder" moments of urgency I had no symptoms. However, I figured it beat a return of colon cancer, which had been my main concern. I briefly considered going all natural, then decided "let's just zap this sucker", take the drugs and use cranberry juice to prevent recurrence. Went to see the MD, and found out the FIT sample had been positive as well. 

The antibiotic, Cephalex, made me feel really miserable. After taking the antibiotic my bladder was suddenly hurting, what weirdness is that? Suggestion? Usually I barely notice the pills. Thank goodness the course was only 5 days and now it is over. I am gulping yogurt and taking a probiotic. 

So, there is internal leakage again, and another colonoscopy in my future. I will play along that far. If the internal bleeding is just a matter of a few polyps they can be fixed right there. If there is pressure to go on a course of cut, poison, burn, right now my intention is to refrain except for palliative purposes. I will happily accept the expertise of the medical system when it comes to diagnostics. I will also accept painkilling drugs, should they be necessary. I do not expect doctors to 'fix' me. 

It is up to me to change the conditions in my body/mind that returned to where they were prior to surgery in 2012. During the winter of 2016 I slacked off on the juicing, allowed dehydration to happen and indulged, though only occasionally, in cookies and the odd alcoholic drink. I sat around and gained weight. I believe more important than the lifestyle infractions was the MEH factor. I was not depressed, but not full of joy and zest for life either. Like I said, MEH.

So. Back to juicing carrots, mostly avoiding temptations, and remember to breathe. The exercise takes care of itself, garden season is here. Also, EFT. There is a puritanical streak in the natural health world that I dislike. "What! You had a beer and a burger with fries? Bang bang, you're dead!" A small part of me believes that I had a recurrence coming because I have been thumbing my nose at that. My rational self rebukes it, but EFT helps to get the message of acceptance of self through to deeper layers of consciousness. If it doesn't, it won't hurt.

I am 72. A bit young to die but not nipped in the bud either. I am not interested in seeing my remaining time, be it twenty years, twenty months, or twenty weeks made miserable by having a "war on cancer" played out in my body. 

Priorities have shifted a bit this summer. No market. Some days the energy is there, some days it is not. I will miss the money but the stress is not worth it. I am getting this place in order, doing some long postponed tidying up, in order to leave as little mess behind as possible if things end up going South faster than we hope. It is good to do that anyway. 

Today I feel great and full of energy. We shall cherish the day, make it a productive one and stop to smell the hyacinths.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

A brand new immigrant buys underwear.

Just for fun, two short tidbits about buying underwear in  my first months in Canada. People expecting titillation because of the title will be sorely disappointed.

Someone posted this image on Facebook, which is the heart of my social life these days. 
This brought back the memory of the first time I went to buy a female piece of lingerie in the spring of 1969. At the time my command of the language was fine when it came to the written word, but I still had to focus in order to listen to the radio.
I could not find the department and had to ask a saleslady. The pronunciation I used was more like the word used to describe the noise of a donkey. The saleslady passed me on to a colleague with the words: "She doesn't speak much English". Oh, the mortification. 

A few months later I used my fresh driver's license to make an epic trip through Alberta and B.C. Chris was working in the field near what is now the town of Grande Cache in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains . The town was not there yet. The way to the camp went through wilderness over rough dirt roads. The supervisor had told Chris  "If it was my wife I would tell her to stay home." He added that one certainly should not try the roads without four wheel drive, especially if it rained. 

When you are 26 three months with only one brief conjugal visit is a long time. Nobody was going to tell me when I could see my husband. I loaded the VW bug with a tent and food for a week. I was prepared to set up a distance away from the geo camp and feed myself if I had to.  The bug performed like a champ. After a sweet three day visit to the camp, on a river meadow blooming with Indian paint brush and other wild flowers, I struck out again.

I had a few weeks to kill before starting graduate school. That is another story. The plan was to cross into B.C. through the Pine Pass. The road led through the town of Dawson Creek, still East of the mountains but in B.C. It was here that the second underwear episode took place. 

Looking at the  simple white cotton briefs on the counter the sales clerk asked me: "Are these for yourself?" And I was like, HUH? Why do you need to know?? Remember, Alberta has no sales tax. It turned out the panties would be taxed if meant for my own youthful behind, but tax free for anyone under 14.
Learn something every day.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Life choices and cars.

After three wonderful years of glowing health, no money worries and good gardening life is taking a darker turn. As I am fond of saying, the Moon is not always full, the tide not always in. I had the good sense to thoroughly enjoy the bright time just passed, and it is only fair we get our share of the darker aspects of the human condition. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, so it goes.

I am oh-so slowly learning to only tell my own story, so details about other people are minimal. Let us just say that age is biting the spouse hard, which is not unfair in someone's eightieth year. A few years ago I wrote a blog about labour divisions in the empty nest.
Put it this way: these days I have to do the hunting as well as the gathering, and it is taking some adjusting.

In some ways ways I have been a spoilt rural woman.  I have been quite happy letting Old Dutch look after snow removal, the water system, the car and the electricity bills.
Now that it is up to me there were some tough decisions to make, and I spent the winter in a fog of indecision. Cars played a large role in various dilemmas.

