mountain lady’s slipper

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Willow and I made time after supper for a run behind Swansea. She ran rampant, smelling rabbits on her tongue. I poked around looked for blossoms and signs to confirm it was indeed the middle of June.

Work is good and plenty of it at this time of year. Lisa and I were side by side today hammering the computers. It feels good to be back in business for ourselves again.

There was a time I could put in 16 hour days, even longer sometimes, sometimes even with a couple beer under my belt, but not now. Occasionally, I wish I still possessed that focus, most of the time I’m glad I don’t, it can catch up to you.

It feels good to be making practical things, not art or anything magnificent, but products that make peoples lives easier or happier. That’s what we are good at, working, putting our noses to the grindstone. Nothing more, but more than enough.

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Was up early this morning. Mars was blazing over the lake. Right now Mars is close to Earth in our respective orbits around the sun. How close is Mars? It is so close, Willow stood up and barked at Rover.

Boooooo!

mid June

mobot31753002839139_0377Yarrow illustration by German Botanist Walther Otto Muller from the 1800’s. He illustrated many important botanical books of the time.

Was up in the mountains today while the valley bottom was at it’s busiest. The yarrow plant is starting to bloom in the bush. I picked a bunch and also juniper berries for my good friend Dave. He makes the best jellies and hot sauces. The yarrow and junipers will be made into an exclusive hot sauce for a local bar and restaurant.

Lisa says she is going to make me a foraging pouch that will hook on my belt. I told her to make it big enough to hold a mickey and a couple quarts of huckleberries.

***

Got the spuds hilled this evening between showers. Every time I tried waiting it out it kept up, and when I came in it instantly stopped. That’s June.

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Plenty of thunder last night. It’s good to see it accompanied by rain. That will stop soon.

***

It’s Father’s Day tomorrow. I still miss mine. I told Hunter, when I talked to him on the telephone today, I will be expecting some dry macaroni glued to a sheet of paper.

I wasn’t the best father or the worst. I was serious back in those days and worked a lot. I also did things that didn’t make it easy for us. That was part of being serious. I could have got along better with people that could have made life easier for all of us, but I was too proud or quick to criticize, so we all suffered. It’s not noble looking back. Still my children love me, regardless. That’s luck.

***

It’s said the weather is about to turn hot. Lisa says I need a haircut. It’s about time to stop wearing long sleeved shirts, even if they are worn rolled up. There is a slow leak on the rear passenger side tire that needs taken care of.  The carrots need weeding same as the garlic. Other than that I don’t think I have any problems. But I’ve been wrong before.

stripped down

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Willow has now been properly stripped. Lisa and I held her in place and pulled out all the loose hair. Now she looks like a smooth Dachshund with furry paws and a terriers face.

Willow doesn’t like getting stripped or having her nails cut. It is a bit of a wrestling match and it is important she knows she is going to have it done even if she doesn’t like it. It is usually me who is the bad guy in these situations. It’s funny, because she seems to forget any hostilities right after, and we go back to being the best of friends.

Willow does enjoy a bath though. I am sure she would jump in Lisa’s bath at the first hint of an invitation. I tell Willow not to feel bad, Lisa banned me from her bath a long time ago when I started displacing too much water.

***

The garden is coming along. It’s been chilly the last week. Rain on and off. The tomatoes look stunted. The lettuce and mustard greens are chugging along and we can’t eat them or give them away fast enough. Mid winter, I often think, I’d die for a spring salad. Now they are so plentiful. I’m thinking to save time, I might just go out to the garden and get down on my hands and knees and munch the leaves right down to the soil. It would save time picking, washing and putting on dressing. I could always chug some olive oil and lemon juice later if I was left wanting.

The garlic scapes are coming ready and we have been enjoying quite a few. They are humdingers – hot and spicy! Delicious raw! While I lay in bed last night I thought, shit, I’ve overdone it on the garlic.

***

While driving over the overpass today I saw an old guy on the sidewalk. He was walking slow, shuffling like he was on a patch of ice. He had a hundred yards of sidewalk in either direction before he could rest. Cars whizzing by. He was on his own.

