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.

HOWEVER!

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
Nakusp

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.