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Friday, December 25, 2009

May angels attend thee

this was one of the first pictures taken several years ago, when i bought my fabulous digital SLR camera.  taken at the annual christmas tree festival, in the small town where i lived at the time.  beautifully decorated trees are donated, and sold by silent auction, to raise funds for the palliative care facility at the local hospital.  a worthy cause, and a very pleasant event. 

my students and i would set up in a corner, and play christmas music for the event.  a pleasant gig. i confess to a little nostalgia.  the months before christmas were a blur this year, with none of it having to do with christmas, and not a single christmas gig all season.  my family drew names this year, so i did my christmas shopping in an hour, after i closed the ReStore @ noon on christmas eve, and before i went home to make tourtierre for the traditional family christmas eve feast.  tourtierre is a french-canadian meat pie, best known in quebec.  we have no connection to all of that -  i tried a recipe one christmas eve on  a whim, and we all loved it, so it became a family tradition.   i think the name drawing may become a regular thing too.... it was pleasant to  have just one gift to come up with. i hate shopping

merriest of christmases to friends in blogland.  may your christmas be one of peace and fulfillment, surrounded by those you love.  and may we all find new gifts and ways to give them, that we may leave the world a better place for having been here. 


Monday, December 14, 2009

When Flora met the Elephants

i have this artist friend, named Flora. i wrote a story about her a while ago.  there are many stories about Flora. she's a fascinating person with a fascinating background.  a gifted artist with a constantly questioning mind.   

Flora was also a teacher at that time. she taught classes in our local fine arts centre for years.  though she's highly proficient in many media, her greatest love is for clay - especially hand built, raku fired clay.   some of my most satisfying memories involve standing in the cool and dark of a northern summer evening, gazing up at the stars while warming to the red heat of an outdoor barrel kiln.  cautiously peeking in to see if the pieces inside were ready.... then fearfully grasping them with long tongs and plunging them in tubs of dry leaves, grass, newspapers - anything that would burn quickly - to smoulder and transform into magical irridescent and metallic  textural colors and bottomless blacks.  but that's another story.

on this particular September day, Flora was at the pottery studio waiting for a class to walk the several blocks down the street from the nearby elementary school, for their clay building class. it was an unusually warm day, for September in northern Alberta.  she was having a quick smoke out back, finding the inner stillness to face a room of 20 pre-adolescents.  there was a tennis court, enclosed by a chain link fence between her and the town's arena, across an alley.  

and between the tennis court and the arena was a teenage boy, with 2 elephants. one was standing, the other lying quietly on the grass. elephants, whether standing or lying down, are not what one normally expects to see in the alley behind the local arena in a northern Alberta town.    so, Flora, being blessed with an overabundance of curiosity, and no less nerve, dropped her cigarette to the ground, crushed it beneath her beat up tennis shoe to extinguish it, and took a stroll in their direction.   

approaching from the opposite direction - from inside the arena, was a man.  an agitated man.  by the time Flora was close enough to hear the conversation, the man and the teenaged boy were engaged in a heated argument. it went something like this.  

"..... that elephant a bath.  she's a mess.  can't i trust you to do one simple job without...."

at which point, the boy,  by now equally, if not more agitated, replied, reaching down to grasp the ear of the prone elephant, who was not in the least agitated. he shouted, "look at these ears!  do you see these enormous ears?  with ears this size, you'd think she'd hear me, but she doesn't. she won't LISTEN to me, Dad! i've been telling her to get up for half an hour and she IGNORES me, Dad!   

so, while the gentleman spoke firmly to the elephant, who immediately, though unhurriedly rose to her feet, Flora, masterfully stifling the grin that she feared would insult the boy, cleared her throat and waited for them to notice her.   

it was a circus, of course, that she'd not known was coming to town.  run by this family - father and mother, several teenaged sons, some aunts, uncles and cousins.   the elephant in question was called Bella, and she had her own ideas about how the universe should be run.   

Flora is an amazing teacher.  this means she is also a lifelong student.  she sees everything that happens around her as an opportunity to learn, and to teach.  having real, live elephants in back of the studio was something too good to miss, so she persuaded the gentleman in charge that she could bring the class of kids now arriving at her clay studio to meet the elephants.  he made it clear that the children must be inside the tennis court's chain link fence at all times. there could be no risk of injury to anyone on either side.  this was agreed on.  it amused Flora that the humans were to be in a cage, while the 'dangerous animals' were able to move freely outside of it.  

