February Stars and Planets

_LME9609-Pano_smThe Milky Way over Columbia Lake. Venus can be seen over the ridge. Jupiter is above and to the right. Light pollution from the town of Canal Flats and atmospheric airglow contribute to the surreal colour. It should be noted these colours can not be seen by the eye but is recorded on the camera’s light sensitive sensor. 

It cleared up this weekend and only seemed fitting to get a few shots of the stars. Jupiter and Venus rise in the morning before dawn near the brightest part of the Milky Way, as viewed from this part of the Earth.

_LME9573-Pano.smThe Hoodoos and stars.

Lisa, Willow and I headed out in to the brisk -25 night. We drove south to Columbia Lake then walked to a bluff. The lake groaned below, the ice contracting in the cold. It is a sound I grew up with and always makes me feel good. I always thought it sounded like whales singing when I was a kid.

We had to wait for Jupiter and Venus to rise along with more of the Milky Way. Finally they were up. Luckily we weren’t yet frozen. Very fine morning.

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.

the rod and gun

lwr&gLake Windermere Rod and Gun centennial poster. 

The above Lake Windermere Rod and Gun poster caught my eye (not difficult as it was designed by Lisa). The poster is for their annual Banquet and Dance. This year the club is celebrating their 100 years anniversary of being in existence. To my knowledge they are the second oldest club in the Windermere Valley

The Rod and Gun does many worthwhile environmental projects throughout the valley and also espouses and teaches ethical hunting, fishing and gun safety to local youth and adults.

The picture on the poster is of A.M. Chisholm. I believe he was one of the founding members of the Rod and Gun.

Mr. Chisholm is posing with his very alert dog, which looks like a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The photo looks to have been taken at Tayton’s Bay on the shore of Lake Windermere in Invermere. 

Mr. Chisholm was a well read author and wrote several novels that were widely published at the time.

big rivers.jpgOne of Mr. Chisholm’s books, saved by my father.

My father, I believe, looked up to Mr. Chisholm and his writing prowess, as he kept one of his books until his death. He passed the book onto me along with many others. The book’s title is, The Land of Big Rivers. It was published in 1924, by Chelsea House of New York City.

In the photo on the poster Mr. Chisholm is cradling a double barrelled shotgun. It is the same shotgun my grandfather purchased from him. The shotgun was then handed down to my father.

By the time I came along the shotgun was no longer used, having been declared , ‘too old’, by my father. However, tho’ I never shot the gun, I was shot by it. . . and more than once. 

In a display of unsafe gun handling, my older brother would load it with nickels and shoot them at me. I would be told by my mother to go downstairs and call my brother for supper. I’d call from the top of the stairs and he wouldn’t answer, then I’d go down stairs, open his bedroom door and be looking down two large barrels. In hindsight, I am grateful he never mistook a nickel for a shot gun cartridge, which were everywhere in our house. My brother thought it was the funniest thing, and it was for that day and age.

wynanneMy sisters, Wynanne (tallest) and Deb (smiling, middle) with cousins Lloyd and Valerie after a successful duck hunt. Wynanne is holding the same shotgun.

My father handed the antique shotgun onto my Brother-In-Law Tim’s very capable hands. Also fitting as my sister Wynanne may have been the only one to ever fire the gun.

All the very best to the Lake Windermere Rod and Gun Club on their centennial.

Pussy Willows

rce_1838Fresh cut pussy willows for the studio.

This is a first. Pussy willows in January. Before this, the earliest I have seen them is mid-February. They appear much more commonly in March.

I wasn’t looking for them, it being too early. They just caught me eye. At first I thought they were ice or snow. It is hard to believe they are out so early.

This has been a strange year. Not only have we not had a cold streak of -20° for an extended period, we have not had much snow in the valley bottom.

The ice on the lake is also thinner than it is usually. There haven’t been many trucks or ice shacks on the surface. Nor has the Whiteway, a skating and skiing track on Lake Windermere, been able to open.

Last year near the end of February, after a warm spell, I convinced Lisa to come with me to look for pussy willows. She said we were too early and she was right, we didn’t find any. We were in the same spot I found this years. On the way back down the mountain I got the truck stuck and had to dig it out of the snow.

This year we can get higher into the mountains. There is still plenty of snow, but I suspect the snowpack is way down.

There is still lots of winter left and things could turn around. If not this will go down  as a very mild winter.

 

dog run

rce_1789smJake runs with Chewy. Dave looks on.

Dave, Jake and I thought it was about time we let the dogs get to know each other. Jake and Dave’s dog, Chewy, a purebred poodle is six months old, only a puppy. She is an intelligent specimen of the breed, with expressive eyes and smile if you can see through all the fur.

Willow wasn’t sure what to make of all the excitement. Jake and Chewy ran rampant. Taking turns knocking each other into the snowbank. Willow tried not to get trampled and had to give a snarl and nip on occasion.

rce_1815smJake sharpens the end of a stick. Regardless of age one must have something to run with.

Dave and I talked about people who have died recently. There has been quite a few. Local people. Winter can be hard on life. We are men after all, that’s why we talk, trying to be serious, knowing someday we will be the ones talked about.

rce_1793smJake commands.

In the meantime, it’s kids and grandkids, knee deep snow, colours dim but alive in winter’s waning  light and dogs running happy.

We all agreed, men, boy or dog, it’s hard to be serious when January feels like spring.

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.

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.