warriors

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It’s an imaginary world. Sometimes we’re deep in the bush other times dreaming at night.

Willow slept most of the day after the cold night. The cold can take it out of you. It’s like exercising without moving. It strips the body, leaving only what’s needed.

Being older, it takes on greater meaning. Sometimes wisdom is just concurrence letting things be. Then again, I’ve never been more prepared for a fight.  That’s the old man talking.

Cold water. Ice. Temperatures dipping. Snow. Knee deep. Frost bite. Dim light.

We’re all warriors until we slip on a patch of ice.

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.

Springtime in January

rce_1769The creek bottom. Red willow and mountain tops.

Such a nice day, Willow and I decided to spend the afternoon at the river. The snow is mostly gone from the valley bottom. It hovered around 3°c. I parked myself on a log. Willow carried sticks around. Dropping them near me and then standing in the river wanting me to throw them for her, which I did. She has me trained well.

rce_1772Willow packing her stick over the tracks. She always brings one back with her.

We watched a train go by. In honour of Jim from Iowa I counted the cars, 124 and two engines. Some of the cars had snow on them from coming through the Revelstoke pass. It has been a long time since I counted cars. It was a favourite pass time when I was a kid. Sometimes, I’d lose interest mid-train. Looking back I guess my attention span wasn’t too long. Or perhaps there was just so much to do on those tracks beside the river that I couldn’t wait to get at it.

rce_1767Locomotive.

Plenty of birds. I heard a woodpecker drumming, a Kingfisher rattling, a flock of Waxwings chirping, cleaning up rose hips in the wetlands. I saw none, but a lone Water Ouzel, dipping on the opposite shore, undisturbed by Willow and our juvenile stick antics.

rce_1764My log by the river, cleverly disguised with bad focus and light leaks.

The water was clear. I looked for fish. Perhaps they are still on schedule, considering it’s only January.

rce_1756The old pontoon bridge. A long ago used drunken shortcut from The National in Radium to home in Wilmer.

If this keeps up there will be pussy willows by February. Very fine day/

rce_1760It still looks snowy up Forster.

Christmas Cake

_LME9532A Christmas treat!

There is nothing like a good Christmas Cake, full of nutrition and a TINY bit of booze. It has everything in it to sustain a person doing hard labour or recreating in the mountains, skiing and hiking. It has the power to keep the cold away and get you back on your feet to finish the trek to the top of the ridge or through the deep snow on the way back home. It has even been used to aid in dragging deer through the bush. Thus is the power of the Christmas Cake.

Some people call it fruit cake, but I prefer Christmas Cake because my mother would make them in November and we couldn’t try them until Christmas, plus they always seem like a gift.

My Mother took pride in her wonderful Christmas Cakes. They were always baked in round pans with choice ingredients and wrapped in cheesecloth and a tea towel. The cloth was pulled back and the cakes were regularily soaked with booze. Brandy was used mostly, but I can remember whiskey, sherry and Grand Marnier were also used. I remember my mother saying it was important to get them properly soaked.

About five years ago, it could be ten the way they are flying by, my sister Deb started making Christmas Cakes from my mother’s old recipe that was written down with some of her other recipes and notes. They were every bit as good as my Mother’s, even better because I didn’t have my father rationing it out to me like it was the last water on a life raft stranded in the middle of the Pacific.

_LME9523 A gift in a dented tin!

This year my other sister Wynanne decided to make the Christmas Cakes. Now Wynanne is an absolutely awesome cook! Her meals are legendary among the family. Her children Christian and Meagan and husband Tim have been treated to many wonderful meals. Whenever I make something I haven’t made before I always phone her and ask advice.

But could she make a Christmas Cake that could stand up to my Mother’s and Deb’s?

It’s a lot of pressure. It should come easy to someone with as fine a culinary skills as Wynanne’s, but with Christmas Cake who knows! Never mind such legendary cakes!

First she had to deal with the recipe itself. Stained and worn, and I am sure, not very detailed. Luckily, Wynanne had the presence of mind to phone Deb and say that she though SEVEN cups of butter was too much.

Deb righted what could have been a disaster and told Wynanne it was seven ounces, not seven cups. They had a good laugh over the stained recipe and what could have been some pretty greasy Christmas Cakes. It seems fitting my sister’s laughing over my mother’s recipe, as my mother could always laugh up a storm. I imagined her laughing along with them.

As promised I received my cake just after Christmas. On opening the heavy tin the smell of boozy cake enveloped my senses. It was everything I remembered as good and fine. I unwrapped it carefully., first the tea towel and then the cheese cloth. It was the perfect colour, dark, nothing like some of the store bought ones.

_LME9524Unwrapping the bounty!

Then the moment of truth, the first bite. It was excellent. Every bit as good as I can remember. Thick cake holding the nuts and candied fruit together, all inebriated in a good soaking of booze.

I sprinkled on another layer of booze before rewrapping and putting it away. Christmas Cake must be continuously hydrated if it is going to last the year (this one won’t). 

_LME9533It ain’t gonna last!

Now I have to start rationing myself. The pieces start off big and get smaller as the cake gets smaller. By the end I’m like my father on the life raft. It, at least, has to last to the end of March and the end of the cold weather.

Wynanne lived up to her Mum and sister Deb. Not that there was ever a doubt.

What a wonderful gift. I’ll enjoy it in the bush and while working. Sometimes you get lucky.

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.