damn near november

Strange days, despite the pandemic valley businesses had a very lucrative summer. Tourists from Alberta and other parts of Canada flocked to the valley, as travel to other countries was off limits. The resort I work for had a banner summer. We were run off our feet due to being low on staff. Hiring enough people was difficult due to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). I don’t blame people for taking advantage of the program instead of making minimum wage and risk getting sick.

Now CERB is wrapping up people are becoming available to hire. The resort has hired two more people in our department. There was plenty of funds to do so from the money earned and saved on wages in the summer.

We sure could have used the extra hands in the summer. Now that it is slow we are standing around looking at each other. It is brutal, we are almost fighting over who gets to change a light bulb.

So, I decided to take my accumulated holidays rather than try to look busy. When I get back I hope we have plenty of snow to shovel.

***

It will be nice to have a week off. The weather is the shits and isn’t expected to get better, still, I may head into the bush for a few nights to clear my head. The stars are mostly hidden by clouds, yet a fire and tent listening to rivers and wolves may be what the doctor ordered. It won’t take much hiking to be in a foot and a half of snow, waking up cold with Willow shivering beside me. It is good for both our souls (did I just say arseholes?).

***

Was up wondering around the old mine today. Blue lake is almost completely filled in. While standing above looking at the small part of remaining bottomless blue, I realized I haven’t made it far in life. I mistakingly tried to live the same life as my father and grandfather, not changing while the world raced on leaving me in the dust. A small walk away from were I stood was where I shot a rifle for the first time. It was before I was in school. As my father instructed I lay on the ground, he put the 22 against my shoulder, told me to look down the sights at the oil can about 30 yards away. He told me to steady and hold my breath and squeeze the trigger. When I did so the explosion rang in my ears and the oil can jumped. It was exhilarating.

***

A good friend asked me to pick him up from work today. His truck is in the shop. Across the street from where he works is my Grandparents’s farm. It was several acres. The old house still stands, dilapidated but still occupied. The property has been subdivided over the years. Back then it stretched down to the cemetery on the edge of the lake. Now it consists of a trailer park containing the only people that live in Windermere year round. Closer to the lake a bunch of million dollar second homes owned by Albertans who could care less for what came before and really why should they.

***

The point is I’ve continued the tradition of buying high and selling low. I should be sitting on my ass letting the new guys do the little work there is instead of taking vacation in November.

***

I’ve never been patient or thought much about the future, preferring instead to dwell in the past. Not sure I’d change it if I could.

summer’s end

We’ve been told due to the economy coming to a halt due to Covid and a good portion of the work force on CERB that the economic outlook for Canada is dire. So why is it, everywhere I look, money is being spent hand over fist.

Roadwork at every turn, money and tourists flowing like never before from Alberta, government rumbling about spending on everything from increasing our social safety net (for somebody but not us, Lisa and I will be lucky to claim a pension) to plenty of make-work projects and salary increases across the board for public employees?

***

Covid and the impending environmental crisis have made the public think they can’t do anything to help their own communities. Why care about issues such as local governance while a pandemic will wipe humanity off the earth and if that doesn’t finish us global warming will? I, of course, am inflating the risk, but not the point people feel defeated when it comes to fighting the little daily battles that make a huge difference in our lives. Meanwhile this has been a godsend for small town politicians and businessmen who make their living feathering their nests.

Our Mayor, for instance, pushed through buying a piece of land that will be made into boat launches and tourist shops. Who will be the ultimate benefactor; our Mayor who owns the local building supplies and hardware. Of course the real estate agents on town council will do well for themselves as well. Meanwhile, no one even flinches at the conflict of interest, because how can we worry about such petty issues when the whole world could stop turning at a moments notice? Maybe Musk has an open seat on his spaceship to Mars.

***

I’ve noticed the School District have used pesticides on the school grounds again, disregarding a District bylaw forbidding its use. Who cares what a little poison spread around children in light of all the environmental problems we face. Besides the students are wearing masks anyway.

***

It is futile to try and make a difference in times like these. Your best bet is take cover and avoid the jack asses tearing it up to make a buck.

