hiding seeds

Spent some time watching chickadees and creepers taking seeds from the dried flowers and hiding them in the trees. It should be noted, they shell them, dropping the husk to the ground below, before tucking the meat into the crevasses of the bark.

I’ve watched woodpeckers come right after and steal the seeds. Damn those thieves.

Still the chickadees do their chore with cheerful vigour, regardless of thieves or winter coming quick or slow. I can’t imagine they are coming back to the ones they’ve hidden, trusting instead to the thoughtful nature down the line, birds hiding seeds in the trees above snow-covered ground. What goes around. . .

***

BC has implemented additional measures to slow the Covid virus. The ant-maskers held a demonstration downtown. I was conveniently in the bush, hiding, watching my grandchildren laugh, marvelling at the frozen lake while the mud puddles were open and thawed.

***

Just before dark, I watched a young boy with roller blades stick handle a ball down the sidewalk. It made me wish I was young.

The lake has a skim of ice. I’m hoping the cold takes hold, the snow stays put high until it’s hard enough to skate. That’s all it will take to make this old man happy.

Scarlett and Cooper, posing nice for their Grandma, in matching pyjamas taking advantage of a fine November day.

before the freeze

The last of the open water.

Very fine day. My hound is feeling better. Lisa and I took one last look at the lake. Marvelling at the still water open before the freeze. Later we headed for the mountains, throwing the truck into four wheel drive.

Willow caught on the wrong side of a fight. A Penrose drain and some antibiotics needed to make her feel better.
A curious bird.

I offered Scarlett and Copper $5 each if they could find a bird in their guide book. It made me feel good they found the American Dipper and damn near got in a fight about who would hold the book for the picture.

Scarlett and Cooper making their old grandpa happy.

It cleared as much as it does in November. Jake climbed a tree in his between fall and winter boots. A true swinger of birches. The sun was down by 4:30 and dark by 6.

The fire is on. My arms remain strong. Plenty of wood needs splitting. A good day rouses me as much as a bad, when it doesn’t I’ll have to take a good long look.

remembrance

Tonight, the sun going down behind a ridge lining the valley.

Remembrance Day ceremonies were held at the cenotaphs around the country like usual, except without many people and very few spectators, due to Covid. In Invermere a scaled back ceremony was broadcast on Facebook for people to see.

It is a day that stirs up many thoughts and feelings. I had to work early in the morning for a few hours clearing the fresh snow at the resort. On the way home I passed the large illuminated digital sign on the highway that crosses the Shuswap Indian Band Reservation. The sign often displays phrases and words of their original language. Today they were displaying pictures of their people who served in the wars.

As I drove by Jack Stevens was displayed on the sign. He was a handsome man. My father and Mr. Stevens joined the services together while in their teens. They were Valley boys trying to do right, possibly, for different reasons. My father was following in his father’s footsteps. Jack could have been feeling free from racism that was so prevalent, hoping once the uniform was on the colour of skin would be forgotten.

Mr. Stevens and my father both came home to the Valley from the Second World War. I know now my father was changed and struggled for years, until he learned how to survive. My mother, his two daughters and my older brother helped with that.

Whenever, Ron and Jack met, usaully at the ball diamond or hockey rink, they spent time reminiscing, laughing about good times spent before the war.

walking back

Burnt forest shows regrowth on a typical November morning.

It’s been a long time since I travelled that road, it can be a popular one with both loggers, tourists and locals. The last time was about sixteen years ago. It was with some good friends to spread the ashes of a friend who passed away. He loved it at a cabin on a lake known for fishing. We drank beer, played music and told stories about our lost friend. He loved that spot and spent some of his best days there. 

We weren’t heading for the lake however. Before we reached the lake we took off on a well worn logging road. Now we were in an area I hadn’t been to since I was in grade 7. I remember this because, we were on a few nights overnight class trip to a remote cabin in the mountains. We had a good teacher that year and she was up for just about anything. I remember it being a good trip.

My father picked us up at the trailhead on the way out. On the drive back we stopped and soaked in a natural hot springs. I can still remember the girls in their bikinis. A 12 year old remembers such things, even if they forget how to find the same spot forty-some-odd years later.

And that is what we were looking for, those old natural hot spring pools. Except things had changed. For one thing, there are way more logging roads. Second the road to the hot springs no longer exists. No cell service to use GPS, not that that would have helped me anyway.

Trout could be easily spotted where the creek slowed.

After about an hour driving the backroads we settled on a spot to start hiking. I wasn’t sure we were in the right place. A hike would be good after rattling around over potholes and frozen puddles. 

Once we started hiking I wasn’t too concerned about finding the hot springs. There was plenty to see, the trees were covered in snow, the creeks had fish, birds chirped and sometimes showed themselves, chickadees, buntings, grosbeaks, solitaires and even a couple dippers.

I tried to remembering landmarks from years ago, but it was no use. They only way we would find the springs was by the research done before we left the house.

Hard to see but an American Dipper entertained us with it’s cheerful endeavours.

We rose up through the pass and started hiking down. I could remember overlooking the Kootenay valley. Not far down and we followed a crack in the mountain to mist and a slight smell of sulfur. There they were, the hot springs. Just like I remembered rocks had been arranged to capture the water in pools. 

Chad grabs a bite after his soak, Myla looks for scraps.

Although the hike wasn’t gruelling a dip was in order. The water soothed the muscles. The air was chilly getting out of the hot water. A quick bite and it was back on the trail to make it out before dark.

