Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the USA.
These wise words from that greatest of twentieth century philosophers, Theodore Geisel, say it all:

"You ought to be Thankful
A whole heaping lot
For the places and people
You're lucky you're not!"

By the way, the special effect turkey owes it all to judicious placings of aluminum foil.
Thanks to my online buddy Jan Jenson.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

DIY housing, a proud Kootenay tradition!

Building low-impact housing out of whatever happens to be at hand was a way of life when we first came to the Kootenays in the early seventies.

The back-to-the-land crowd was building log homes from the trees around them or living in improvised shelters any old way. Building inspectors were nowhere in evidence. 
One in particular stayed with me as the ultimate in flimsiness.

We had bought our land in the fall of 1970, when Chris still had the good geology job near Grand Forks, B.C. We still lived near Christina Lake, a 3 1/2 hour drive from Nakusp.

We made it a point to visit the place at least once every season. We’d camp in a tent for one or two nights in the weekend, explore the area and marvel at the idea that we owned this spot.

The first time was in the spring of 1971, right after the weather had made its dramatic shift from winter to spring. By late April the sun was warm enough to allow sunbathing au naturel, which we were doing when Scott, the 12 year old son of one of the hippie settlers came for a visit.

Scott took us for a walk through the spring-green woods to introduce us to some neighbors. The trail snaked through a swamp, alive with skunk cabbage and yellow violets, to join a larger trail that went up the mountain. At the corner stood a dilapidated log cabin that had once housed an Australian trapper. The larger trail is now a solid gravel road, but it is still called Kangaroo Trail.

Up the hill a bit and into the woods and there in a small clearing we found Frank and Jane, starkers like we had been earlier, next to the shelter where they had spent the winter. It was a Bucky dome made out of thin cedar strips, covered in clear plastic. That was it. They had cheerfully lived through a snowy West Kootenay winter in it and seemed none the worse for wear. Interesting times. So wonderfully free.

The picture is the log house my husband built while we lived in the tipi. It was home from October 1977 to September 87. For some of that time a good job for Old Dutch took us to Vancouver Island. We visited when we could.

Unfortunately the house never got finished. There were several reasons. First there is the time vs money conundrum, well known to other wannabe builders. You tend to have either one or the other, depending on if you are employed or not.
But perhaps most importantly Old Dutchs' enjoyment of carpentry work did not match his ability. He is surprisingly good at it, handy and inventive. He even did all the electrical wiring. It was inspected and found good.  But after a week on a job he loathed but did for the sake of the family, laying a floor in the upstairs was the last thing he'd feel like doing. I have two left hands that are all thumbs and am useless for building.

With the brilliance of hindsight I should have insisted on hiring a few professionals to speed up the job. It was an option at some point. At the time I had no idea that a pro could do things in days that take amateurs months. Also at the time I was a financially dependent SAHM, my self esteem was non existent, and I just went along.

At some point an inheritance allowed us to buy a mobile home and have a finished dwelling, paid for, NOW! It has served us well. My only regret is that we did not put a snow roof over it right away. But never mind, we have one now. 

Sunday, 11 November 2007

A Holiday proposal

Call me Scrooge. Even in years when we have a nice get-together with friends or family I hate the frantic build-up. I hate the Hallmark/Hollywood reinforced suggestion that one is missing out if life is not filled with glittering and/or deeply meaningful gatherings.

December is the month when one feels depressed about not getting invited to parties that one would not enjoy much anyway. I am not a good party person. I prefer people in small batches.

I also do not like traveling over snowy roads in the dark, nor do I want my loved ones to expose themselves to unnecessary risks.

At this time of year I really enjoy withdrawing. This is not depression, more contented hibernation. Happiness is a pile of books, a good internet connection and a pot of tea. In the deepest dark cookies may become involved. Sparingly, because I am a cookieholic. 