20 pre-teen kids spent an hour touching (through the chain link fence) stroking, smelling and listening to 2 elephants. first they talked to the boy, and his younger brother, who soon joined them. they watched them bathe Bella, asked them what it was like growing up in the circus.  when they got more confident, they pelted the boys' father, who was the circus ringmaster, with questions about the animals, how they were cared for, where they lived in the winter, what they ate, how they were trained....  and they learned more about elephants than they thought they'd ever want to know.  they were surprised to learn how important foot care is to an elephant's overall health.  a small foot injury can mean death to an elephant.  they learned about elephant families.  these two were mother and child, though both were adults.  they timidly touched the elephant's trunk and saw, from inches away, how dextrous and gentle it was.  they learned about the intelligence and faithfulness of elephants.  

and, best of all, they got to watch an elephant take a dump.   bombs the size of cantaloupes.  

so, after the kids had all been herded out and sent back to school without so much as opening a package of clay, Flora  pointed to a warm and most fragrant lump of steaming green. a monstrous elephant pellet.  she  asked the gentleman,

"what are you going to do with that?"

he gave her a strange, sideways glance, and replied, "I'm going to clean it up."

"Well, yes, but where are you going to put it?" 

"in the garbage bin over there"

"Can i have it? I'll clean it up."

another strange sideways look.  "sure, lady.  come on back after the show starts."

so, a few hours later, Flora wiped the clay from her hands as she stepped out back for a smoke.  she listened to the music and the swell of applause, as she went back inside for some big green garbage bags.  there was enough to fill several of them, but she had to use more. the stuff was too heavy to fill a bag with. she didn't to end up wearing it as she carried it to her van.   

Flora lives on a quarter section of land outside town.  country life was a lifelong dream of her husband, but it was a new experience for all of them.  they'd been joined on 'the farm' over the summer by a couple of sheep, a riding horse, and a big, friendly dog.  Flora had planted her first garden.  it hadn't done well.  from all the work she'd put into it, she'd harvested a few salads, a handful of peas, a few carrots the size of her little finger, and enough potatoes to las a week, tops.  the beans were a complete bust.   the farmer next door told her the soil was depleted. she needed to get some manure.  

Flora smiled as she lugged the bags from the van. well, had she EVER got some manure! She dumped the gift from the elephants around the garden, spread it a bit with the shovel still stuck in the ground in the corner of the remains of the pumpkin vines. well, maybe they were pumpkin vines. they hadn't produced anything resembling a pumpkin before the frost turned them to mush. then she went up the hill to the house, got on with things and gave not another thought to the garden till spring.  

the first snows came early that year.   and the snow just kept coming, month after month.  this was good, because the previous year had been very dry.  in spring things melted slowly. the thirsty earth took a long, slow, deep drink and there was hardly any runoff.  Flora noticed one warm spring evening as she drove up the drive on her way home from teaching, that the neighbor had been by with his cultivator and done the garden for her.  "i love living here," she thought.  we have the best neighbors. the leaves were just beginning to unfurl along the drive. she'd be planting the garden soon. maybe this weekend.  

the phone was ringing when she walked in the house.  it was Joe, the good neighbor.   

"thanks for doing the garden, Joe. it looks great. is it too early to plant the potatoes this weekend?"

"naw. should be fine. you're welcome.  that was one heckuva job, tilling your plot.  stunk to high heaven.  and there were these huge lumps of stuff. what did you put in there?  elephant s***t?"

then she remembered.  grinning from ear to ear, knowing full well he wouldn't believe her, she answered, "well, yeah!"

true story.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our hands describe who we are

i have a thing about hands.  one day, i'd like to do a series of portraits of hands.... fresh, pudgy baby hands, gnarled and twisted century-old hands... and every variation between.  

so, i have this friend who's a photographer, and i asked him to take some pictures of me.  the thought was, i'll need something professional looking for a portfolio to leave here'n there, in hopes of getting some paying gigs in the city, now that i live here.  pleasant work, and on my list of things to accomplish - making a portion of my living through playing music as well as teaching it.  after all, i'm getting a bit old to be hauling refrigerators and couches around for a living.  much as i love the ReStore Manager job, i know it's either got to morph into something less physical or be replaced by something less physical fairly soon.  

and i have these 4 grown kids, raised by a mum who, when outside help was not forthcoming, said, "well, dammit, then i'll do it myself!"  so they take me pretty much for granted. it never occurs to them that i might ever need help with anything.  and that's o.k. mostly, because i'm pretty independent and i like it that way.... or at least i've become accustomed to it, so it feels normal.   