I figure somebody, maybe even a doctor, told him to get out and get some exercise. He figured he walked the overpass plenty of times before, so he set out. He was dressed nice. He looked like a tourist or second home owner.

I worried for him. Not because he looked shaky, but because he looked like he didn’t have a purpose. Going for a walk is never enough. It’s better to be out checking the height of the river, the progress of bulldozers building a dyke or the next condominiums, or the species of birds landing on the wetlands, all the while contemplating a desire to walk the liquor store isles, pushing the need to collect bottles and cans to pay for another snort. And then another walk in the spring sun admiring the girls wearing less.

Or something like that.

***

Willow seems small without her wire hair. She better get her shit together and grow it back in a hurry. . . at least before winter.

a little to burn

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Cool today with some wind and rain on and off. Perfect for splitting wood. I had about a cord of fir and pine that Lisa and I cut last fall that still needed splitting. It was windblown last summer and wasn’t ready to be used last winter. Lisa and I always like to be a year ahead with firewood.

Cooper would have enjoyed working outside at the woodpile. He even has a small axe that he uses under my supervision, when his mother and grandmother don’t hide it. Lisa and I made and sent him a video. While stacking the wood I put an old desk in the woodpile so he and I can sit at it during the winter and have lunch. Lisa says it’s my new office. I told her, why not, I can even get wifi out there!

***

I remember hearing a Los Angeles right-wing, comedian, pundit, celebrity talking about how busy the LA Freeways are and how difficult it is to go anywhere. He said, he wished they would raise the price of gas to $10 a gallon (expensive for the US, we are almost already there in Canada). His reasoning was it would get most people off the freeway and he could get to his appointments in peace.  A price well worth paying he mused. I appreciated his candor, he was honest and probably correct. That doesn’t mean he isn’t an entitled dipshit.

***

Lisa and I have an Instagram account for our business. Instagram is an interesting platform in the social media world. Young people love it. It’s like putting up your greatest hits.

We had a young photographer ‘like’ one of our posts. I went to his Instagram page, he was an exceptional photographer. Under one of his photographs he wrote about preserving the natural world and how we must do everything in our power to kill the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Several other, equally talented photographers, left comments agreeing the oil has to stay in the ground. I don’t necessarily disagree.

I poked around their Instagram posts. Their photos were taken with expensive high quality mirrorless lightweight cameras, with lenses costing thousands of dollars. I noticed some of the photos were taken in Iceland, South America, Nepal, Greece, Alaska, Austria and Asia.

It occurred to me, these young people will never miss a plane ride, safari or travel adventure regardless if the Trans Canada Pipeline is killed or not, or if all the oil in Alberta is left in the ground. Their lives will not change. They will never miss a truck ride or sleep in the cold when they choose not to. The freeway, for them, will just be less crowded.

These are the folks that scare me. I’ve always thought their isn’t much difference between the elite ‘left’ and the elite ‘right’. They both have second homes and the same travel plans.

For Lisa and I, we will be sleeping closer to the fire as we age, trying to stay warm. I am hoping Cooper won’t be sick of us when he gets older and still wants to come out to help with the woodpile.

I also hope, as selfish as this may sound considering the climate, I can still afford a few gallons of gas to escape the ruck of the crowd and deliver me to the wild orchids and dark sky stars that lie beyond the valley bottom.

If they shut down the oil sands and decommission the pipelines, perhaps I’ll dig it up myself.

early June

RCE_0058.jpgA Great Blue Heron fishes in the runoff. Photo by Lisa.

Lisa and I took a quick drive behind Swansea tonight. We commented how nice it is to be able to get away from it all in only a moment. We have been busy in the studio. We both like being busy and we have to be if we are going to make it. We have always worked a lot of hours for not a lot of money. That is how we have been able to stay in the valley. It comes with a lot of perks. It is being close to the bush and able to show our children, and now grandchildren, that makes it worth while. We are fortunate, but money has never come easy. My personality is something to blame as well.

Tonight, we were fortunate to be close to the truck when it started to hail. We saw it coming and heard the thunder. We got back in the truck and watched the show. The temperature dropped to 3°c and the pea sized hail gathered on the truck and ground before it could melt.