The cherished 1995 Subaru Legacy has given us almost 9 years of loyal service. It had enjoyed a sheltered life in it's youth. When we got it it was 12 years old but only had 75.000 km on it, and was in perfect shape. I loved that car.
It is now a special needs car. Parts are getting hard to find. This posed serious dilemmas. Pay for repairs to eke another year out of it? Replace it? Go car free? 
If we lived in the village I would do the latter in a heartbeat. Dilemma, dilemma.  On short dark winter days when energy is low the car free option was quite appealing. The things eat money. Just hunker down and stay home. We could use the bus when it is available and help my best friend maintain her car in return for occasional transport.

It is not just about cars. It is about life being open with possibilities and professional development or giving up and letting old age close us in. With the dear old lady on her last rusty legs, or wheels rather,  I have been limiting trips into the village to once, at most twice a week. Apart from being hesitant to venture into traffic I did not dare to take it much farther afield in case it would give up the ghost far from home.
Without my own car I cannot attend the farmers' market as a vendor or make home visits.

I had been wondering if I should go to market or not, if I should invest in new gift certificates and brochures, do some publicity, some more learning, or just stop and retire from being a reflexologist. Instead of working to earn extra income and start driving out of town more I could just stay home and focus on being (even more) frugal.
I am happy to report the die has been cast in the direction of opening to possibilities.

Behold the perfect for me car! It is a 2004 Toyota Echo.
I used to be quite hung up on on needing four wheel drive and loved the Subarus. But then I remembered something. If the roads are so bad that 4wd is a must I have the option to stay home, duh!

I first heard about the Echo when a reflex client/friend showed up with one. In spite of not having four wheel drive it made it up our driveway every time, through mud or snow.  I loved the compact size and super fuel economy.  I had barely started investigating when I saw the classified ad for this car at a price I could afford. Called the number right away, left a message with the male voice on the machine. Who should call back but my old friend, who I had not seen since she retired and moved away. It is her car! It has been impeccably maintained by its only owner. 

I went online to check the average life span of an Echo. The answer: not known yet. If looked after properly they keep on trucking well past 400.000 km.

Now I will have to focus on getting some work in order to pay for it. That takes care of one dilemma. Market, here I come! Best of all I will be free to make some fun trips without breaking the bank or worrying about getting stranded. There are some fabulous nurseries in the Slocan Valley. Who knows, with practice I might start driving in cities again. Vancouver is a stretch but one can dream, and practice.

Here is a toast to open doors.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Local dilemmas.

Open letter to Mayor and Council of Nakusp

Dear Mayor and council,

Quite frankly, what with a bad economy, climate change, wars, refugees and so on, the plight of the Western Toad has not been high on my agenda. 

When I received a call to please support the fight to save the wee beasties' habitat the cynical voice of George Carlin popped into my mind. "Save the whales! Save those snails!" Believe it or not, but my first words in reply were: "Nakusp loggers are an endangered species too." I have been in this area a while. The inner redneck has been growing at the expense of the original semi hippie. 

I promised the caller I would do my bit after listening to a radio interview and reading the newspaper. The interview did not portray us as badly as I had expected, and the Valley Voice gave me the impression that NacFor had done a lot of due diligence. I left it at that.


Publicity is mounting. Both CBC radio and the Vancouver Sun are going on about the issue. This is bad publicity a tourist area can hardly afford. I understand the proposed logging will only provide work for a few weeks. A well organized and publicized Toad Fest on the other hand could provide a much needed stimulus to the tourism industry, which is a mainstay of our economy these days. I also understand the studies undertaken concern hibernation of the adult toad, while the habitat is critical for the little ones.

Nobody is calling for an end to logging per se. The industry has come a long way since the days of massive clearcuts. The area in question is relatively small. Does it really make sense to spend tax money on culverts underneath the highway and then log the place that culvert is going to? Shame on the provincial government for not letting its right hand know what its left hand is doing.

As local council you are in a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" position with political fallout no matter what. I hope you can find it in yourself to take the long view. Think of a century from now. On one side of the scale, a few weeks worth of work that could be found somewhere else. On the other side, another endangered part of the great web of life that sustains us all.

With the greatest respect for our hard working people in the woods, it looks like a rethink of this one particular job makes more sense than "Damn the toads, full speed ahead". 
I look forward to an expansion of Summit Lake park, a future Toad Fest to rival the garlic one, AND a thriving locally owned forestry industry. One can dream.

Ien van Houten

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Two love stories

A post for Valentine's day, different from my usual more cynical input.

One of the perks of being a Home Support Worker was learning the life stories of fascinating people. These two love stories really happened. The protagonists of the first one are long gone and there are no close relatives. I am pretty sure "Felix" would love to be so remembered. The second story is shared with permission of son and daughter in law. Even so I feel more comfortable not using real names.
Hearing these stories was a true privilege.

The first time I met Felix his beloved wife had just died and he was a lost soul. A soft spoken gentleman who loved nature and books he lived in a tiny airstream trailer in a beautiful spot by a small lake. The kind neighbour who owned the property kept an eye on him. I was sent in to help with basic housecleaning and some meal preparation. We quickly developed a routine of getting the chores done so we could get to the important part: Twinings Earl Grey brewed properly by Felix in a Brown Betty pot, to be enjoyed with Peak Frean biscuits and serious chat. 

