Toby Creek

RCE_4985It doesn’t look like much, but Toby Creek used to flood the entire business district of the Valley. With plenty of bulldozers it’s path was changed to a less harmful route. I still look for signs of the delta it once cut running into Windermere Lake and the Columbia, instead of the gravel pit it runs through now.

It will be an odd Easter weekend. All of our kids will be staying put, isolating in their houses in Calgary. Lisa and I will miss them. Of course, we understand the necessity of social distancing. We are planning a group Facetime session. We have a turkey in the freezer that we plan on cooking. It should keep us fed for awhile. 

All the talk about our social responsibility and the importance of staying home still hasn’t sunk in for many Albertans as they clamour into the valley. Entitlement pure and simple. Many have gone on line to remind us they built our area, including our small hospital, and how we would be nothing without them. It’s not surprising – I’ve heard it all my life. Meanwhile my children stay away from their home, knowing this is bigger then them. We miss them but are proud of their resolve.

I was disheartened by Prime Minister Trudeau’s address today. He didn’t pull any punches, delivering news of mass unemployment, how many infections and deaths Canada can expect, also stating how long we may have to endure the isolation and social distancing measures. It was sobering.

British Columbia has done a good job and been lucky at flattening the curve. Part of that is we had a later school spring break than other provinces. 

Hand dug about half the garden. Transferred the seedlings into pots. Some things are still normal.

Spring

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Slept in and had the moon damn near go down without my witness. Dug part of the garden, mixing in some manure. The seedlings are coming up and giving me anxiety, because I hate caring for young plants. If I had my way I would just buy the plants I need. I feel sorry for the seeds that fall into my hands.

Once the moon was down the sun was shining on the western mountains. It would be so much easier if everything was opposite. Like today. The moon goes down and the sun comes up. Of course it doesn’t work that way most of the time.

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Once the moon was down a Cooper’s Hawk landed above. I think Willow and the bird were working in cohoots. Willow was ripping open rotten logs looking for mice. Almost all were skedaddling out, oblivious to Willow, but obvious to the hawk.

Damn saddened by the passing of John Prine. He sure has given me some good times. I used to play him all the time driving the backroads with a beer in my hand.

we got history

_LME4923.smBird’s Eye.

It’s quiet. Just like I remember it. Tough to get over the eery part though. We’re so used to the valley full of tourists. Second home owners coming out to their big homes, investments they say. Or cabins; now that’s a joke.

_LME4916.smBruce Street. Downtown Invermere, BC  Canada.

Do I miss them? My job for the last few years depends on them. Still, to see the downtown deserted, it’s like turning back time. I can see my brother and I running through those streets jumping and touching the swinging signs, falling off bicycles, busted for smoking pot that couldn’t get an astronaut high. Drinking was our thing. It delivered.

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Maurice’s Food Basket. Mom would have drove through the front window, if it weren’t for a telephone pole right out front. My best friend, a couple years older than me, lived up top. He busted me open with a two-by-four. I just about cut his head off when I threw an old licence plate at him. I quit hanging around with him when he reached puberty. He wanted me to play with his cock. He said, pretend it’s a gear shift. I knew he wasn’t going to pretend he was a car.

After this is over, are we going to go back to the way things were? Getting on planes? Pretending we are explorers in foreign countries that see us as tourists. Are we going to burn gasoline tearing up the backcountry? Going where we figure. Are the art shops going to make a living selling egg carton caterpillars?

_LME4936.smThe Mercantile. Lisa and I used to pick out our school clothes without our parents present. All we had to do was sign for them. Our parents would settle it later.

It’s no different now then then. We don’t now what we are fighting for or against. Hopefully history spares our town.

_LME4928.smThe Toby Theatre and Cenotaph. Who has grown up here and not taken a drink or smoked a joint at the Cenotaph, it’s a right of passage, goddammit! And the Toby where I watched whatever was showing, everything from True Grit to Linda Lovelace for President. I even threw up on the floor, in the lobby, when my brother gave me too many Bugles.  I can still remember how good it felt eating them and how bad the aftermath looked. I’m still not sure who had to clean that up.

oh Canada

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Interesting times indeed. I’ve never had much good to say about the government, the people that work in it or politicians of any stripe or size. Unfortunately, these are the people we are told we must rely on during this crisis.

Lisa lost her job a little over a week ago, she won’t be getting it back even when the lock down passes. The business she worked for was one hanging be a thread at the best of times, it probably won’t reopen and if it does it will be at a diminished capacity. Fortunately the owners are wealthy and don’t need the income, the business was more of a hobby for them.

