Late November

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A proud raven, with a shiny red piece of meat in it’s beak, flew and perched on our roof. I distracted Willow, so she wouldn’t see, but she caught a whiff. The barking started, the raven took off into the grey November sky. 

Used the last of the summer onions today. The ones I plucked out of the dry earth when the sky was shrouded in smoke from forest fires. They were tucked away and it was lucky I’d found them.

We still have plenty of beets, spuds, carrots, garlic and smoke. The firewood is also plenty, more than holding up.

November, when the ground is either froze or not, can be harsh. The light continues to diminish, colours disappear and are replaced by grey. It can rain or snow and footing must be tested.

There’ll come a day, sure as hell, we’ll suffer shortages.  But for now, thank God, it’s only money.

***

Rode into the bush tonight just to make sure the stars were still up there. It’s been awhile since the sky has cleared. Sure enough there they were between breaks in the clouds. They were all out of place from the last time I looked. It is reassuring to become aligned once again.

We were treated to two owls hooting back and forth. The one who started first sounded like a dog barking. Willow’s hackles went up. Her circle got smaller and she barked back. Then another owl started. It was the the barking owl, the barking dog and then the hooting owl, over and over, for about ten minutes. Finally, between the three of them, they must have worked out their differences and stopped the chatter. Quiet returned. Willow’s circle grew.

***

Down in the valley or up in the mountains, at my age, I’m lucky, I walk where I want, I’m either not worth the bother or too much trouble. Willow stays alert just in case my bluff is called.

Fall

maddy

It was my little girls birthday today. It is hard to believe she is grown up. I remember her having a hard time breathing after she was born. And later how stubborn she was. She could dig her heals in.

In all this time past she has grown into a beautiful, confident young women, while I’ve stayed the same, still worrying about my children, while they console me, never growing a year older or wiser. That’s time for you.

It’s been steady rain for most of the day. Willow and I walked off the mountain in it. It’s warm not close to snow yet. More summer than winter.

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Joy and Ray

_LME8410smRay Crook and Joy Bond

It’s not everyday you get invited to a 100th birthday celebration. It is especially rare to be celebrating two 100th birthdays at one party!

Joy Bond and Ray Crook are both lifelong residents of Invermere and the Columbia Valley. Their birthdays are within a week of each other. Today, among friends, family and provincial and federal dignitaries they celebrated their birthdays at the old Invermere CPR building.

_LME8393.smRay and Joy with Brianna Rota, representing Kootenay-Columbia federal MLA Wayne Stetski, and Columbia River-Revelstoke provincial MLA Doug Clovechok.

Lisa and I were born in the valley so we know Joy and Ray and all they have contributed to making this area so special.

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Joy is an active member of the Windermere Valley Historical Society. She still cares for a large garden and delivers vegetables to people without a garden.

I spent a lot of time on Lake Windermere in the winter. Mrs. Bond was a wonderful skater and we would meet often and share a few words. I believe she skated and skied into her 80’s.

Ray lives down the street from us and we talk often. I am always amazed at his ability to recall the early days. His father sold my grandfather his first house in Windermere when he arrived back in the valley after WWI.

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He told me about cutting trail in Kootenay National Park with my father. How they were chased by a moose and later had to cut a large fallen spruce blocking the trail into Flo Lake.

To have two original citizens of a town the size of Invermere turn 100 in the same week has to be some kind of a record.

There is nothing that can be said or written to sum up such wonderful and full lives.

Lisa and I wish Joy and Ray many more years of health, happiness and peace.

mid august

RCE_0992-Pano.an.smGreen skyglow above the smoke.

It’s green that gives me the most problems. It all looks the same to me. It’s shapes that I look for. Shapes that don’t fit the landscape. That’s the way I was taught to hunt. Looking for curve of antler or back bone sideways instead of up and down. Green gets in the way.

It’s said we see green better than other colours, because from an evolutionary standpoint humans eat plants having to recognize the difference between the edible and the ones that were poison. Our enemies stand out in green. The snake and saber tooth tiger are clocked in a second across the green landscape.

I’m looking forward to fall. When the green turns. It’s already underway. To winter. Long underwear, white and grey, wood on the fire and cooking inside.

***

The smoke is bad. I think of my father, during these times, not being able to breath because of emphysema. The mountains obscured. The sun orange all day, disappearing before it goes below the horizon. The moon, waxing gibbous, never appeared. The good neighbours lights fogged over.

Even the great power denial can’t clear the skies.

Garden

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Crazy light when the smoke is thick. It’s like living in a greenhouse, hotter than hell, but no direct sunlight and no shadows.

Willow is hot yet game. She found a mouse under a boulder today. She couldn’t get at it so stripped all the vegetation around the rock. By the time we left, she was panting and the rock looked, out of place, like an astroid that fell from the sky. Luckily the mouse escaped unharmed, it probably has a major case of PTSD.

The garden is dry but chugging along. The spuds are good this year. The tomatoes are small but plentiful. They are coming ripe daily. The kale is still sweet and tender. The cabbage has formed nice heads and will do most of the growing in the fall.

 

Wind and smoke

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My good friend Dave texted me from Radium. He said a storm was blowing through. At the time, we had a light, steady, hot breeze coming from the south. Radium is ten miles north so I didn’t give it another thought.

Thirty minutes later the direction changed and a helluva wind was blowing from the north. Willow sat out side, on guard, like nothing was happening. Branches snapped off  and shingles went flying by.

Instead of calling her in I sat with her. It was a helluva storm for the valley bottom. Once the wind slowed a rumble of thunder started, got louder and lightening went straight down finding the ground.

It was all accompanied by a few raindrops. Not good for the dry conditions. If somebody asked me if the weather has changed from when I was a youngster, I’d say, we get more wind. It sure dries the land out.

Once passed, Willow and I walked around picking up branches, beer tins, and plastic garbage bags. The sunflowers were sideways but standing. The squash leaves were heading south, revealing a couple big ones I didn’t even know I had.

The night is smoked over. The wind only made it worse. There will be no Perseids for us.

_LME8251Sage, lavender and thyme sticks in Lisa’s pine needle basket.

garden

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Cooper and I pulled the peas on Friday night. They were ready to come out. We saved some dry wrinkled pods for next season,

On Saturday morning we made Huckleberry Jam. I never make enough to really feel comfortable that it will turn out. The berries are hard to come by this year.

Later we dug the garlic. It was a heck of a job under the sun. We laid them to dry on a canvas tarp. We tried to find shade but there wasn’t any.

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On Sunday we went to the the drugstore and bought a toothbrush to clean the dirt off the garlic. We trimmed the beards and cut their necks. They looked good. Copper negotiated a good deal for his Mom and Dad. At first I said only one clove. The next thing I knew they are going home with pounds.

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It’s been warm. I look at the edges. The leaves dyeing, yellowing under the plants. The cool that hits before light. The squash that puts out. The snakes that scatter near the railway. The plants that don’t belong, but thrive. The shore line, altered, but still recognizable.

It always makes me wonder. The clock, the river, sun up, the stars, all that. Times have changed. No matter how hard I close my eyes and imagine, it will never go back to the way it was.

That’s a goddamn good thing.

Diving off the clay banks into the young Columbia. Swimming among the weeds.

Cooper and Scarlett hold my hands while they walk. I want to both protect them and set them free.