Felix' start in life had taken place in Victoria, B.C. in 1910 or 11. He remembered being devastated by the death of his mother when he was 9 years old. The little boy and his mother were both sick with the Spanish flu and were being nursed in the same bed. He lived, she died. 
Felix was doing some kind of clerical work when he met "Annie". She healed the loneliness he had felt ever since his mother's death. Annie must have been something special. Not long into their relationship she informed her suitor that she did not intend to become a housewife or have children. What she wanted to do was "mess about with boats." So they did!

Somehow this city couple managed to transform themselves into fisher folk. They spent most of their working life living on their own boat on the glorious coast of B.C. To get an idea of their life on board read "Fishing with John" by Edith Iglauer. John had been a friend.  After retirement they enjoyed some blissful years in the airstream trailer by the lake. Compared to the ship it was spacious! They lived simply, not needing much  beyond the natural beauty, the neighbours and each other. A highlight was the weekly trip to our wonderful local library. When Annie lay dying she took her husband's hand and said "It's been a great adventure".

 "Paul" and I shared a home town. He had moved to Canada from Amsterdam as a young man in 1929, forty years before we did. His sisters sang in the Amsterdam branch of the same choir that had played a role in my grandparents life. Most of our conversations took place in English, but once in a while we'd share some Dutch. A particular pleasure was inventing phrases consisting of the most unpronounceable Dutch words. Dutch speakers can find them in the footnote.

The routine we adopted was getting the noisy vacuum cleaning out of the way first, so Paul could put on music while the rest of the cleaning got done. We both loved Edith Piaf, and Paul taught me to appreciate American musicals. I always think of him when I hear a song from Oklahoma. Somewhere between music and Dutch jokes his love story got shared. It is romantic enough for a Valentine's day post.

When young Paul told his father that he wanted to emigrate to Canada to become a farmer his father wisely suggested that he should work on a Dutch farm first. Take the time to see if the life style really agreed with him. Paul duly spent a year on a farm in the Eastern part of the country. You guessed it, there was a farmer's daughter. Several in fact, but Paul became most friendly with the one who was only 12 at the time. Let's call her Maggie. After Paul moved to Canada they wrote back and forth for some years. When Maggie turned 16 Paul broke off the correspondence. He enjoyed the contact but he worried about it "not being fair to her". Those were his words, decades later. He did not want her to miss chances to meet available boys. Some years passed, tough depression times. Enter WWII. Paul, still single, joined the Canadian army and was part of the liberation of his native land. He was even billeted with his own father at the end. On a whim he decided to go visit the farm where he had lived before he emigrated. And there was Maggie, still unmarried! She had cried for months after Paul stopped writing and never found anyone who she liked as much. The rest is history. One more war bride! 

Footnote. Say can you say:
Door de schuifdeur van de bijkeuken van het grachtenhuis dreef de geur van groene gaargekookte spruitjes.
Van teveel scheepsbeschuit krijgt men scheurbuik.
Door de verschijning van de politie was de schurk verschrikkelijk geschrokken.

Friday, 22 January 2016

My seventies show. Christina Lake, part 2 We buy land!

Warning. I am writing this for my own pleasure, not for publication. I never took many pictures back then. Much of what I did take was destroyed by moisture and mice in the attic of the old house. This will be the verbal equivalent of filling an album with snapshots. I will shamelessly indulge in as much detail as I remember, which may be boring. Links can provide illustrations. 

The start is here.

Going for a walk in a landscape designed for the car often leaves few options. In Christina Lake the choice was Highway 3 or take Fife road uphill and see where it goes. Fife road climbs steeply uphill to a lovely little plateau with some farm houses and fantastic views. One day, in an ambitious mood, I crossed the plateau and continued past the railroad crossing. The road meanders into the hills, and at some point took me to a small old house where people were hanging out in the yard. The same kind of people that we had met at PX ranch. How did we end up visiting? What follows is my memory, which may be faulty. Carol Nye and Roy Leon, please comment with your version!?

Most likely I waved, they waved back or the other way around and I sort of barged in. I don't remember. I do remember we were invited to dinner and went. The house did not have electricity or running water. Cooking was done by wood stove, water was carried up from the creek. The space was divided by hanging sheets to provide extra privacy for the 2 families who shared it. I could not imagine living in it. They were renting the house and acreage for almost nothing, mainly the cost of property taxes. This place was a stop off point. They were planning to stay near civilization, earn some money, and eventually buy a place in the promised land: the area way up North near Telegraph Creek, where they wanted to live without money. Why there?  It would be far enough away from the main madness when the inevitable collapse hit. The region is beautiful but harsh climate wise. Years  later I met someone who had just left Telegraph Creek after twenty years as a homesteader and market gardener. He had loved it and only left because the grown children had all moved South. It turns out there is a valley in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains that is like an oasis, lots more sun than Dease Lake, good growing conditions. Fascinating.

Anyway......the very next day the younger of the two women showed up at my doorstep, complete with fat baby boy, in tears, asking for sanctuary, which was provided. We had an extra room in the basement. It turns out she was not quite prepared to see the official house policy of free love acted out in reality by her husband. Things got patched up and I don't even remember the girl's name. Roy and Carol on the other hand became close friends and we are still in touch. 