Even though she worked for over seven years for the company, she won’t receive a dime of severance. Since there is no jobs available she will apply for Employment Insurance (EI) that she has paid into since she was fourteen. So far she hasn’t been able to get through to file a claim. This is understandable considering what Canada is experiencing.

I was on EI once. Many years ago the company I was working for told me in November they would try but most likely not be able to keep me on during the winter months due to lack of work. Since it was November, I thought I would be proactive and apply for Employment Insurance, something I also had paid into since I was fourteen. 

I was accepted, however, I never collected a cent, because I continued to work. I kept the claim open in the event of shortage of work. This is something just about every support worker in the school system does to collect EI during Spring, Summer, and Christmas breaks. I worked for the school system for many years and saw people do this regularly.

After about a month of being on EI I was phoned by a government agent who told me there was plenty of work in the oil industry and I should move to Alberta and get a job there. 

She was daft to the fact I hadn’t collected on my claim and was still working. After talking to her for some time I realized she was like most government workers – incompetent. I cancelled my claim right there and then and told her I would never file again. She was happy with that. She figured her job was done.

Before I hung up I asked her how I was picked to be harassed, she said they pick people with EI claims by random.

I have relayed my experience to many people who rely on EI regularly and not one has shared my experience. I guess I was just unlucky. Of course after the claim was cancelled I lost my job for several months due to shortage of work. I ended up doing what I could to make ends meet.

***

The place I work has laid almost everybody off due to the virus, I have been kept on three days a week. That could change tomorrow. If I get laid off completely I will not be filing for EI. I will do anything to make a buck and get by, just like I always have.

I feel sorry for people who think they can rely on government during this difficult time, it is filled with the worst workers with the most advantages in Canada. Every time I see our Prime Minister preening for the camera, or our Mayor warning people, in dulcet tones, not to flush rags or wipes into the municipal sewer system, I feel sickened.

I want bugger all from government other than a half assed road and water in the tap, not much to ask considering the high taxes we pay. Taxes, I should stress, I have always paid, never hiding income, always playing by the rules and even speaking out, on every available occasion, against the widely practised ‘under the table’ economy in Canada.

What I ask in return is for the government to get out of the way and stop making life more difficult for the people they supposedly serve.

trouble down below

_LME4835-smThe spring Milky Way over a frozen lake.

This isolating, quarantining, whatever you want to call it is going to kill me. Lisa and I have been looking at each other with tiger eyes. Luckily she knows how to run away from me. I shaved my beard, that made Lisa happy. Lisa says I have Ron Duguay hair and Bobby Clark’s smile, her two favourite hockey players growing up. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If it means me not putting my teeth in so be it.

The valley bottom is all upset, yet the sky still marks time and reminds us where we stand. I feel comfort in that.

Once this is all over, I’m going to get in shape so I can catch Lisa anytime I want. Till then, fortunately, she pretends to trip up once and awhile.

late march

RCE_4780Taking a turn at the look out.

It’s been trying and we haven’t been locked up like some.

We hiked the east side of Columbia Lake. Where the mighty river starts. I’ve never seen where the Columbia turns huge before it spills into the Pacific. Where Salmon run before being turned back by hydro-electric dams. I prefer it up here in the hills.

RCE_4755Pictograph from another time.

The frost is below six inches of soil. Another week and the ground can be worked. I’ve started a few seeds inside. I worry for them as I am a lazy gardener, preferring plants outside.

RCE_4817Getting ready for war.

Most people I know have lost their jobs. Some small businesses may never reopen. It’s always close to the vest even in the best of times.

RCE_4812If only we could read.

We scrambled up into the rocks to an ancient cave where we couldn’t discern the writing. Where battles were recorded. Where people watched loved ones stolen or killed. Where Eagles swooped above goats, knocking newborn kids off ledges to jagged rocks below.

RCE_4770If we had a choice to come back.

The rhubarb is showing. It will be welcome.

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sparrow

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Strange days have found us. Still the birds sing, and why shouldn’t they? 

For them it’s business as usual. Singing for a mate. The ground is softening up, tempting a few seeds sown. My guess is the garlic, planted in fall, will be the first to show. 

The skies are exceptionally clear and blue. Snow is in every shaded crook and cranny. The roads will rise and fall as frost retreats. 

If this keeps up, I’m going to appreciate less tourists racing around. Then again, we will have to get used to less money, gardens being raided, watching for spring time cress and saving our energy.

Just like the Song Sparrow, we have been put on alert.