Mid December

Lake Windermere, it’s never been much for me to imagine a glacier running ridge to ridge.

A few cold nights coming on. I am building a rink for Cooper and Scarlett.

I have never built a backyard rink. No need because we live so close to the lake.

However, kids are not allowed to wander like they used to, plus it might be nice to watch the kids skate while I get supper ready.

The problem is the land isn’t level. There is going to be 10″ of ice on one side and an inch on the other.

Copper and Scarlett have a lot of energy. This will do them well.

Willow helps dragging the Christmas tree to Lisa’s delight.

Dec. 6th

On December 5th the clouds cleared. Lisa and I had our grandchildren, Scarlett and Cooper, over for supper. While we got a fire going, picking kindling and blocks of timber I pointed out Venus, Saturn and Jupiter in the brilliant sky.

Venus, the brightest, was about to go down, Saturn was hard to see in the twilight and Jupiter, the highest, ruled by its position high in the sky.

The next day we awoke to snow. The clouds took over the sky. Luckily, before the end of the day they lifted. Cooper and I were shovelling snow. I pointed out a young moon in the still daylight. Cooper acknowledged it said, “There’s Venus above.”

I had to squint to see it. Cooper has good young eyes. It made me proud he knew the name of that point of light.

Being a grandfather is nice. When I was a parent I tried my best but did a lot of things wrong. I worried all the time for one. Worked too long and thought being a good father was holding the line.

Now, I don’t worry. Kelsie and Tom are wonderful parents. I’m a kid again, but with the knowledge and eccentricities of an old man. I get to teach Cooper and Scarlett about the garden, the stars in the sky and what firewood burns best for Grandma. If that ain’t blessed I don’t know what is.

blue skies

Clouds and river running by the tracks.

A skiff of snow last night. This morning blue skies. In the morning Willow and I headed for the Columbia River below Lake Windermere. It’s a clear trickle at this time of year. A Kingfisher gave us the gears for our intrusion.

Geese catching on winter is on the way.

Wedge after wedge of Canadian Geese flew overhead north to south. Willow paid them no mind, concerning herself instead, with mice in the long reeds and wading the river. I on the other hand, watched intently, taking a few photos while my hands got cold.

Skein.

We have gone from +8 to -8° in the past 24 hrs. The cool weather is a gift especially when it is accompanied by blue skies.

They were one after another, flying in small flocks unlike the large groups that fly in late fall. Perhaps fewer birds have waited to make the trip south and they catch up to each other in the air or resting on open water, regrouping for warmer thicker air.

Ray Crook 1918 – 2021

Ray enjoying a birthday dessert.

Sadly, Ray wasn’t able to recover from a fall in his apartment and passed away peacefully at Columbia House on December 1st.

During my last visit with Ray at the hospital he was in good spirits and knew the score. He talked fondly of the housekeeper that found him, his nephew now living in Switzerland and the times he and my father spent cutting trail in Kootenay National Park.

Ray was an accomplished historian and someone I enjoyed talking to about long ago times. His memory was fantastic. He clarified many valley events for me and taught me plenty of things I didn’t know.

Ray was well known in the community, driving his scooter downtown each day, stopping to talk with anyone, laughing usually ensued.

Life is a gift. Ray gave back with his always cheerful nature and natural decency.

When I look up, from my garden, towards downtown, Ray will always be riding his scooter along the paved path. Like the way it should be.

Rest well Ray.

Early December

The diving cliffs.

Unseasonably warm. Plenty of rain in the last few days with temperatures up to 12°c. Yesterday, I saw worms on the sidewalk. Amazing for December. The ice on Lake Windermere has melted. Surely a cold spell must be coming?

We are told this is remnants of an atmospheric river from the west coast, tamed down, yet still screwing thing up in the Rockies.

It’s difficult to remember such a mild start to December. The way things are going the tourists will be putting their boats back in the lake. Rule number one for the rich; calm water always needs to be churned up, same goes for blue skies.

