kootenay gothic

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Sunflowers

A spritz of rain all day long, never cold enough to turn to snow. Maybe overnight.

The woodpile is stocked but badly piled. Never two pieces sawed the same length. Or chopped the same width. Ununiform, a crooked fence line, lots of space between blocks. Pine mixed with fir, tamarack, birch, depending on winter temperatures. It’s good to have options.

_LME3667Weed

Headed high into the bush, behind the old mountain, that still holds mystery to this old fool.

_LME3674Hound

Tested the spring, cut cedar boughs. The dog chased sticks and brought them back. It’s good to be god. 

It’s dark early. The cold is coming. Winter. The meat can stay outside, hanging in the shed overhead or stashed, frozen underground. Prepared, even down a quart, hiding behind a crooked windbreak, it’s the best time to be alive.

_LME3663Peas

early November

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They say time compresses. In the right state, at the right time you can hear the paddle wheelers stuck in the salmon flats trying to make the last 400 yards to Lake Windermere.

It’s whoops and yells and calls for more firewood.

The church bells ring a valley over. Signalling time for the lonely, looking for hides, to return to the cabin.

There’s still the ones who went off the pontoon bridge, a couple every year, yelling ‘shit’, before drowning in 6ft of muddy water, trapped in a tangle of heavy metal, the radio still on static.

Put an ear to the track, can you hear the spikes being driven, the dynamite going off ahead clearing the way? Getting ties from the travelling mill, cutting the biggest and easiest.

It’s there somewhere.

Time that is.

 

 

the news

_LME3247Willow eyeing up the carrots.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone I have a great deal of respect for. She is a business person who is smart and knows how to deal with personnel and clients. There is a lot of juggling that goes on in such situations. She handles it mostly with a smile on her face. Not much rattles her. 

I call it ‘high functioning’, being able to deal with more than one thing at a time, sometimes more than ten things at at time. Some people are really good at it, she is one. 

The other day her and I and a few others entered into a conversation. We talked about some of the recent events in Canadian news. Everyone in the conversation had an opinion except her. She said, she doesn’t listen, read or watch the news.

Now, back when I was growing up this was a form of ignorance which bothered me. In my uneducated world, newspapers and televised news was how a person educated themselves.

She explained, she didn’t want Trump and everything else in the news filling up her brain while there was more important stuff to think about and accomplish.

***

_LME3271.jpgIn the same boat.

My good friend Dave and I talk often. We have always laughed about how many children get rides to school, even when they live within walking distance. He says, it’s because we hear about a kid being snatched in some faraway place on the news and we take notice, it’s real, it’s like it happened under our nose, even though it is the safest time in Canada to be a child. We turn vigilant. It takes up space in our mind. It’s why our children have lost the pleasure of walking to school.

***

If I listened to it all, I’d pack it in. Call it. Say uncle. And sometimes I feel like it.

***

The sky is still blue. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it’s dry. The forest catches on fire and banks get chewed away by runoff. 

***

_LME3276.jpgTurning.

The moral of this story, if there is one, let your kids walk to school. Teach them to say, ‘fuck you’, when warranted. They are going to have plenty to be pissed about come future.

nice hips

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Woke up and all the puddles were froze. Some as nice as skating rinks. It reminded me of when the girls skated the puddles and the joy of finding such a surface.

Willow and I took to the creek behind the mountains. It was easy going after leaving the ice behind. The snow crunched under foot. Willow rode on top of the surface. The pussy willows were replaced with ice crystals.

Several flocks of Buntings flew and blended into the flat sky. I knew they would never land for a picture. The minus 13 wind was cold after yesterdays plus 8.

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.

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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harvest moon

RCE_1129This one is lucky I traded my rifle for a camera.

There is a time you realize everything you thought was big isn’t really.

The bush around our house was thick. It was built between town, the train tracks and the lake. The bush was overgrown. I thought it could hide just about anything. Indians would get their liquor and walk over the bank. They would fuck and fight. Laugh and cry. Freeze to death, at times just die. Sometimes they would smash our forts. Young guys mostly, before pure sorrow took over their souls and made them drunks.

_LME8594Reaching the creek bottom.

In the trees, we drank their stashed wine and thumbed through Penthouse magazines, found behind the bookstore. At night if there was a fight in the house I’d escape into those trees. I’d break branches off fir and bury myself under moss. No need for a fire, every branch accounted for and smoke gives your position away.

Even now, while in the bush, it becomes my whole world. It’s a downfall really, when the Royal Group is as far away as France. When the distance across the Kootenay is equivalent to the span of the Atlantic.

_LME8589A cathedral, the only thing missing is a preacher, thank God!

Walking the mountains is awarding, regardless of illusion, the colours at this time of year are vibrant. A trout on the line renders the chill forgotten.

It’s not the biggest world, but I can still get lost in it.

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