On the way back into the valley bottom we spotted a Great Blue Heron and Lisa took some photos. Willow would have barked the dinosaur into the air, but she never caught onto what we were looking at.

***

The National Post reported the Alberta Government is cracking down on School Superintendents getting raises and bonuses. http://nationalpost.com/news/alberta-cuts-school-superintendent-pay-as-review-finds-high-salaries-big-perks

In our school district, in recent years, there have been several instances of mismanagement; busing issues, disposing of school properties, increased management costs, including the hiring of spouses in top positions, the handling of teachers accused of indiscretions, schools over populated or in need of upgrades while choosing to build a multi million dollar Operations building, to list just a few.

When things appear to go sideways, in business or government endeavours, it can almost always be traced to the top.

Sure enough, in School District #6 Rocky Mountain, the Superintendent is at the top of the heap, getting yearly salary raises and bonuses, while teachers and staff put up with salary freezes or minuscule increases.

Some would explain his salary package as compensation for a job ‘well done’, or to attract people of ‘high calibre the pay must be good’, or simply say, ‘the money is in the budget’.

All would be untrue. Convenient, but untrue. Leaders who’s first goal is feathering their own nest are not rare. They’re a dime a dozen.

Not unusual in this day and age where leading by example is non-existent in our businesses, institutions and government.

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We get bogged down. We hear about the American President on every newscast and the internet. We hear about Canada buying a non existent pipeline from a Texas company for 4.5 billion dollars just to see it built. We hear constantly that we are doomed. The Doomsday Clock is 3 minutes to midnight, the seas are filled with plastic, the ice caps are melting and the oceans are rising, the storms are getting worse. Meanwhile, the whole world is arming themselves with assault rifles and nukes with the only outcome, the complete annihilation of humankind!

That’s what we read and that’s what we’re told. It keeps us from a lot of pleasure. I don’t know if we are being fed a line, but I do know I’ve been lied to before.

We feel powerless.

Meanwhile, there is plenty of dragons we could slay right in front of us if not for the fatigue of thinking it won’t make a difference. Isn’t our own backyard where we should start? There is no shortage of scoundrels, big and small to go around, nor garbage to pick up at our own feet.

***

The tomatoes and lettuce were pummelled by the storm. The hail punched holes in the leaves. Still the moisture did them good.

kids

It’s good the night sky reveals slowly. First Venus in the west and then Jupiter in the east. If all the stars came out at once it would be tough to know the direction.

It is good to have the kids back. My father is long gone, but still teaches me lessons, about the way we were treated and why. My girls fight over bedrooms even now. They are grown women. Beautiful and assured. They jostle, and tease each other.

Hunter, is realizing he has roots. He is handsome and smart. My father and grandfather could add numbers as quick as they were given. Hunter can do that.

I look at my children and I see all the hard times my grandparents had. I see my mothers face when things didn’t turn out. I see my father looking at Swansea and the caps on the lake. I see every bale lifted by their young elbows. Every blizzard slashing their eyes.

I also see their eyes and the landscape reflected.

They are young. I only get to know them for part of their lives. How I wish I could see them grow old.

Lisa is a wonderful mother. She always made everything right when I didn’t even know what was going on. Somehow, I’ve been lucky.

Now I’m a grandfather, I have another opportunity to make everything right.

All the stars are out now. Venus is down but Jupiter is overhead shining bright.

wild orchid

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While on the mountain last weekend I noticed the Yellow Orchids were close to opening. They appear quickly and disappear just as quickly. Willow and I made a quick trip this evening and there they were, near a spring on a slope.

Willow dipped her paws in the soft ground.

The Yellow Orchid is rare around here. We used to run pictures of them in the newspaper, but never disclosed the location they were found. Once they are picked they disappear.

The flower nurtures the roots, the pods spread seeds, the seeds have to land on the right kind of moss, the moisture and decay has to be just right, sometimes they take several years to germinate. It is a miracle the wild orchid exists at all.

That’s the thing about life. Regardless of the obstacles, it not only endures, but flourishes.

When Willow got back in the truck, after tramping through the creek bottom, she smelled like fishy mud. And she still does.