Slip Slide and Away

_LME9541.jpgIt looks like something from a horror movie, but it’s just me leaving the light on so I know where to pee at night.

Still no snow in the forecast. Damn strange. I picked a helluva year to get a part time job plowing snow. Every morning regardless of the forecast I get up at 3 in the morning and look out the window for snow and to see if I should suit up for work. It really isn’t that big of a hassle, because at 3 am I’m usually due for a piss.

One night in December I got up looked outside. The snow was coming down in sheets. I grabbed a quick bite and headed out, only to find there was no snow, it was clear as a bell. Now I put my glasses on before I look outside.

Yesterday we drove behind the mountains up the creek. I parked in the snow on a slight incline. Willow and I got out for a look around. I only took a few steps before I noticed the truck rolling down the road backwards. Lisa, in the passenger seat, seatbelt still on, didn’t look impressed. I chased after the truck, jumped in and got it stopped.

I thought I’d left the truck in gear, but the warm weather had turned the roads to glare ice and the truck had started to slide. I found some chunkier snow to park on. I wasn’t impressed with the conditions.

Lisa said it was lucky I hadn’t fallen on the ice trying to stop the truck and had it run over me. I agreed, yes that was lucky. She is always looking on the bright side.

easier to see in black and white

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Sure as hell with an axe one day.

Clipping branches 4 feet above my height.

Turning the hatchet twice the speed of light.

Used to missing.

Almost glad of it.

Turkey Soup

RCE_1698Willow surveys the sticks on shore, carefully picking one to fetch. 

It is a long standing tradition of rotating hosting Christmas dinner among our family. This year it was Lisa’s brother Brent’s family’s turn. There was plenty of great food and wine and lots of good conversation and laughs.

RCE_1679Grey December beside the Columbia.

Brent generously gives me the turkey carcass as he knows I like to make broth from the bones. He always leaves some meat on the bones so I can add it to the soup the next day. Even at this late hour the soup is boiling. I will wait as long as I can before straining the broth. It will be put outside to cool.

Tomorrow I will sauté onions, carrots and onions, add the broth, the left over turkey and a handful of barley. That’s it, supper taken care of.  The kids always loved that soup. Sometimes they would argue over whether I should add barley or pasta noodles. Barley usually won out.

RCE_1689An American Dipper holds down the ice beside the river.

My Mom and Dad used to make the same soup, from turkeys, but also wild chickens we shot. They called it mulligan. It was thick and gamey. They said it was soup that stuck to your ribs. I used to wonder what that saying meant. I thought, maybe the barley acted as glue and stuck to your insides. Later, when I understood a person could go hungry, I realized it could keep hunger away longer than many other foods, some much more expensive.

We are lucky to have so much.

RCE_1660My old path to the fish holes.

current

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It has been a strange winter so far. The mountains are getting snow, yet very little in the valley bottom. The last week has seen temperatures above freezing during the day. Today was sunny and plus 5°. There is ice on Lake Windermere, but open spots here and there. The ice freezes different than when I was a boy. The open spots are in in other locations. It changed when they filled in some of the wetlands for development. It increased the pull of the river exiting the lake.

Columbia and Windermere Lakes are often described, by experts, to be a widening of the river. When I was young I used to try to see where the current was under the surface of the lake. I imagined a time when the lakes were not as wide. If the banks of the lake looked freshly cut within the last thousand years. I’d squint and remove the railway tracks and the few homes along the shore. I would look for schools of fish, under the ice, how they moved, if they were being fed by the years dead insects and animals finally loose on the current. During summer, I would swim the width of the lake feeling where I would get cold from water moving quicker under the hot sun. I would confirm it swimming back.

It is a lot tougher now trying to figure out the current. My father and I used to venture onto the ice, early in winter, when it was safe. We would put up a tree in the places the last of the ice froze, to warn people of thin ice. It was the same spots year after year. My father said there was a spring under the ice in those spots. The tree always looked like an undecorated Christmas tree. The warning was observed, everybody knew.

Now, the lake freezes later. The weak spots are more plentiful. The current doesn’t meander like it used to. I ask myself, why should it be different? The snow is coming. I know that.

Early December

_LME9439-Pano-smThe sky above Lake Windermere. Pleiades directly above Taurus. The lights of Windermere and Fairmont. A satellite streaks at the top of the frame.

