Late October

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Was behind the mountains where we used to catch fish in the streams. Where we sipped the cold water from the spring beside the trail. How we used to look forward to it on a hot day after exploring the back country, or hunting for deer and elk, sometimes we only came home with chicken. I remember thinking, if it wasn’t for all these damn trees I’d be able to see something to shoot at.

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Now the trees are large and I wonder sometime if they were always there. Every trip it’s like I’m seeing them for the first time. Same as the ridges, the way the light hits them. It’s cold in the creek bottom, dark and icy, but those ridges basked in the last light look mighty inviting.

I don’t go far, never have, there is still plenty of ridges, I haven’t walked, without ruck or crowd, right under my nose. Tamarack, old, hard, and twisted. Scree slopes, waterfalls, fish behind rocks, mountains that change depending on the light, enough for 10 lifetimes if you had four sets of eyes.

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It’s getting chilly. The snow is on the mountains. You could die if you break your ankle, freeze if you fall through the ice, get lost in the crooks and crags, too scared to move in the dark.

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Who needs a jet plane to explore? When you can count on the stars.

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.

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_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.

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

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

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_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.

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 august

RCE_0855Walking logs to escape the ruck.

A storm hit tonight. Wind, far off thunder, a few flashes of lightning and very few raindrops. Exactly what we don’t need.

We have a few fires burning around us now. Still the smoke is no where near as bad as last year. . . yet.

A fire is burning in Kootenay National Park. The highway is closed due to smoke. Kelsie, Tom and the kids are coming out this weekend. They will have to take one of two other routes. Either will ad at least a couple hours to the trip.

The province may close the bush down. They do it in increments, first they ban campfires, then ATV’s which they have done. Then they will close access to all the backroads. It drives me crazy but it is necessary.

RCE_0818The sun going down in smoke.

Is it worse now than when I was younger? Is it hotter? It is hard to say. My father always talked about the drought years during the thirties and the importance of keeping a trickle going in the irrigation ditches.

There is so many more people recreating in the mountains. They bring along their own hazards.

RCE_0830Daisies and the sunset in the creek.

Fifty years ago the Forest Service stopped fires promptly, whenever possible, that made matters worse by letting fuel build up.

Studies and explorer David Thompson’s written accounts show the valley bottom as a different place two-hundred years ago. Back then the valley bottom burned.

RCE_0827Smoke filled sky.

The fires started as they do now, by lightening, on the benches or low mountains, and burn towards the creeks and rivers.

The terrain it leaves behind, natural grasslands, is perfect habitat for deer and elk. Also perfect for hunting for the first people who roamed the area and called it home.

Have things changed that much? Damn right they have! But has the wind got hotter, is the sun closer, does lightening strike more often?

Being an environmentalist is like being a priest a hundred years ago. It is somebody with the answers. They know who to blame. Instead of a cross they wear hemp and beads. They know the sinners. David Suzuki has his own channel,  Just like before, they blame everybody but themselves. And just like before there is a lot of followers that regularly sin and go to church on the weekend.

RCE_0851Willow getting her swim.

I am getting too old to hunt in the valley bottom. Willow and I crossed some shaky logs and bad swamp to  get to the water hole. If nature was true I’d be dead by now. Somehow I’m still kicking and grateful.

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.

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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.

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