To look at the stars is to be amazed. In this day and age we know the science of astronomy. We know distances and the difference between planets and stars. You can steer a ship, plant a garden and set our calendar by them. If we have something in common with every generation going back to the beginning of man it is the stars. To look at the stars among the trees and mountains on a dark night, to feel those pin pricks of light flow through, as they have done and will continue, is to feel lucky.
A quiet morning walk. Orion is up. Mars is red between the red giants Aldebaran and Betelgeuse. To set your eyes on them is to get your bearings. To realize the biggest and fastest is only because it’s closest. An optical illusion.
The cemetery is dark. I know my way around. The tourists still haven’t blocked Mom and Dad’s view. They used to dig the graves here, a chore given to them by my Grandfather, for extra money after the war. They will be the last of us buried here. Lake view even for the dead has skyrocketed.
It’s an easy walk under the stars.
Summer is about to shut the door. I’ll miss the women in shorts, it was worth the long way home, down main by the tourist shops.
Still, the coolness is a gentle salve. Much more important at my age.
Damn it feels good. The cooler weather has been a welcome reprieve. It’s still warm for this time of year. Waking to cool air has been nice. Pretty soon we will be ‘fighting for warmth’. That’s what my son Hunter calls it, when you pull the covers over your head, and flex your muscles to keep warm. Probably why many families in the old days had so many kids before central heating.
The summers are trying, heat and tourists. Lisa and I thought it would be funny if fifty years from now, people looked at the large second homes and thought, ‘Damn, what were these folks thinking? Global warming and not an inkling of thought to try and cut back. Can you imagine the energy used to heat that monstrosity?’
It will probably never happen. The final answer to the pickle we are in will have to protect the richest. Otherwise it would have been solved long ago. It’s not that hard really.
We had breakfast behind Swansea. We took a spur away from the ruck. Plenty of bear shit on the road, they are also trying to avoid the crowds.
Even wondering cutblocks, climbing logging roads, looking for dead snags, a chicken or two crossing the road, washouts, Lisa and I looking at each other in glances, her saying, ‘you should put it in 4 wheel drive,’ and me saying, ‘I’ll put it in four wheel when we’re stuck.’
I used your old recipe tonight. Do you remember Dad hiding the Huckleberry Grand Marnier Preserves in the stair well? He hid it so you wouldn’t give it away. Thats good jam!
I put in more berries and less sugar, you know it, I doubled the Grand Marnier.
It was a good berry year. Lisa and I were up hell-and-gone filling buckets.
When you said 5 and a half cups of huckleberries I figured you meant six.
I know you weren’t much for following recipes.
The place is different now. Dad would have gone crazy, crazier, I mean.
You might like it. Plenty more people. Just as many scrambling as there used to be.
Just like back then, it is almost impossible to help them no matter how hard you try. Now it is more evident. Not that you would have quit trying.
My writing doesn’t try to save, It fights a losing battle. I try to remember, what you said, about the reason to write at all, to mend. To come half way.
I imagine you giving up your painting and photography for that half way promise you gave to your distracted partner, your daughters and sons.
Your favourite died last fall. Ron passed, he was ready, he’d lived several lifetimes.
I opened a bag of sugar, stored in the basement, it was full of ants. Little ones. If I was making the jam for just me I would have cooked them up, Instead I threw the sugar away. Such waste.
Luckily the sugar upstairs was ant free, It’s still good here ants or not.
I don’t want to tell you about all the changes, some would make you sad. The huckleberries still grow on the slides and cutblocks. Invermere still holds council but no one cares they line their own pockets. It’s little fish now.
Times don’t matter like they used to. The past is gone. The future is hazy, dependant on what we can’t control.
I boiled the huckleberries, hard, for a good minute. I don’t want stiff jam or syrup.
It’s hard to know how it will turn out regardless of attention.
I should tell you about your great grandchildren. You have a slew of them:
Grace, a beautiful young women who looks like you and Wynanne.
April, a free spirit who holds her head up regardless of company.
Kyler, passionate, still trying to figure out right from wrong.
Bellle, named after you, she has a soul you are probably talking to right now.
Cooper, a tender, gifted young boy that loves hard. You may have to help me with him
Scarlett, an artist, who loves to laugh, and when she laughs it fills the room.
Koehyn, the youngest of your great grandchildren, I am told he is a rambunctious little guy.
The jam is cooling. I followed some of the recipe.
The weed is coming. Same as the cabbage. It’s a good thing it grows from the inside out, all the grasshoppers and wasps grabbing a drink from the big leaves will be left outside. Once cool comes they will take off, the wasps will be slow by then.
The carrots are harder than a stripped turtles back. Somehow, this year, so far, the skin on the ripe tomatoes is thin. The spuds are plenty, thou I worry about them drying in this weather. It used to be they would grow into October. We would sort them and put them in gunny sacks for winter.
Times have surely changed. It’s tough to defend the old ways. They weren’t good that’s for sure. Not sure why I keep a foot back there.
Still that’s where my foot planted feels most at home.
The creek hasn’t changed. I can carry anyone off the ridge and down the mountain if need be. Don’t ask for a drink of tea or rest.
The garden is peaceful, same as the mountains, the sun sets in the same spot, but looks different every time.