This was the second bug placed in my ear about buying land.
The first one had come when I picked up a hitchhiker during a three week solo car journey the previous summer, that will have its own blog some time.  I picked him up somewhere outside of Vancouver. We were both enroute to Calgary.
By the way, I was incredibly naive. It never occurred to me that offering to take him all the way back and share the accommodation of my tent might be misconstrued in some way. I thought all I had to do was state clearly that I was married and that my geologist husband was in the field to be totally safe. And so I was. Not the slightest whiff of assault anywhere, just pleasant companionship for three days.
Anyway....the young man was an Anglophone from Montreal who had come out West to look at buying cheap B.C. land.
It was a revelation to me that most of the immense nature we looked at was in some way spoken for. It had never occurred to me. I thought it was all just there. On the way to Calgary we stopped in Revelstoke so the young man could look at maps and available crown land. Then I thought no more of it. 

Just like in fairy tales the nudges came in three. The third one was an article in McLeans Magazine, late summer of 1970. It went on about how Americans, or rather USA citizens, were buying up recreational land in Canada, especially B.C. I even wrote a short a letter to the editor which was published. It stated that I was more worried about being fenced out of public land than about who owned the fence. Please, make sure we have enough public parks and beaches!
That was it. I was in no hurry to start homesteading, but somehow I became obsessed with the notion that we should buy a piece of land in B.C. before it became impossible. 

We used the Thanksgiving weekend of 1970 to drive a loop through the Kootenays, up through the Slocan Valley, through Nakusp, North along Arrow Lake and East past Trout Lake, down along Kootenay Lake. Along the way we noted For Sale signs of acreages. We had no money saved up for this, just Chris' good job. I went to the bank in Grand Forks to inquire into loans. All I wanted was information, but the manager insisted he wanted to talk to my husband. We've come a long way, baby. To make a long story short, our limit was $5000. I called the realtors about parcels we had seen and most of them were beyond our reach. Small parcels came with a house, which we did not need, and raw land mainly came in large chunks like 80 acres.

But Oli Bokis in Nakusp mentioned one small acreage that was only $3500, the price our Calgary friends paid that year for a new Volvo. It was ten acres, no house, no utilities, mainly cleared, just an abandoned field on a dirt road off a dirt road a few miles out of the village. We went and took a look. The place was more or less South facing,  sloping with flatter benches. The South side of the square opened to a large field, on the other three sides there was Crown land, just woods. The place had a wonderful sense of space and peace, and yet was close to the village. If we absolutely had to we could walk to work, a bit over an hour downhill, longer back home uphill. 

We were told honestly that the land was no good for farming, and water could be a problem on this ridge. Chris had taken a course in hydro geology. He borrowed an auger and drilled a hole in the field below us to see where the water table was. This was fall, after a dry season, as good a time to check as any. He concluded it should be possible to dig a shallow well at the bottom of the land. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

My seventies show. Christina Lake, part 1

Warning. I am writing this for my own pleasure, not for publication. I never took many pictures back then. Much of what I did take was destroyed by moisture and mice in the attic of the old house. This will be the verbal equivalent of filling an album with snapshots. I will shamelessly indulge in as much detail as I remember, which may be boring. Links can provide illustrations.

Here goes.

After a nine months prequel in Calgary our true Canadian life started when Chris got a geology job in Grand Forks, B.C. They were investigating if the historic copper mine of Phoenix still had some life left in it. 

He started in January 1970. As mentioned in the very first post in this blog, I got dragged away from the city under protest. The move to the Kootenays is one of the best things to ever happen to me. I am leery of all this goal setting stuff, let alone New Age manifesting. The best things in my life happened in spite of my plans, not because of them. 

The first view of Grand Forks had been in the late December dusk, on our way back from the trip to Vancouver where the job search had taken us. There had not been much snow yet. Everything looked grey and dingey. I did not look forward to the permanent move. That all changed the first weekend I took the bus out from Calgary. Chris had found a house to rent in the community of Christina Lake, 22km to the East. A good snow had made everything look spic and span. I loved it! In early April the courses I was taking at the University of Calgary were finished and I drove the fifties' VW Bug through the Crow's Nest Pass to my new life as a country dweller. I have been one ever since.
1970 was a wonderful summer. We lived mainly in sunshine, surrounded by natural beauty among sweet smelling ponderosa pines. I made some stabs at starting an M.A. thesis but had a clean conscience about not working for pay. Hey, we were in the sticks because of his job, O.K.? We had no money worries and enjoyed exploring the surroundings on weekends. On week days I could just walk to the beach in front of the old hotel, a few blocks from home. It was so quiet back then! I used to get seriously irritated by the sound of a single motor boat, hard to imagine in these days of the infernal jet ski. 
This picture  must have been taken in that summer. The VW bug died on a trip over the Santa Rosa road on my birthday.