It could be the new trend, smoke in summer and fall in December.

Willow wades the creek with her full winter coat grown regardless of mild temps.

Flood

Trees reflected in the flood.

It has been demoralizing to read all the sky-is-falling news that has become the norm these days. Agreed the world is in peril, or should I say humankind is in a tight spot. Never-the-less news sources seem intent on making it worse. Blame the 24 hour news cycle. Trump (still), overpopulation, pandemic and climate crisis, it’s enough to make you want to jump ship. No wonder Musk, Bezos and the rest of the rich guys are trying to rocket off this burning, freezing, flooding planet.

This month the Fraser River delta flooded due to something called an atmospheric river, or in layman’s terms, a lot of rain in a narrow band. Of course, the news cried climate change from every rooftop. We have done it to ourselves, they exclaimed, the time to repent is nigh.

The difference this played with the people affected by this disaster is mute. Farms, livestock, livelihoods and property was lost. It is heartbreaking.

No-one is excluding climate change and the roll humans have played in it’s advancement. Be that as it may, the flooding around Abbotsford happened on a natural flood plane, a river delta, a place where lakes and wetlands were drained to make way for towns, developments, and fertile farmland. 

Unfortunately, large storms runoff and nature is going to reclaim these areas, especially when tides are surging, rain is falling on concrete and can’t be soaked up.

It’s a disaster whichever way we look at it. Naturally we blame others, something we can’t control.

*** 

When I was young I used to walk my Grandfather’s trail along the canyon of the Palliser River to where Albert River joins the flow. Centuries old fir and rock walls everywhere, still I found routes here and there down to the river to toss a line. 

On one of these trips as a young adult, I followed the trail until an entire chunk of the mountain had sloughed off and rolled into the river. It more than obliterated the trail. There is no saying when it had happened as I hadn’t been on the trail for several years. It frightened me to think what it would have been like to have witnessed it or been in it’s path! If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear it started to make sense.

It settled across the river and changed its path. The water still has to flow after all. One of my Grandfather’s fishing holes he prized for fish to make into trapping bait was no longer. 

This by no means is an unusual occurrence the mountains and rivers are continually reshaping themselves with and without our help.

This area has now been heavily logged, following the old trail, blazed on the fir and spruce, would be all but impossible now. The runoff from the mountains creates even more slides into the river without the trees to hold the earth from slipping. It is still remote and rarely does anyone witness the ground slipping, mountains rolling and the river cutting. It’s nature.

We can exclude ourselves from it or be part of it.

*** 

Part of my hometown is built on an alluvium. Toby Creek runs down from the mountains spreading out before entering the Columbia River and Lake Windermere. The entire area known as Athalmer would regularly flood in the spring. One of my friends families houses was built on stilts. Residents sewer systems which were often no more than a hole would mix with their shallow wells making the water undrinkable.

Athalmer flooded. Notice the two youngsters, pole in hand, ready to save the coupe if needed.

The solution, as population grew, was to dyke Toby Creek and change its course so it entered the Columbia below Athalmer. It mostly worked. 

I still get a kick when it backs up into Lake Windermere, turning it muddy and log bound during seasons with heavy runoff, making the tourists in their motorboats having to pick their way into the lake. For now the dyke has held saving businesses and real estate. Will it forever?

***

Piliated Woodpeckers will hammer on live trees. Some think the woodpeckers are killing the trees. Some think it’s the bugs under the bark that the woodpeckers are after killing the trees. Maybe it is the decay from age that has brought on the bugs and woodpeckers that are killing the trees. Maybe it’s the warmer temperatures caused by climate change that has allowed bugs like the Pine Beetle to flourish that is killing the tree. Perhaps it is part of a larger cycle that accounts for the tree to die. The same cycle that may one day put humanity directly in its crosshairs, regardless of how smart and separate we consider ourselves from nature the future may prove our match.

Does it mean we should give up trying? The answer is no.