Very fine day.

Damn near fifty years between soaks. Willow balances on some rocks refusing to get wet.

november

We had more kids trick or treating than we have had for years. We put the candy in a big bowl in our driveway and waved to as many as we could from our kitchen window. You never know what to expect.

***

Lisa and I kicked off November walking the east shore of Columbia Lake. Lot 48, for years scheduled for development, is now protected. It took millions of dollars to do so. We took the trail beside the lake and stopped often to admire the large fir trees with roots exposed from the banks eroding. I thought about being young and how I would have loved climbing these trees. I thought about now, could their large branches protect me in a storm. Where would I put my bed. Sure there was plenty of years dry branches to keep a fire going for days. We saw ruffed grouse along the trail. Willow put them in the trees. Chickadees got close, not deterred from our intrusion, going about their business hiding bugs and seeds for winter. Plenty of elk tracks coming and going, but not enough for a herd. One scraped the bank picking an awful spot to access the lake. Willow noticed as well and smelled the tracks almost falling herself. Although he could of, my father never hunted this area. It was their wintering ground and even if the animals came early coinciding with hunting season they were to be left alone. There was no regulation that said to do so. Now the area is protected and thank goodness. If not, the animals would be shot, the large fir snags would be cut for firewood or artisan lumber and four wheel drives, quads, side by sides and dirt bikes would tear it all apart without a thought.

***

2020 is winding down. The cool air feels good.

the river Bank

Rain, slush, sleet and snow, even a brief hail storm thrown in for good measure. I picked a great time to take a week off. I’m not complaining, I can get along with all kinds of weather. I appreciate the nasty stuff keeps the tourists away.

Willow and I got muddy on the slick gumbo walking the banks of the Kootenay. We were chasing trout and char, dipping out of the timber onto the smooth rock where the river slows goes deep and blue.

The clouds moved over a little tonight and let an almost full moon shine beside a brilliant star called Mars. With luck it will start to clear up and I can get some photos of Mars while it is close. To think that is supposed to be our next destination as we try to leap frog into the stars.

I’m content and thankful letting the stars come to me. The Palliser River still has plenty of fish holes Willow and I haven’t discovered.

Early October

A small Mule Deer buck poses for Lisa and her camera.

It’s been good to feel the cool air again. There has been a touch of frost in the mornings but only a quick dip. It has been mild for this time of year. Without a hard frost the leaves are hanging on. It has been clear and sunny, kids are still swimming in the lake and diving the high cliffs up the pass. Smoke rolled in today and it feels like it will storm. Here is a few photos from the past few days.

A honey bee gathers pollen from broccoli gone to flower. Both Lisa and I have wondered what the honey would taste like. One thing for sure the bees love the broccoli flowers.
The time of year the buck’s start fighting for the right to engage the doe’s. Lisa was out early in the morning to take a few photos of the near full moon on the ridge and came across a large mule deer buck letting all the young bucks challenge him. He beat them all, however may have been too tired to seal the deal with the roaming doe’s.
‘Can’t everyone just get along.’ Being Hunting season it was a good thing for these guys Lisa just packs a Nikon instead of the old 30.30 Winchester rifle.
While watching the deer Lisa just about forgot about the moon. Luckily she caught it as it rolled along the ridge before dipping out of sight.
Backroads.
Lisa and Willow on this mornings walk.

shrooms

Lisa and I took a quick dash into the bush tonight to look for mushrooms. The weather has been damp and cool so we were hoping to have some luck. Sure enough, they are just starting to break through. We picked a handful, for supper. Most we had to brush the dirt off the tops. They are small and firm, and of the best quality. The soup is on the stove. When I take it off the heat I will add a couple tablespoons of brandy and Marsala and a little cream to finish the mushroom bisque.

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.

smoke

The smoke rolled in from the fires in Oregon and Northern California. BC’s largest forest fire is burning about 50km from us. It’s been burning for over a month, yet hasn’t generated much smoke. It is reported that most of the smoke is from the US. It is stifling, casting odd light and turning the sun red.

Reports say the end is nigh, and worse, we have done it to ourselves, but we still have time to repent. It sounds a lot like religious fervour to me. That it was something in our control. If we only voted this way or that, stopped using plastic bags, weened our way off oil and harnessed the power of wind.

All the while we live in the best time of human history, living to an age unheard of 200 years ago, where more than ever humankind has enough to eat and fresh water to drink. Where we get to contemplate our navel instead of worrying about what the predator under the rock will do to us.

We sure could do things better. It is a shame how we treat the Earth and each other. The Earth is turning. It’s had enough of our disrespect of the land and sky. But that’s only part of the story.

Shit is bad. It’s depressing, our leaders, internet and television try to make sense of it for us but they are empty idols. It will be something else, something we haven’t thought of yet, that will get us.

In the mean time lets stop racing around the bush in ATV’s, churning up the waters in motorboats, stop building second homes, tossing cigarettes out the window, letting meat go bad, blaming others, burning what we don’t need, considering we are hard done by, thinking we are bigger than the earth, killing each other over race, rioting even if deserved, a Molotov cocktail and teargas never solved nothing, either right or left can we agree we want our kids to grow up, be happy and live.

It is hard to know what is in store for us in this climate. We’re not calling the shots nor is any deity, voted in or conjured. My money is on sanity, objective thinking, clarity of purpose, ingenuity, and above all else love and humility.

Photos by Lisa and Bob