***

The bush at night is a sanctuary. The September smells and light are a reprise from the dreaded summer. To smell the the leaves changing, feel the coolness, hear the hidden small chirp of birds knowing more than we can imagine, the snow moving down the mountains will soon turn the trail silent. I welcome it back.

***

There is a tree I’ve watched since I was a child. It’s always been dying. An old fir, it hasn’t changed, part spike, part crag. The wind has turned it to driftwood at the top. Curled boughs hold green, hanging on, the base shows scars of lightening strikes. Regardless, it stands above the surrounding forest. Somehow it’s still there, standing vigil through long nights and 40 below winters, the summer sun thickening it’s bark. It leans away from the slope, making it seem even more in danger, precarious, like a slight wind might send it toppling to the creek bottom. Still it stands, it will continue to stand long after I am gone, oblivious to the triviality of any man’s problems. I take comfort in that.

August 1st

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Pea patch.

A good thunder storm hit in the evening. It felt good after the hot weather.

I left for work about 5:30 in the morning. Lisa always gets up to say goodbye. Because it’s been so hot she opens the front door to get a cross breeze with the open windows. This morning a bird flew in. It did a couple laps of the front room and went out the door, or so we thought.

This evening Lisa went to her sewing room, she spread the closed curtains to let air in through the open window. To her surprise a bat fell out onto her. The bird that flew in and out wasn’t a bird at all. The open door at that hour must have looked like an inviting open cave.

I looked for my fishing net and finally found it under the back seat of my truck. The bat was hidden, but finally flew. It and I worked together, he refused to hit me and I was as careful as I could. I set it free into the darkening evening sky. Lisa took a video and sent it to Scarlett and Cooper.

***

_LME6499Poppy seeds.

It’s a busy weekend. Broken glass at every intersection from tourists bumping into each other.

***

The nitrogen from the thunderstorm will do the garden good. The small amount of rain is like spitting on a campfire. It all makes a difference though.

***

_LME6495Some green.

The air is cooling, Lake Windermere is warm. If I was a little younger and knew a place along the shore not so busy I’d dive in.

hard in the mountains

RCE_5991Rare Yellow Orchids 

Lisa thought it was a good idea to take a trip behind the mountain and look for Yellow Orchids. I thought it was too early.

We walked to a spring where we have found them before. It was tricky as we had to find a crossing to the creek that was running quick. Sure enough, Lisa was right (should I have doubted?) and the Yellow Orchids had just started to bloom.

RCE_5983Oregon Grape, blossoms promising a good year of ‘grapes’.

We also noticed plenty of young cones on the pine and spruce. Oregon Grape is covered with blossoms, possibly suggesting a good crop of the sour pitted fruit.

RCE_5986Young Pine cones covered in pollen. Pine pollen is used medicinally for many ailments. I told Lisa it is also said to boost testosterone, she said, ‘we should take some home’. I chewed on a few cones on the way home. Very sweet. Sure enough, I was harder than algebra when we pulled into the driveway. Unfortunately, Willow wouldn’t let me get close to Lisa. What nature gives, nature also takes away. 

It has been a damp year so far. The plants and trees seem to be enjoying it.

0pt out

RCE_7828Crocuses, a sure sign of spring, are blooming in abundance on the benches and valley bottom.

Willow and I went into the bush, yesterday, to get some firewood. Storms have been threatening, clouds raining on the mountains, not much in the valley bottom. Lisa is afraid the government may close the bush due to the virus. The fear is fires will start and the province will not have the resources to fight the fires. It is a legitimate concern.

RCE_7790The surrounding mountains are still covered with many feet of snow. A quick melt could cause flooding in the valley.