Our neighbours at the base of Fife road happened to be Dutch. Of course we  became friends. Jos and Coby came from a small town/rural background. Jos was a carpenter by trade and was building his own house. It is now a stuccoed two story mansion, unrecognizable.  At the time they were living in the downstairs, a big square box with tar paper and raw plywood still visible on the outside. There was no yard yet. The outside was a level sea of gravel, with the exception of raised bed vegetable plots bordered by logs. Koby was a Maker. Apart from having produced two beautiful small children she sewed her own clothes, grew food, canned it and made wine. These days young women doing the same activities make a big fuss and write blogs about it. Coby was 13 years  younger than Jos, petite and lovely. My favorite memory picture of her is this. We are hanging out with a smoke in a summer evening on the logs that bordered the square vegetable patch in the front yard. The kids are in bed and Coby is wearing her lounge for the evening outfit: a sleeveless, bell bottomed wine red jumpsuit with a square neckline that she had sown herself. It beautifully set off her delicate creamy skin. She was years ahead of her time in staying out of the sun.

All these DIY activities were new to me. With their encouragement I hacked away at the neglected garden plot under the trees in our yard. I started too late, had no good soil and too much shade but by golly I produced a few meals worth of snap beans! I was hooked. This was the start of a lifelong passion. I still think of Jos and Coby every time I order my seeds from William Dam, a firm they introduced me to because "they sell kale seeds". This was long before kale, a traditional Dutch and Scottish winter food, gained cult status among hipsters. 

We got our first whiff of the back to the land counterculture that spring. 
On April 26, on the way back from a Saturday trip to Nelson, we were surprised by a late snowstorm. I made a mental weather note about the date. When we spied two guys with backpacks  on the long slope leading out of Castlegar to the Paulson pass it was a natural thing to pick them up and put them up for the night. We fed them brown rice, stir fried vegs and juicy steaks. They were most impressed by the rice and veg part, saying it was just like being home in the commune. They invited us to visit the PX ranch, so we could see how they lived. 

Silly straight people that we were, we took them at their word and used the May long weekend to travel 5 or 6 hours to the PX ranch near Ashcroft. Our two guys were not there, but after some awkwardness we were invited to stay for a meal and overnight anyway. Did we bring a tent? All I remember for sure is a communal dinner that included the inevitable brown rice and dandelion sprouts that some girls were very excited about. They had walked behind the guys roto tilling a garden plot and "gleaned" them. Their word. It seemed a bit over the top. At some point a girl wearing the countercultural uniform of long hair, long skirts, plaid shirt  and sturdy boots arrived to ecstatic welcoming hugs. She and her backpack had hitchhiked solo from somewhere far away, California? Later, a visit in a dimly lit smaller cabin talking with draft dodgers and deserters from the Vietnam war. In some ways these people were more our intellectual kin than anyone else we had met so far. Anti Vietnam war, aware of the dangers of pollution and so on. 

All through the sixties I had become increasingly concerned with the direction the world was taking. The Dutch geology crowd we met in our first months in Calgary was a lot more conservative. I was about to meet the people who would indirectly change my life, but it will wait till the next post.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

My seventies show, prologue.

The passage of decades is a funny thing. When one considers adult life as a teenager the imagination tends to stall around age 50 at the most. From that vantage point adult life is the quarter century between 25 and 50, a seemingly endless stretch within which all the important things happen. Becoming fully adult, selection of mate, perhaps children, profession and adventure.  Life beyond middle age is merely a slide into the grave. Old people are Other. One just cannot imagine turning into one. 

When we are twenty and consider a time thirty years in the past it appears as History, a different epoch peopled by quaint folks wearing funny clothes doing old fashioned things like using dial phones and writing letters. Again, subtly Other. 

Children are time made flesh. Without growing children in our daily life it is easy to lose track of the passage of years, nay, decades. A movie may be on my radar as something recent that I intend to see one of these days and by the time I get serious the remake is a classic.

The thirties, the decade in which my parents came of age and met each other, has never been anything but history, a time completely sealed off from the present. WWII made that even more so of course. Everything was Before and After. Yet in the fifties, my formative decade, the thirties were only twenty years ago. Here it is almost 2016, and surely the nineties were only yesterday? 

The Spanish Civil war was as far removed in time from our tipi years as the tipi years are from the present. It doesn't feel that way. I find it fascinating to see the times of my own life turn into the stuff of imagined history. 

It is winter, no garden. My future may hold a stint of caregiving but it is not happening yet. Time to start writing some memories down, just for the H of it. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Nakusp Lights Up.

Some images of the official lighting of the festive lights in the metropolis of Nakusp, pop 1500 without counting the rural area. It really is an amazing village. Precisely because larger centers are all at least 2 hours away people make things happen right here. 

How isolated are we? If you live car free in metro Vancouver a trip to Paris is actually easier, as explained in this blog.

The pictures are not great but I hope they give an idea of the atmosphere.

Below, one of the fire barrels s up along Broadway. Yup, that's what we call our main street.
It is shameful how rarely I participate. Events at the library and the summer farmers market are the exception.
Partly it is the dislike of driving after dark. The drive is only ten/fifteen minutes but can be hairy in winter. Great excuse. In truth inertia is a powerful force and I am happiest at home. No matter how fun a proposed outing is, I always have to tear myself away from my cozy nest and welcome excuses to just stay home. Once out, I usually enjoy myself. 
Below, one of the stalls dishing out food.
I am grateful to my best buddy for dragging me out to the annual Light Up happening. In all the decades of living here I have never gone. The parade was too small to make coming out worthwhile,  but the atmosphere made up for it. 
The middle part of main street was given over to stalls and fire barrels. People were happily milling around, eating and drinking and visiting.