i take most of the family pictures ..... which means i'm seldom in them.   not a big deal for me; i'd rather look at pictures of them than pictures of me anyway.   but it occurred to me at about the time that i thought i'd better get a portfolio together, that there will come a day when i'm not around, and my kids won't have any decent pictures of me.   and they might be sorry about that.   we've decided to keep Christmas as down-to-earth and hype-free as we can this year, so i thought a nice gift might be a photo of their mum in a nice frame.  

and it's occurred to me that, much as we focus our attention on faces, it's hands that say so much about us, and to us.  it's the hands of a parent that comfort and nurture. that provide food and shelter, that write down the stories, draw the pictures and, in my case, make the music.  i'm tempted to give them a picture of my hands.   

not that i will, because i just don't think they'd get it.   but i'm tempted.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November 30

it's been a blur..... the trip to Kansas City was memorable in many ways. i made some friends, strengthened my ReStore manager network south of the border, ( i was the only Canadian there) and learned some things. one of the big lessons is not to keep all I.D, money, passport, etc. in one place. my wallet disappeared @ the airport moments before my flight, and i wasn't allowed to leave the country. it took nearly an additional week in K.C. to pull it all together with the Canadian Consulate, and get home. my first conversation with them went something like this.....

after explaining that my wallet was missing, with all I.D., money, credit cards, passport, etc. in it, and the airline wouldn't let me fly home, the gentleman on the other end of the line (who was at the nearest Canadian Embassy, which was in Dallas, Texas) said,

"Well we need to see you in person to make a positive I.D. you'll have to come to Dallas."

"how am i supposed to get to Dallas?"

"just take the next plane"

"i'm calling you because they won't let me ON a plane with no passport or I.D."

"oh. well, then, you'll have to drive."

"how am i supposed to drive with no money, credit cards, driver's licence or identification?"

"oh. well, if you could get to the Canadian border, we could probably get you across."

"even assuming i can GET to the border with no money, credit card, driver's license or identification, that still leaves me @ the border.... how many thousand miles from home....? with no money, credit card, driver's licence or identification....!"

"oh. well then, you'll have to get passport photos taken, and have someone verify who you are, and mail them to Dallas with your flight itinerary."

so, K, i did that. this was friday evening, so the consulate wasn't open again till Monday.... after a weekend of fretting, i got a call from the consulate saying they had the photos but they needed my flight itinerary.

"i sent my flight itinerary with the photos."

"no, that's your old flight itinerary for last Friday. we need one for your return trip this week."

"how am i supposed to book that when i don't know when you're going to let me out of the country?!"

it was an entire week of beurocratic indigestion. added to the international beurocracy was the fact that possession of the townhouse i'd bought was supposed to be that monday.... so i was faxing and phoning and this-ing and that-ing with realtors and lawyers and insurance companies on top of trying to get the paperwork together to get home.

but the Habitat for Humanity and ReStore folks in K C incredible, and the hotel put me up for almost an entire extra week, with many hours of long distance phone calls every day, at NO CHARGE!!!!

and while i was there, the Playing For Change bus pulled up right under my window!!! they were staying at my hotel for the KC concert. so i immediately found out where they were playing (at the very cool Uptown Theatre) and took myself to the concert. even got my granddaughter the t-shirt.

but boy, was it good to be home. even with the rotten cold and ice. and i've been moving and unpacking and sorting the new house ever since....

....and getting the final work done on an upgrade to the ReStore that was started before i left. hysteria has it's use, though.... at one point in KC i spoke with my staff, asking if the gasfitter had come to set up the new furnace yet. no, he hadn't even called back yet.... (this had been ongoing for more than a month) i told the fellows.... "here's what you're going to do. you're going to call him right now, and you're going to tell him that if that furnace isn't installed and operating by the time the manager gets back, he'll be dealing with a hysterical woman who's been stranded in the states for a week. it could get ugly." within a half hour i had a call back from them.... "he's here, and he's got a quote for the work." he was finishing it up as i drove into the lot on my return.

i may still be a bit hysterical.... things haven't slowed down since i got home.....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kansas City MO

spending this week in Kansas City taking ReStore training.  beautiful city, and there was a foot of snow in northern Alberta when i left.   no contest

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Madonna

My Madonna

Robert Service

I haled me a woman from the street,
Shameless, but, oh, so fair!
I bade her sit in the model's seat
And I painted her sitting there.

I hid all trace of her heart unclean;
I painted a babe at her breast;
I painted her as she might have been
If the Worst had been the Best.

She laughed at my picture and went away.
Then came, with a knowing nod,
A connoisseur, and I heard him say;
"'Tis Mary, the Mother of God."

So I painted a halo round her hair,
And I sold her and took my fee,
And she hangs in the church of Saint Hillaire,
Where you and all may see.