It is amazing how many people one meets with the same reaction. My friend Els has a solitary Christmas ritual. She did plenty of the usual when her four children and numerous foster children were home. But these days she declines all invitations from friends and family. She lights a fire, puts on Christmas music, unwraps a chocolate treat and settles down for the day to read. Some beloved Christmas stories are on the reading list. She gleefully reports that many women, knee-deep in guests and kitchen stress, have expressed envy.

So I have a proposal. 

We get to keep the days off. We need a break at that time of year. We mark the Winter Solstice, the Return of the Light, whether as a secular celebration or a religious holiday. By the way, this pagan will happily wish you a Merry Christmas.

But if we must have that yearly busy card-writing visiting-present-giving party-going thing, let's move it to the spring equinox or even May Day. 
In spring we feel restless and ready to crawl out of the winter cave, but the gardens are not happening yet. In climates where gardens are happening it is not panic season yet. Travel is safer. What a perfect time to socialise!
How about it?

Sprout your kernel, Green the Earth

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when we look at all the work that needs to be done to make this Earth a better place for our children. There are definitely days, especially towards the tail end of winter, when one just feels like crawling under the covers and giving up on the whole enterprise.

Whenever I start feeling that way I remind myself of the grain field metaphor. It comes originally from Albert Schweitzer, but it came my way through our local woodsy sage Robert Harrington.

The day before a seeded field of grain greens up, it still looks totally black. Then suddenly one morning the field is a tender green. The whole field turned green because each individual kernel of grain has sprouted and come up. It looks like it happened overnight, because much of the process happened underneath the ground to start with. As any gardener knows seeds have their priorities straight: Roots first.

You can't take on the whole world. You are not responsible for the whole field, or for the weather. Your job is just to sprout your own kernel. All the small green gestures add up. Take a cloth bag to the grocery store. Plant a garden. Shop for food at the farmer's market. Connect with neighbors. Turn down the thermostat and wear a sweater indoors. Ride a bike, take the bus or carpool to work. Support fair trade organic businesses and so on. Do what you can, let the rest go, and live joyfully. Positive vibrations are good for the planet. Appreciate what is, and give thanks (to Whom it may concern) frequently.

How to be socially acceptable in the Kootenays

My gifted friend Barbara McPherson wrote this hilarious look at hippie culture. In the Kootenays, the Nelson area and Slocan valley in particular, the sixties never quite ended.

Published here with permission of the author.

How to Be Socially Acceptable in the Kootenays.

In the past, if you'd read Emily Post, you knew the proper etiquette for most events and situations. But nowadays, it can be tricky to be socially acceptable. Every area has its own peculiarities, the Kootenays being a sterling example. There are certain rules that should be known if you wish to fit into the most predominant type of society up and down the valley.

Proper identifying clothing is absolutely essential. Never wear anything that is pink, light blue, lemon yellow, or of a synthetic fabric. It must not be fluffy, ruffled, or tight-fitting. It's also best if nothing matches. The bywords to remember are: earth colours, layering, wool, cotton, and used.
People in the Kootenays wear lots of jewellry but it must be of the right type:
Wrong: The pretty locket Aunt Mildred gave to you. Right: Necklaces made of mysterious concoctions of leather, feather, and crystals. But, a word of caution: you will be found out if you wear a necklace with, say, a rune, and you don't know what the symbolism is. Murmuring something like "The Great Mother" doesn't cut it if the other person is up on their Nordic runes.
Rings are not only acceptable but mandatory. In fact, you can't have too many rings. If you run out of fingers, you can use your toes, or even your nose. But they must be the right sort of rings:
Wrong: gold rings with a lot of diamonds or any other blatantly expensive kind of stone. Right: anything made of silver, preferably with symbols such as Egyptians ankhs, Celtic spirals or the Great Mother's vulva.
Once you're dressed the right way, the next area of greatest importance is the kind of vehicle you drive. Never, ever, own a new white Cadillac, even if someone gives it you. Be warned that if you arrive at a new-age health food store or a Reiki workshop in this sort of car, they won't let you in the door. If you must have one, park it at least a block away and say you hitched a ride in with your neighbour.