There is happiness in less waste and consumption, in the endeavour to find peace in the current of creeks, in the rolling of rivers, the oceans’ ebb and flow and the clouds and sky revealing gifts lost but not forgotten, forever ingrained in our DNA.

To blame every weather event and natural disaster on human caused climate change, although may make a compelling news story, in the long run, is not helping matters. It makes us think we are more important to the earth than we are, second, it makes people think all is lost. Bezos and Musk may be hellbent to call it a day, but we’re really just getting started on a better path, we just have to be smart about it.

On Top

Mines, farms and clearcuts take away from the blue sky above the Purcells.

Monday after being off for three days. The truck fired up no problem since I put in a new battery. The windows needed scraping. I jumped in. The radio started. Peter Frampton, Do You Feel Like We Do. Monday felt better all of sudden. It was the fourteen minute version that just about gets me to work, even with a stop for coffee. I was rolling in when it ended, expecting some talk, instead the radio doubled down, Creedence, Fortunate Son. I had to stay in the truck till it finished risking being late. By the time I walked in for my shift I was jacked. Monday was beat before it started.

A mature Ram takes a sniff for something to rut with. Luckily he didn’t consider me anything but a nuisance.

Old Ray

Mom always said, never get on a train that isn’t moving.

Dropped off at the good neighbours to make sure he was still hanging on.

Ray tripped and fell, spent hours beside the toilet before pulling himself to his bed where he couldn’t get up. The cleaning lady noticed his curtains weren’t open in the morning and checked and found him there. They stuck him in the hospital where he adjusted.

If you live to be 103 you probably have to make some adjustments along the way.

The other good neighbour is still harbouring weed plants with buds the size of Christmas ornaments. We talked about how we are sleeping, our children not trusting the government, their reluctance of the vax, the news, bringing guns to a protest and the west coast sinking, also the usual things, if we have enough firewood, the lack of snow, finally a skim of ice on the big lake and a bunch of other stuff that only made us laugh.

I hold out hope for him. He is charming. I told him he should open a bed and breakfast. It would be authentic. He could give a lesson on how to stew tomatoes. I could put up a sign, GARDEN TOURS, being right across the street. Spin off business.

By the time they get sick of our antics and decide to warehouse our sorry souls I hope old Ray’s still in there to teach us how to adjust.

Dinosaur

A fine day and quick update. Some running around in the morning for supplies and the post office and dump. Willow and I headed for the creek. She let me have it when I was able to find a dry route across the creek. It was a fallen log, slipperier then greased cat shit. She would have been fine but for the shear bank on the other side. I didn’t go out of her sight. She walked the bank while I cut a few boughs of cedar. She returned to normal when I returned over the bridge.

Later I stuck a piece of wire through the meat of my hand between my thumb and index finger. It was clean through and made me laugh when I pulled it out, not that I’m tough, just that it looked funny. It bled a bit so I stuck a tight glove on to act as a compression bandage, it did the trick.

I did this while trying to bend a piece of wire into a hook to hang an elk skull I found on the same wrong side of the creek I mentioned earlier. Willow looked at me, hand bleeding, as if to say, I told you not to cross that iffy log.

Split some wood, tried to carve a heart out of a piece of driftwood we gathered in the fall, but shit the wood was hard. I thought it was cedar, but it must have been fir. To make matters worse it was a root.

I ended up making a monster out of the root. It was a giant snake with front legs. It balances perfectly on the table. I painted it’s forked tongue red. Thats the way it is, you start off carving hearts and end up seeing a creature you never knew existed. Copper and Scarlett are going to love it more than a smooth wooden heart anyway.

About 3:45 the sun went down in a tight flash leaving the ridge lit for a couple of precious minutes.

Lisa is making me supper for my birthday, the kids and our parents are invited. I’m pretty lucky. I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks of the snake head dinosaur. . . not me the carving.

Supper is just about ready and the guests are due to arrive.