Monday, September 7, 2009

i'll call her Flora

Susan @ Phantasythat posted about a marvelous teacher.  i think really gifted teachers are a rare thing.  far too often we see people molding our children with hands that are rough and harsh, with no care to the tender matter they shape, nor to the damage they do.  a very dear friend of mine is one of the gifted ones.  i'll call her Flora. 

Flora has been through the wars, so to speak. not the 'great war' or anything involving invading armies.  her wars were waged within the walls of impeccable upper class residences. Raised by an aristocratic and cruel mother, she has some issues.  Self confidence has never managed to take root in her troubled psyche.  Though she has a brilliant intelligence and a sparkling wit, without fail, she defers to the opinions of others.  she often recognizes that those she submits to are dull and uninspired. she can even say so, to a trusted friend.  but she cannot stand up to them, or stand her ground.  she lives in constant fear of recrimination.  she cannot bear criticism, and she she cannot assert herself.  

what she can do, is art.  she's a gifted and prolific artist.   what she cannot say in words, she speaks most eloquently in clay.  she's especially fond of raku.  she loves the unpredictability of it, the excitement of pulling white-hot pieces gently from a fire and nestling them, through clouds of smoke, in combustibles.   her life's breath is the suspense of waiting for them to cool, and the miracle of wiping soot-blackened lumps, to reveal  hidden secrets - brilliant, gleaming irridescence that can never quite be duplicated.

and Flora is a gifted teacher.  she discovered this gift with an after school program for 'problem' kids, run through the local fine arts program.  Flora understood these kids, because she was one of them.   she could look into their eyes and see their hearts.  there were bullies and troublemakers in that class.  and in the seat across the table from the bully, was the victim of bullying.  how does one spend 2 hours, twice a week, in close confinement with predator and prey, and not let anyone get hurt? Flora knew how.  and no one was going to hurt anyone else on her watch.  Despite her outward lack of confidence, Flora knew she was an exceptional artist.  she knew that there were people who admired and respected her ability. i think it was this knowledge that enabled her to find,  somewhere in the folds of self-preservation and caution she wore,  the courage to say to those troubled teens, at the beginning of her first class, 

"this is an art studio.  We are all artists here." she looked bullies and victims alike, in the eye, and said, "every one of us in this room is an artist. real artists treat each other, and themselves, with respect. nothing less than that is acceptable while you are in this room. that means there will be no put-downs, no poking fun, no negative remarks of any kind about the work anyone does here. that includes your friends, people you don't like, and yourself.  and that's the only rule here."  

it took some persistence to make them do it, but Flora was not backing down this time.   she treated them with respect, and gave no indication that she expected anything but respect from them.   when they forgot the one cardinal rule, or thought they could sneak some sly retort by, she corrected them, gently but firmly, and made them rephrase the comment.   because she sincerely liked them and obeyed the rule herself, because she taught them using the materials and techniques that she used herself, they came to sincerely respect and trust her.   and they produced good stuff!  parents and teachers were incredulous at some of the results. one teacher accused her of doing the work accredited to a particularly difficult boy herself, and letting him put his name on it.  but she hadn't.  she would have considered that sort of behavior an insult to him. when the class term was over, they held a show in the art gallery that the clay studio where she worked was affiliated with.  every item had either a price tag on it, or a tag saying "Not For Sale. from the collection of_______."  nothing was priced at more than a dollar or 2. the day of the opening gala, the gallery was filled with bodies of varying sizes and shapes. siblings, cousins and friends of the artists were delighted to learn that they could afford to buy real art from a real art show in a real gallery.   money raised went toward purchase of studio materials for the next session.  i think they made something in the neighborhood of $56.25.  

Flora's first class, those many years ago, with all of the town's 'bad' kids, was such a success that it evolved into a 10 week session for every grade 4, 5 and 6 child in town. the program continues to this day, as part of the local school system's art curriculum.  they all go to a real art studio, are taught by a real artist, and their end-of session show begins with a gala in the art gallery.   

the first thing kids taking their first class hear their teacher say  is, "this is an art studio.  We are all artists here......"

Monday, August 24, 2009

ReStore's funky thing for September

Since such a lot of really interesting stuff has been coming into the store, i've started a stash. i'm hoarding the really great stuff - especially antiques, for a monthly silent auction. the pump organs will go to a better place next week, and this lovely item will be the next great thing. also donated by the donor of the pump organs. he had a lot of really swell stuff.