The right kind of vehicle, however, is tricky. Even if it's a pickup truck or a Jeep, it can't be too new or too big. Small cars with a liberal amount of rust and faded stickers that say "Free Tibet" or "Blessed Be" are the best bet if you're to be taken seriously. Never, under any circumstances, own, drive, or ride as a passenger in a cherry-red diesel pickup with a bumper sticker that says "Hug a logger, not a tree". This is not only worse than a new white Caddy, but fatal to your reputation.

If you've been legally married to the same person for over twenty-five years, it's best to be discreet about it. Rather than referring to your spouse as "husband" or "wife", it's best to murmur "my long-time life partner", with a slight inflection in your voice hinting that this could change at any time.

If you have a job, the best sort to have is part-time, low-paying, and to do with healing, the environment, or making things with hemp and garlic.
If you do happen to have a high-paying, full-time job in a logging company office, keep quiet about it. Stash your money in a Swiss bank and keep driving your old car.
There's much more that could be said, but this has to be cut short. I have to slip on my Pakistani cotton dress, jump into my 1979 Dodge Omni, and get to work at the health food store. The cosmic clock never ceases to tick.

Barbara McPherson, Nakusp

Friday, 9 November 2007

Remembrance Day

Originally posted on Yahoo 360 November 11 2006

As a war baby who was liberated by Canadians I take Remembrance Day seriously.
I grew up with stories of the famine of the last winter, and my parents dancing the hokey pokey in the streets during the crazy happy days of May 1945.
"Ha daar zijn de Canadezen! Zou d'r wat te bikken wezen?"
(Goody, here are the Canadians, wonder if there is anything to eat?)

In 1995 when the liberation was 50 years ago, I offered free Reflexology sessions to any veteran who wanted to take me up on it. One special vet did.

Al Butt was not only a veteran, he was a faith healer. His small jewelry store in the side street leading down to the lake had a special peaceful feeling to it. Al embodied the archetype of the wounded healer. He suffered from ankylosing spondilitis and lived in chronic pain. The sessions certainly could not cure him, but they helped with the pain, at least for a while.
Al was a devout Christian but very open-minded. He was fascinated by Reiki. During our weekly session we developed a special friendship till his death two years later.

By the way, Brent Butt, the brilliant creator of  "Corner Gas" is Al's nephew. Corner Gas is Saskatchewan's answer to Seinfeld.

WWI was not a vivid reality to me at all. Fiction provided education on that one. The picture at the top of this blog is the Canadian Vimy memorial in Northern France.
Jane Urquart wrote a stunning novel about its birth.

"The Stone Carvers" ranges in action from a nineteenth-century Bavarian village, through the grim reality of early pioneer life in the Ontario bush, to the battle fields of Vimy and the creation of the monument.

The lover of a missing soldier dresses as a man in order to work on the project. She finds closure by carving his name into the stone. There is much more to it.
This is a dense book by a master writer at her peak.

In spite of the bleak subject matter the totality of the book is uplifting. Highly recommended reading, even if the topic of WWI normally turns you off.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Happy Birthday CBC!

Originally posted on Yahoo 360 November 2 2006Happy Birthday CBC!

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is 70 years old today.

We love CBC. It usually murmurs in the background, keeping us company, marking the rhythm of the day.
I save boring kitchen work to do during interesting programs. Many a cupboard has been cleaned out during 'Cross Country Checkup' or a particularly good 'Ideas.'

CBC is great for comedy. We treasure a collection of old comedy audio tapes. Mainly " Doctor Bundolo's Pandemonium Medicine Show" and "The Frantics."

More than anything else I credit CBC for making me truly Canadian, as much as that is possible when one has spent one's formative years elsewhere. We'll always be hybrids to some degree, and that's OK.

Nationality is more than a passport. It is a whole bunch of little things, trivia, that you know just because. Like knowing who Maurice "the Rocket" Richard was, even if you never watch hockey.

Listening to CBC over the years has filled in a lot of gaps in our Trivia store in an organic sort of way.

Happy Birthday dear old Radio, and many more!