The highlight of the happening was a troupe of fire dancers.If I did it right the link should go to a shaky video.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A workout for the compassion system.

I cannot believe how long ago it was since I posted anything here in the blog for daily life and memories. I plan to write lots of the latter once the outside season is truly over. There is also a long list of half finished rants and reflections on that blog and a shorter list of same on the garden blog.

But just a quickie here, so I remember this.

I am getting over a cold, or is it a light version of flu? Who knows, who cares. Anyway, a few days of minor discomfort and lack of energy were suffered. I am getting impatient with the up and down nature of recovery that seems to go with this bug. I feel fine when I get up but need a nap every few hours. I really should not complain. I cannot even remember the last time I had a cold. Somewhere I read that it is good for the immune system to get a little workout now and then. I don't know if this is true but it makes some sense.

Then it occurred to me that it is good for another human ability to get a workout. Let's call it the compassion system. When one feels no pain and is well rested most of the time it is all too easy to lose sight of what a struggle life is for the many among us who feel unwell all the time. 

I have friends who have to do this. Whether it is dealing with the acute pain of rheumatoid arthritis, the life-sapping drudgery of anemia, the horrid combination of fatigue, pain 
and depression that is fibromyalgia, the daily roller coaster of Parkinson's, the constant strain of coping with legal blindness in a visual world, daily life just takes so much energy it is a miracle these people have anything left to give.

Yet they do. One smiles through the pain and deals with the public in a demanding professional job. One goes to the tiring, physical job and looks after her special needs child even though she looks forward to going to bed from the moment she gets up. One grits her teeth, does what needs to be done and tries to help friends even though she is in pain, exhausted and depressed. One manages to find joy and gratitude in a restricted life and enriches the world through the beauty of her art. One learned new skills without any help from "the system"  and goes to great lengths to go to job sites. 

When I am unwell, which is rarely, I am not a nice person.
I just want to be left alone to crawl into my lair until I feel better. I could not do what they do.
This little episode is reminding me to bow deeply and send a big wave of admiration to all my struggling friends.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Jaap and Hester and Bets and Herman and Heini and Toni, the story of a friendship beyond wars.

I wanted to do this blog around May 4th, as my contribution to the endless goings on around the memory of WWII. We are in the gardens, so this is late. Be patient, the relevant part is coming. First, we are setting the scene.

For a nature loving city child even an urban back yard was joy.

My paternal grandparents lived in The Hague, within walking distance of a beach, on a spacious triangular square [sic] with a large planting of shrubs and flowers in the middle. Notenplein 50 was a ground floor flat. No front yard, the windows of the living room were flush with the sidewalk. Anyone could look in, though people rarely did. I loved the feeling of being both snugly inside and almost outside. 
I thank Shers Gallagher for sending me this picture!

A dear online friend sent me this picture after she read the post. There were no parked cars in my memories.

There was a backyard.  It had a small paved section, then a lawn, and in the middle of the lawn a gold reinette apple tree. At the very back there was a chicken coop. I was a fearful child with no pets at home, leery of life forms that possessed teeth, claws, beaks or talons and could not be reasoned with. I have no memory of  the chickens themselves. I could not tell you what they looked like and if we actually got eggs from them. But to this day, years after I have kept many a flock for both eggs and meat, the sound of chickens clucking reminds me of waking to the pleasure of being in Opa and Oma's house. 

Our yard was separated from the neighbours by a sturdy hedge. A small section had been removed on one side, so we could visit Opa's brother's house next door by going around the back, from kitchen door to kitchen door. To a city child this was a delicious bit of country living. 

In 1961 I was preparing for the grueling final exams for the Gymnasium. Somehow it was decided I should spend the Easter vacation at Notenplein 50, because the place would provide more quiet for studying. Oma was widowed by this time.
The chickens were gone, the apple tree in rough shape. But the gap in the hedge was still there, and in the evenings we would go watch TV with Oom Herman and tante Bets.

This is where we get to the title for this post. They had company too: long time friends Toni and Heini, who were, gasp! German. We did not know any Germans personally. The memory of the war and occupation was still quite fresh. As my brother said, we were raised to be without prejudice, except for Germans. Though our always fair father admitted there might be some good ones. Mind you, he added you had to bring a flashlight to find them. So here were these nice old people, and it turned out they were friends not only of our great uncle and his wife but of our grandparents as well.

The three couples had known each other since the twenties, brought together by the same international choir "The Voice of the People", that had led Opa and Oma  to practice Danish. Heini and Toni were sweet and simple people without a lot of education. They were certainly no one's embodiment of evil.
Heini was minus one arm, courtesy of WWI. Their only child, a son, had been sacrificed to WWII. 

Oma's only sister, who did not have the protection of a gentile husband, had died in January 1945 in Auschwitz. I never realized till much later how close the sisters had been. Rosa was a single mother and worked while my grandmother cared for her daughter. As a child I knew nothing of this and it was never talked about. I did not even know that Oma was Jewish till I was 12. I wonder now what it had been like for all of them, how they maintained the friendship through the years. 