The company I work for has extended my hours from three days a week back to five. This is very helpful for Lisa and I. Lisa, who was laid off from work several weeks ago, spends 7 hours a day trying to get through to check on her Employment Insurance claim. So far no luck and I don’t expect that will change. I mentioned in a previous post Lisa and I are not the kind of people who collect or are able to collect on many of the government programs available during the Covid19 crisis. I am okay with that. We are resourceful and will do anything to get by. I do believe, however that we shouldn’t have to pay into EI as we have done our entire lives without ever being able to use it when we lose our jobs, as Lisa has. I still believe, regardless of resourcefulness, a person or families best defence in these strange times is to be sitting on a piss pot full of money with nice secure, defined government pensions rolling in, another thing we pay into but never will collect.

RCE_4944A murder of crows peck seeds from a freshly thawed field.

The Albertan tourists and second home owners are back in force. There is no way they are going to stay away. The reports from BC and Alberta health ministers fall on deaf ears. And who can blame them, living in a concrete shithole like Calgary, spitting distance from their neighbours, it must be downright depressing.

RCE_5075No longer is the ice off the creeks and lake and the Osprey reappears.

Are we going to be different after this virus passes or are we going to go back to jumping on planes winging our way around the world, building second and third homes, piling motorboats onto a tiny lake and polluting and consuming at every opportunity with reckless abandon. I can imagine we will.

Regardless if this slowdown lasts for another week or several months it has been a nice respite from the usual ruck that is the tourist trap we call home.

winter colours

CRW_0007Follow the ridge. Telemark through the spruce.

There is a little extra daylight. Not much but noticeable. There is something to be said about the colours of winter, deep shades of grey, colours only seen at this time of year, hues of mauve and blue.

CRW_0004-PanoEvaluate the shadows in winter to plan a walk in summer.

To be without would be a shame. To see them a gift. The owl on a snag, eagles waiting for a fish or a duck to get separated. The mountain ridge fully defined. And the quiet that accompanies it.

CRW_0009Willow.

story time again

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Bishop’s neighbour was a recluse and the most social guy he knew – both. He stayed up all night and hid out in the day behind pulled curtains. He was a drunkard, and a womanizer, drug addict, miscreant, he could be obstinate and a genuine prick on the wrong day, even with Bishop. In the same week he could be well dressed, connected, a phone to his ear, rounding up business and a tee-time. They lived across from each other in the park going on thirty years.

They both agreed on tourists and condos, they were both breast men, but as they grew older they more appreciated a quick mind, smiling eyes. Neither said so each other or anyone else for that matter. Sometimes, like a tomato plant touched with frost, his neighbour tried harder, developing fruit too quickly with the women he encountered. They both were guilty of this foolishness, but they only recognized the fault in each other.

His nieghbour installed a hot tub in the front yard for just this purpose. It was sunk into the ground. It wasn’t fenced. Bishop fell into one night after running out of Rye, drunk and crossing the street looking for reserves. They say a person can drown in a cup of water. Bishop found that out. He was rescued, while flaying his arms, pumping his legs searching for bottom, taking on chlorine. His neighbour pulled him out by the collar of his jacket. Said, “What the fuck you goin’ for a swim at this hour?”

Once, in summer, he set up a pool table beside the hot tub. It ran down hill from southeast to northwest. If you had to shoot from due south, there was no way to avoid it, at least one foot was in the hot tub. This made him laugh saying, “About time you got your feet wet.”

The first of winter can do things to people. Bishop drove his truck off the road, was stuck in the bush for two days, building fires as close to the truck as he dared. Thawing ice and snow and throwing ashes under the wheels. He was lucky to get out before Spring.

Tonight, Bishop’s nieghbour walked outside, yelled something to the sky. Continued walking with a hand gun at his side. Fully outside, he pointed the gun in the air and fired several shoots. On the last shot, the ice broke, and he fell into his frozen hot tub.

Bishop yelled across, “What the fuck you goin’ for a swim at this hour?”

He pushed the broken ice aside. Fired another round into the sky. Booked it like a wet marmot inside. The police drove by about fifteen minutes later, slow with their side lights on.

This was the first sure sign of winter – the ice was thin, somebody has to test it before it hardens.

He’d check on his nieghbour come morning. They were both due to go into hibernation.

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.

 

 

Late October

_LME3704

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.

RCE_4019

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.

RCE_4025

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.

CRW_0024-Pano.jpg

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