The snow still hasn’t started to fly in earnest. It’s coming, it always does. Meanwhile, I’m still getting used to the cold. My toque goes on in the morning and doesn’t come off until bed. Lisa even wore hers through the weekend. She looks cute in a toque.

_LME9441.segComet 46P/Wirtanen can be seen in the leading photo. This is it enlarged. It looks like a green smudge. Throughout December it will rise in the eastern sky towards Pleiades. 

Our house can be chilly. We believe in putting on a sweater before turning up the heat. The woodpile is holding up. It has some good wood in it. Fir, tamarack, pine and even juniper. It’s good to mix it up. If you are cold and need it warm quick, pine is the way to go. If you want it slow and hot, fir. If you are going to bed and want some embers in the morning, then tamarack. If you are staying up, maybe you’ve had some wine or smoke, juniper will set the mood with it’s wonderful smell and light.

Every know and again I’ll get a few blocks of spruce. It’s light put hard to split due to it’s twisted grain. If it freezes hard in November the trees crack like gunshots. When splitting, it is not uncommon to come across a worm, pale white, as big as a finger, hiding in the wood. It always crosses my mind maybe someday I’ll be happy to come across this protein.

Speaking of protein. I made mincemeat on the weekend. Currents, raisins, apple, brown sugar, sherry, suet, orange and lemon peel and every spice in the cabinet. I think those old-timers knew how to cook.

Lisa makes wonderful pastry and has promised me tarts.

Winter is looking better all the time.

Late November

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A proud raven, with a shiny red piece of meat in it’s beak, flew and perched on our roof. I distracted Willow, so she wouldn’t see, but she caught a whiff. The barking started, the raven took off into the grey November sky. 

Used the last of the summer onions today. The ones I plucked out of the dry earth when the sky was shrouded in smoke from forest fires. They were tucked away and it was lucky I’d found them.

We still have plenty of beets, spuds, carrots, garlic and smoke. The firewood is also plenty, more than holding up.

November, when the ground is either froze or not, can be harsh. The light continues to diminish, colours disappear and are replaced by grey. It can rain or snow and footing must be tested.

There’ll come a day, sure as hell, we’ll suffer shortages.  But for now, thank God, it’s only money.

***

Rode into the bush tonight just to make sure the stars were still up there. It’s been awhile since the sky has cleared. Sure enough there they were between breaks in the clouds. They were all out of place from the last time I looked. It is reassuring to become aligned once again.

We were treated to two owls hooting back and forth. The one who started first sounded like a dog barking. Willow’s hackles went up. Her circle got smaller and she barked back. Then another owl started. It was the the barking owl, the barking dog and then the hooting owl, over and over, for about ten minutes. Finally, between the three of them, they must have worked out their differences and stopped the chatter. Quiet returned. Willow’s circle grew.

***

Down in the valley or up in the mountains, at my age, I’m lucky, I walk where I want, I’m either not worth the bother or too much trouble. Willow stays alert just in case my bluff is called.

ghosts

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There are ghosts everywhere. In the trees and clouds, between mountains, deep in the holler, along the coolies beside the creek, overgrown tangled in willow, littered with deadfalls: each and every overhead cliff, an ancient snag ready and able to hang the guilty.

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Not that I believe in them. Ghosts I mean.

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Most are wondering around. Possibly lost. They don’t say much. Nor me back to them. A courteous nod is about it. Most of the times they are surprised, as I, to have run into each other.

Long ago they’d nudge me awake. My mother used to want to know what they were wearing. I used to be afraid at first. I’d listen to the radio until I was asleep. She would ask, was he wearing an army uniform, a plaid shirt, a tam? Don’t be afraid she’d say. They’re not here to hurt you.

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They’re here to tell you something, she’d say.

I didn’t believe.

The ghosts kept appearing, in the creek bottoms. At night they were among the stars. I’d feel them go through me, in a rush, taking my breath into the sky above the crags.

We got used to each other. They don’t talk, but sometimes I will. I tell them I don’t believe. Then tell them the creek is low, the snow will be early, there is a moose in the upper basin that comes out in the morning to walk the slough, it better keep it’s head down until the end of hunting season.

Animals curve where they shouldn’t. Same as people. Ghosts blend in. Once you see them you will always see them. 

If you believe in that stuff.

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