Tuesday, 29 October 2013

What to be when you grow up?

Some mid-thirty-something people dear to my heart have been struggling with that question lately. This post is for them.

I am no role model when it comes to making a career. On the contrary, I am more a warning example. On the other hand, I am one of the most contented people I know, which might give me some right to spout off in a more or less advisory tone.

I have no practical advice for anyone who has to make his/her way in this time. I feel lucky to be old enough to get a pension. But for whatever it is worth, here are my two cents on the topic of life and work.

In my 70 years on the planet (heehee, I love saying that) I never figured out what to be when I grew up. I have been educated, and I have earned a (frugal) living, but there was a total disconnect between the two. It has been a good life anyway.

Here is the funny thing: when a geology job for the husband took us to the Kootenays I got dragged here kicking and screaming. What was I going to do in the boondocks? Moving to deep country is honestly the best thing that has ever happened to me. I would never have chosen it, at least not at age 26. If we had gone later we would not have been able to buy land.

Moral of the story: the notion of deliberate life planning is overrated. As John Lennon so brilliantly put it: "Life is what happens while you are making other plans." Granted, zooming in on a goal like a straight arrow works for some people. 

But for many of us it does not. The reasons can be personal or linked to forces beyond our control, or a combination. 

The cliche from the time when people could afford midlife crises was this. They had climbed the career ladder only to find it was leaning against the wrong building. After which discovery they ran off to Big Sur to frolic in hot pools with other free spirits, cheered on by the gurus of the day, and never mind the mortgage or the kids. Blogs on the topic of duty are brewing.

To stretch the metaphor: These days it is just as likely that one is halfway up the ladder when the building collapses, or the entire ladder is yanked away. After which the survivors are being told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Yeah, right.

This is a time of potential collapse and certain transition. Yesterday's certainties are gone. It is not easy to figure out for which part of your fate you are personally responsible, and what is just the luck of the collective draw. 

Work is important, of course. Apart from the need to survive, humans don't do well with idleness. But as a core around which to organize a life, paid work is only one factor. Family or other relationships, an artistic talent, a place, social activism, all these can be the centre around which the rest falls into place, with work just being the thing that makes the rest possible. 

If your problem is of the ladder against the wrong building kind, think of life as a novel. Most writers will talk about books that took years of effort and never saw the light of day. Nevertheless, the process of writing them was essential to the birth of the book that made it. Past investment in training is never entirely wasted. You know what you know. 

Your past has made you into who you are now. Regret nothing and move on.

Again, I have no advice on how to cope in today's economic waste land. But I do know this: answers to the question: "And what do you do?" should not be limited to one's profession. 

If you can get paid for doing what you love, great. If you have to separate the two, so what. This economic system is not sane. It is stark raving bonkers and able to kill our Earth. Your ability or lack thereof to function in it should not determine your sense of who you are.

You have passions and talents that can make a contribution to the world. In between looking for paid work, get out there and use them. Stay open. Work with others. Good luck and godspeed.

Friday, 25 October 2013

A brief getaway in Flat Cloud season. Into fog and out and in again.

We were overdue for a little excursion. Alas, the days of long trips with our beloved motor home are over. We had wonderful times with it, but it is enjoying its retirement as guest cabin. 

Why wait till the days are short? My bad. When the days were long I was so busy and happy in the gardens I didn't feel like going anywhere. Old Dutch kindly indulged my obsession.
With the gardens mainly done and the forecast promising another week of sunshine I finally felt the itch.

Sunshine my foot. I should have known better. The weather has been stagnating, which means low cloud and fog at this time of year. Click on link for illustration. As usual, Nakusp gets it first and worst. We had some beautiful days last week, with the birches turning and the bracken gold on the land.

Friday it took the valley cloud to mid afternoon to lift. Saturday the sun valiantly tried to break through around 3, but failed to make it. That was it for sun in and around Nakusp until the weather changes.

We left Sunday morning in thick fog. It has hung on till now, Friday. Knowing it might be better elsewhere we left anyway. Sure enough, the mountain tops were visible on the East-West road between New Denver and Kaslo. 
We took the ferry across Kootenay Lake, always a treat. It was sunny there, where the lake is widest. Later there was some cloud, but with a beautiful silvery light. We stopped at a viewpoint to take pictures. 