The heat refuses to let up. The sky is blue with a thin haze of smoke. The garden is still going strong. Every blade of grass in our yard is dead and crispy to the delight of the grasshoppers. It is a chore just trying to keep water on the garden.
A few weeks ago, newspapers quit delivering to the valley. We used to get The Calgary Sun, The Calgary Herald, The National Post and The Globe and Mail. My sister Deb and I miss the Globe.
I am yet to subscribe to the web version of the Globe, but may have too. I subscribe to the web version of The New York Times which I enjoy very much. I also regularly read CBC News, Global, BBC, CNN and Fox.
CNN and Fox are a source of humour as they are not even reporting from the same planet. It is crazy the spin they put on current affairs. They do, however, accurately demonstrate the left/right divide in the United States.
Recently, a young housekeeper I work with was bitten by something while sleeping at staff quarters. The first time their elbow blew up to about twice its size. They were justifiably alarmed. A few days later they were bitten again below the knee and it started to swell. Everyone suggested they see a doctor.
As doctors are not available at clinics without an appointment they went to emergency at the local hospital. They waited 6 hours without seeing a doctor. A nurse suggested they go home and come back if it got worse.
Some bites can be dangerous without treatment. Just ask the Good Neighbour who was bitten by a spider and had blood poisoning for over a year. I can’t help but feel this housekeeper was treated this way because they were young and poor.
I remember a time when Lisa was in emergency with a broken wrist. Her wrist was being set by a hungover intern (they admitted being hungover due to a Grey Cup party). The doctor on duty at the time had the reputation of being one of the worst in the valley. There were several other people waiting to be cared for, when all of a sudden the emergency room was alive with commotion. Doctors and nurses running hither and yon just like you see on TV when they bring in a shooting victim. Only this time it was an Invermere big shot businessman brought in by his wife.
Lisa was asked to give up the gurney she was on for the mortally wounded. We know him well and thought he must have been shot or having a heart attack. Lisa gave up the gurney willingly. We asked his young wife what had happened to him. It turns out he fell off the last step of his stairs.
The very next day I looked out my office window and there he was walking down the road like nothing happened.
Lisa on the other hand had to have her cast redone, because it had been put on improperly. She was later told by a competent doctor that she should have had surgery as the wrist bone had been broken right through. Her wrist still gives her trouble.
Anybody who thinks all people in Canada have equal access to healthcare are mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for being able to access any kind of healthcare. We’re lucky, it’s just some people are more lucky than others.
There is a few fires burning around us. The smoke hasn’t been too bad so far. We are fortunate considering how hot it’s been.
Lisa and I had eye exams in Cranbrook. We also had a service on the truck.
Cranbrook is a small city with a Walmart, mall, superstore and other box stores. I visited the garden centre even though I didn’t need anything.
It is not the nicest city. A large strip of businesses leading to a downtown that tries to hide the dilapidation. Much different then the tourist trap we live in. Not many Alberta plates.
I did notice the people. They were hardened. Overweight, limping; many I could tell were homeless. A homeless camp is behind the garden centre. Invermere would quickly run these folks out of town, ‘bad for business’ the higher ups would say.
Every small city across Canada is the same. In Invermere the people are tourists. They are the wealthy from Alberta. They are fit and healthy.
A store clerk once told me they can always spot a tourist, because they look healthier than locals.
Locals making minimum wage and living in overcrowded staff houses just don’t have the same resources. No matter what we pretend as Canadians.
Lisa and I will eventually be pushed out of our home to make way for more tourists and second home owners. It is inevitable as we will not be able to afford the escalating assessments and taxes. We will probably head to Cranbrook and join the good people.
It’s funny, Invermere is actually becoming a small city and will eventually lose its charm with tourists. We are already busy building our own strip with box stores and polluting the lake.
Perhaps we will get lucky like Cranbrook and be abandoned by tourists so we can limp around, overweight, getting by on minimum wage, sickly and drunken in the place we love the most.
Probably should have spent more time figuring things out on earth instead of looking at clouds and stars. Rivers of fish hiding behind every rock. To see it on ground you have to see it above.
Plenty of folks say God is up there. Looking down. Religion, and lately, science casts judgement with offers of redemption.
The sky is full of giant birds spreading their wings, prehistoric animals, white water fast and falling, chimneys puffing and faces that can’t be quite made out. Ghosts maybe.
Perhaps God took off and who could blame him.
I said to my daughter, ‘Do you see that elephant?’
She looked up and said, ‘Yes, I do.’
It felt good, even if I should have taught her different.
Spent a relaxing day in the garden. Pulled the pea vines. The peas were great this year. We even froze a few bags for winter.
The grasshoppers are sure at it. Luckily they haven’t done much damage to the garden.
A young buck came around trimming the flowers and stepping on the plants, breaking off a prized patty pan squash.
Plenty of deer around for this time of year.
A half waxing moon came up in broad daylight. The sky was blue and lent the perfect backdrop.
My proposal for a new week is; Saturday and Sunday off, Monday and Tuesday on, Wednesday off, Thursday and Friday on. 2 off 2 on 1 off 2 on, AKA 2 2 1 2. Hump day is now a mini weekend. I say fuck the 5 day work week.