I like the fact that they did. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

For May first: a memory of singing The International.

The time: between three and four in the morning of March 26, 1969. 
The place: a small apartment behind the upper row of 3 windows in the house you see here, Westerstraat 191, Amsterdam. At the time it was used for housing  married student couples. We had been assigned a flat in September 1965. It was incredible good luck and I was very happy there.

The picture dates from 2009. By this time the gentrification of the Jordaan neighbourhood had been under way for decades, as had the wave of privatisations. We were a very fortunate generation. Did we even know it? Not really. We were too busy identifying with every oppressed group around.
Being oppressed was status. We digress.

Later that day we would board the plane that would take us to Canada. We had celebrated the last night there with the two other couples who had apartments in the building. In the mainly empty flat we sat around on the floor with bottles of booze. At some point the need for coffee arose. The grinder had been sold, the small espresso thingy packed. Chris had the brilliant idea of grinding coffee beans with an empty coke bottle and boiling it in a saucepan, coffee Tobruk style.

And, for whatever reason, we ended up drunkenly singing the International, in several languages. One of our housemates had spent time in Italy and sang that version. Somehow the name Togliatti featured in it. His lovely wife was Danish by origin and sang it in Danish. Not that any of us knew the whole text. We mainly roused the wretched of the earth. Was it the straight laced student of economy from the top floor who sang in French? "Debout, vous damn├ęs de la terre!" Memory fizzles out there. 

Anyway, it was a grand time, and I think of it every time I either hear The International or have to improvise a way to grind coffee.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

We stood up and were counted.

To my great shame I had been paying less attention to the political scene than I should have. I signed the usual online petitions, for whatever good that does, but I had missed the announcement that there was a nationwide day of protest against Bill C51. For non Canadians, Bill C51 gives sweeping powers to a secret police, has no oversight, and widens the definition of terrorism to include just about anyone protesting anything.

I heard about it the day before. I had missed opportunities to join other Nakuspers to a rally in any of the larger centers, all at least 2 hours from here.  It wasn't till late at night that I thought: Why not make something happen right here in the village? 

So I put the idea on the Nakusp Communicator list on Facebook, truly one of the best uses for the internet. It was picked up in the morning by my neighbour Mary. Mary's partner Walter had had the same idea and called me on that old fashioned medium, the land line. We agreed the cenotaph at the edge of downtown would be the perfect meeting place. 
Walter set out to make some dynamite signs, I tried to round up a few people. Picture above and the one following by Mary's cell phone.

I picked the cenotaph as a meeting place because it is central, but also because I could think of no better way to honour people who had died to defend freedom than to gather in its defense. It never occurred to me that the legion might disagree, but it turned out
some of its members see "politics" or "protest" as disrespectful of the sacred place.

When we got there two members were patrolling the place to make sure no active democracy took place. I walked over to talk to the guys and make clear that the choice of venue had not been meant in a spirit of disrespect, on the contrary. 
I had grabbed a blooming geranium from the window sill as a peace offering. We shook hands and the vets agreed to redirect anyone to where we were. It was not a big deal, we could just as easily gather at the gazebo, easily visible from the monument. 
Thanks to Facebook the press showed up, took pictures and will cover our gathering in the local rag. Below. Trisha Shanks, intrepid reporter for the Arrow Lakes News, is also a dog breeder. She multitasked by taking some of her pooches along for the outing.
The following pictures are all by Trisha, published here with permission. 
The most popular member of the cast! Below in company.
Below, our motley crew before setting out.
We were not exactly a crowd, more a handful. Several of the people I messaged were already on the way to a rally in a larger town, and it was all impossibly short notice. The weather had turned miserable, cold and drizzly. 
After the group pictures were taken we walked up and down our mainstreet once and called it a day. 
Some of us, including Trisha, gathered at Gabi's FairyTale cafe afterwards for coffee and talk. We argued about niqabs, face veils. We all agreed that this topic is a distraction cleverly used to distract and divide people. Walter sent me a surprising post by the woman who wants to change the rules and take the oath while hiding her face. I added it to the blog I wrote on the topic, which can be found here:
Trisha educated us on the power of Twitter.

And that was it. Not much, but I feel good Nakusp did its bit to stand up and be counted. And now, to add our efforts to the national count.

Monday, 9 March 2015

The stars and I

*Astrology: a study of cycles, expressed in a language of symbols.
Horoscope: a snapshot of the solar system as it appears at the place and time of  birth.

After a long hiatus the study of astrology has been beckoning again. It used to be a passion. There was a time in  my thirties and early forties when it was my greatest ambition to become a professional. In all modesty I was pretty good. Recently I felt guided to do one reading and I have had requests to do more. Rather than having to give the same spiel to everyone who asks I am writing this blog post so people can read it and decide if they want to engage me or not.

I cannot claim to have studied astrology for 40 years. It would be accurate to say that I have observed life with that symbolic language in my head for that much time. 

Here is why I stopped giving readings. Preparing for one takes time. Doing the reading is exhausting, and most importantly: I never know if it is good enough.

When someone comes into my room for body work there is a clear time frame. After a generous hour feet have been well and truly squeezed.  People usually walk out feeling better than they did coming in. I can accept my fee with a clear conscience. 