Below, the same place facing South.
The most logical stop for the night was Creston. We waved a nostalgic greeting to the pull-out that was our first overnight stop on several motor home trips. It is just past the gas station, before you get to Creston, overlooking the valley. 
We had time to kill and drove some dirt roads through the plain. In geological terms this place just stopped being a lake yesterday. It is as flat as Holland, but surrounded by mountains.
 This part of the valley is vital to locavores: it is the only major grain producing area in the Kootenays. 
We lucked onto a nice cheap motel at the edge of downtown. Dinner was a Chinese smorg a block away. Even mediocre Chinese is redeemed by a choice of crisp vegetable dishes. 
To top the day, we had noticed a movie theater featuring "Gravity". We had no idea what it was about, but the kids had been making a fuss of it, so in we went. It was worth it for the many views of Earth from space, so different on a big screen! All in all a good day.
The plan from here was a loop East to Cranbrook, then on to Radium Hot Springs, North to Golden and back home. Not an epic journey, just a brief getaway. We pass the turnoff to Radium so often on our trips to Calgary. It is a beautiful wide valley and we had not traveled it for years.
We expected the day to start in low cloud or fog, and so it was.
 We also expected to see clearing as we approached Cranbrook, and so it was. See the cloud against the mountain in the background.
We had not counted on returning low cloud. Boring!
 The Moyie river, cause of the fog, was barely visible at times.
I lost track of when we finally emerged into sunshine, but never mind that. Chris had noticed an interesting side road between Skookumchuk and Canal Flats. You just have to love those names. Driving this road, to White Swan provincial park, was the highlight of the outing. We climbed up into a world of blue sky, golden trees and wide mountain views.
The trees were peaking, that stage where you expect to see them glow in the dark.
 One more for good measure. It was glorious! Most of the road is a well maintained gravel road. 
The main map makes no mention of it, but the special map on geological features showed Lusier Hot Springs. It consists of a series of shallow natural rock pools right next to the river.  Access is free. There is a parking place and an easy walkway down to it, but no change facilities.To our surprise it was quite busy!
We had brought our hot springs gear down, but chickened out at the prospect of the cold, barefoot trip over the rocks into the pools.  On to civilized Fairmont we went, after a quick peek at the campground by Alces lake.

We are picky about hot springs. Fairmont has one large pool that was too cold when we first came in. I thought it was meant for swimming, like the large pool at the lower level of Halcyon Hot Springs that is only open in summer. It is on the left below. It warmed up later. The pool on the right had a nice temperature for soaking, a bit warmer than the large pool in Nakusp. It was shallow, like our hot one that I never go into. I felt like,"where's the water?"

Later the larger pool warmed up, it turned out to be the main pool. The shallow one was what passed for hot locally. 
I am not dissing this resort, it has beautiful grounds and great views.
But I still like the temperatures in our own Nakusp Hot Springs best of all.
A few km up the mountain is Fairmont Lodge and ski resort.
 The lodge looks like a pleasant intimate place to stay. 
We were hoping for views of the Columbia valley on the way down, but they were both rare and too hazy. This one was near the ski resort.
This one was on the way down from Fairmont Hot Springs. 
That's our own Columbia down there, here interspersed with smallish lakes and swamps.
We spent the night in the Best Western hotel in Invermere, with beer and home-made pizza in the bar. A decent hot breakfast in a pleasant coffee shop was included the next day.
We had expected low cloud the next morning, but not this much for this long. 
We had been looking forward to the stretch from Radium to Golden, but it was a total foggy loss. Next, a chilly stroll through downtown Golden. It will be a nice place to visit on future breaks on the way to or from Calgary, so much better than that horrid fast-food strip along the highway.
Above, path and foot bridge over the Kicking Horse river. Below, mural at the aboriginal cultural center.
After lunch it was still foggy, disgusting. It must have been close to an hour past Golden before we finally broke into blue sky and the usual mountain splendor. 
It didn't last long. Well before the descent into Revelstoke we saw the first sign of impending gloom creeping towards us.
The road took us underneath it and that was it. Goodbye sun, goodbye sky, only the weather gods know when we will be allowed a glimpse again.
Above: Almost home, the road South of the ferry.

It has been like this for days. We are either inside the valley cloud or just below it. I am getting cranky. Honest rain is one thing, stagnant spoiled good weather always makes me feel cheated. I used to think I might eventually leave Nakusp for this reason alone, but the place is too much home now. Maybe I should investigate a SAD lamp. 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

A Marxist morning

It is a Marxist morning.
No, I am not about to storm a mansion or give away my own beloved acreage.
I am merely trying to live up to an ideal stated by good old Karl. It holds such common sense that many USA citizens believe it to be part of their constitution.

"To each according to her needs, from each according to her ability."

Since my old age is funded entirely by the public purse, I feel obliged to make such contributions as I can. I lack the martyr gene, so this happens within the boundaries of a pleasant relaxed life.  
Any community has people who need more care than 'the system' can provide. Quite frankly, my own appetite for direct care giving is limited to two afternoons a week. I like being home.
But without stress I can offer some heroic care givers free reflexology and/or Reiki sessions. One of each coming up this morning. It just might be sunny this afternoon, and we will be free to play in the gardens.
Tomorrow, some volunteering in the afternoon and a paying client in the evening.

It is a good balanced life.