Contrast that with an astrology reading. There is no such thing as DONE. After 40 years of living with my own chart in my head there are still moments when a penny of insight drops and I think "Aha, that's why I do such and such!
In a reading I may have been pouring my heart out for almost two hours and the client still sits there like a baby bird with an insatiable open beak, asking "Is there anything else you can see?"

Professionals will set a time and get people to come back for more. The old 'grease my palm with silver' thing. I have heard taped readings by someone who got paid handsomely for basic work that I could have done better, and this pro kept a friend coming back for some time. 

Prediction is hard, especially about the future. Yogi Berra nailed it. Quite frankly I am not great at that aspect, nor do I wish to be. I do keep an eye on major cycles, and insight in those is helpful. But I prefer to just live life without trying to micro manage the timing of everything. A Wise One said "Sufficient onto the day be the evil thereof". Amen. If fortune telling or precision timing is what you are looking for I am the wrong person.

What is astrology good for then? It works brilliantly as a portrait of the psyche. You know that old serenity prayer, wishing for the wisdom to know the difference between things one must accept and things one could change? 
Astrology is an excellent tool for speeding up the gaining of that wisdom

Let me use an example. A fictional woman, let's call her Nella, has a long history of falling for unattainable partners and getting her heart broken. At her birth Venus, the planet of relationships, was in hard aspect to Neptune, an otherworldly energy that does not translate well into humdrum threedee life. In our reading I would explain the nature of Neptune, explain why no mere mortal will ever live up to her lofty ideals, alert her to the pitfalls (Neptunians are more prone to substance abuse) and suggest constructive ways of expressing this planetary pattern, based on the totality of her chart.

The reading cannot cure Nella's "cosmic homesickness". It is hardwired in. She will always feel a deep desire to transcend the boundaries of ordinary life.  However, the reading can help her to gain perspective. It may spur her to explore better ways to express her need to feel part of a greater whole. 

Knowledge of a loved one's chart in combination with one's own can really help a relationship. Seeing patterns where we effortlessly connect with a partner and where we are bound to have conflict, knowing which times are likely to be extra stressful, it can all help. 

So here is what I propose to anyone who asks "Can you do me?"

I will charge $90 for an initial reading, which is like an introduction to your chart and takes about two hours, with a break for tea and snack halfway. After an hour and a half of intent sharing my brain is fried and can do no more for now.
My intention is to give you some basic understanding of the language of astrology, so you can understand where interpretations are coming from. This is meant to be an empowering learning experience for you. It is not me pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

An audio file of the reading will be created by the trusty laptop which records as we speak. You will also receive a printed computerized report done by an excellent British astrologer. The trouble with computer programs is that they are great for calculations and listing interpretations of individual factors, but they can not pull the whole thing together. 

A computerized program may produce an insightful paragraph on Mars in Taurus, and one on Mars in the fifth house, but not one on Mars in Taurus in the fifth house, let alone one on Mars in Taurus in square to Mercury in Leo in the ninth, etc etc.
It takes a human mind to make sense of the whole, to see patterns.

If you decide you would like to delve deeper, I will charge $60 for future visits. Future visits should last about an hour, have the form of a conversation, and focus on more or less specific questions. I will have spent time studying your horoscope with your questions in mind before you come.

So. If you are interested in exploring the guidance of your stars with me, give me a shout and we will make a date to meet in Vegas. That's what I call my healing room. What happens there stays there. I will do no more than one reading a week.

*Do modern astrologers believe the Earth is the center of the Universe, that Mercury halts in its orbit and goes backwards several times a year? NO.
We are entirely aware of physical realities. However, we deal with things as they appear from earth. I think of the position of planets as hands on a clock: indicators of time, not time itself. All I can say is, it seems to work. I have no idea how.

How I got into it?

Astrology was a gift left me by my first born, who only lived a day and never even had a name. After a normal pregnancy and easy birth she did not start breathing right. It turned out she had a diaphragmal hernia, her intestines were pushing up against her lungs, and she died the next day after surgery. 
I was determined to try again and get it right the next time.
A year and a half later we had our wonderful Nienke.

Where did astrology come in? Two things and I cannot remember which came first. There was the influence of Monica Simcox of Grand Forks, who I had met a women's group called Kaffee Klatch. Three weeks after the delivery she caught me crying silent tears over something baby related in the drug store. She asked a few questions and when she found my age said something about a Saturn return. She then took me home and handed me a paragraph from a classic astrology book, Grant Lewi's  "Astrology for the Millions." I read the chapter on the cyclical return of Saturn and was blown away. 
Then there was the popular (in 1973) book  "Psychic discoveries behind the iron curtain." It included mention of a Dr. Jonas in Czechoslovakia, who helped women who had had multiple failed pregnancies to birth healthy babies by avoiding certain planetary patterns during conception. I wanted to look into that. By the way, both my living offspring were conceived during the lunar fertility period, born when the Moon returned to that angle, and had the gender supposed to go with the conception time. I know, not exactly evidence, but still.

I had motive, means and opportunity. That fall Old Dutch was away from home during the week and I had not gone back to work. I got a book out of the library and taught myself the basics. This was before computers. We are talking tables of logarithms and filling out circular forms by hand. The rest, as they say, is history.