Friday, August 7, 2009

there are 2 of them

a fellow came by the ReStore one day, as so often happens, with a lot of odds'n bits in the back of his nifty little Nissan truck.  i have a fondness for small trucks, being a tree hugging' girl with an Oilberta background. i drive a little old ford ranger myself. so i couldn't help admiring his nice little truck.  the stuff he brought was all carefully sorted and contained in various buckets, tins, and sturdy hand made boxes.  it was interesting stuff that he'd clearly taken some care over.  alongside the assorted nails, concrete fasteners, and bits of wood were some bits of old hardware.  really old hinges and hasps and things, made from heavy metal that makes the stuff on the racks these days look like it's not really serious about what it says it can do.   i like sturdy old stuff.  i guess that's obvious to anyone who cares to notice.  and he was a fellow who pays attention. as we unloaded the things he was donating, he mentioned that he was moving away, and might i be interested in some doors he had as well?  my usual reply to that sort of question is, "well, i'd have to look them over before i could say for sure," so in a day or 2 he was back with some doors.  2 of them he'd made himself, though i didn't know that till later.  what i did know, was that they were really well crafted solid wood doors, and i said so.  that's when he told me he'd made them.  i think that was a bit of a test, cuz not long after we'd unloaded them, and after i'd put the really good stuff in a prominent place in the store, with a fond pat on its satin smooth surface, he brought up the subject of the pump organs.  did i know anyone who might like a couple of antique pump organs?  

and that's how these lovely things came to be in my ReStore.  they're things of marvelous beauty, crafted from glowing hardwood and rich in carven detail.  they need a lot of work; he was planning to restore them (couldn't resist the pun) but is now moving to Ontario for family reasons, and couldn't fit everything into his moving van. he figured we might be able to find them a good home.  

i hope he's right.  i feel responsible for them now, like orphaned children or pets.  

the one with the green felt behind the openwork  hasn't all of its innards.  my summer student is thinking she may just have to take it home and convert it to a computer desk.  

since the pump organs moved in, there's been an interesting assortment of very cool old stuff turning up.  there's a feeling i get from the folks who bring these small treasures in, that it's an issue of trust.  they're giving me things they value, but have no place for, because they trust me to treat them with respect.  

i love my job

Monday, July 27, 2009

burning the chaff

she was 8 years old. in grade 3. not the most popular kid in a small school that considered 'religion' of more importance than the 3 r's. kind of skinny, and sometimes a bit of a smarty pants, but she had a lot of friends.

till the fire.

there weren't many kids, or teachers in the building that early in the morning, but her mum had to be @ school herself, on the other side of town, so she was always early. the fire was in the girls' washroom. she'd just come out of the girls' washroom a few minutes before anyone noticed smoke. it was a major incident, of course, because, on closer inspection, after the fire dept left, and the screaming and wailing died down, it was abundantly clear that this was arson.

there weren't a lot of suspects. the teachers weren't even considered. aside from them, just a handful of kids were there at the time, so it couldn't be too hard to nab the culprit. no one who didn't belong there had been noticed entering or leaving the building.

she mentioned there had been a fire at school, over the evening meal. "nobody hurt, i hope." was all mum said. the school hadn't sent anyone home early, or missed much in the line of classes, and they both had homework to do, so, after they ate, they just got busy doing it. till the police officer showed up at the door. he needed to talk to them. it seems there was no question in the minds of the Powers That Be who the little firebug was. Not that the nice young cop seemed convinced. he was just following up on info from teachers and parents and the principal. he wasn't making accusations. he spoke kindly. he listened carefully. he took notes in a little pocket sized notepad.

after official interrogation, mum sat on a chair, took the hands of her frightened girl child, looked her calmly in the eye, and said, "you need to be straight with me. if you did this, then we'll have to deal with the consequenses, together. if you didn't do it, i will do everything in my power to prove your innocence. but if you tell me you didn't, and it turns out that you did, we're both going to look really stupid, so be straight with me. did you do it?"

"no, mum. i didn't."

"ok then. we need to get to work."

the next week or so was a special kind of hell for both of them. the child learned her real friends were extrememely few. two, to be precise. those two, both girls, and very small for their age, who steadfastly stood by her, came close to being beaten up by a gang of righteous vigilantes during recess one day. 2 sisters, we'll call them Willy and Nilly, members of the 'in crowd,' who the child had thought were her friends, claimed to have seen very incriminating things. they basked for a brief moment in the glory light. the pricipal called this frightened little 8 year old woman into his office and told her she might as well confess; everyone knew she was guilty. ostracised and shamed, but not quite alone, she firmly maintained that she had not set a fire in the garbage can of the second floor girls' washroom. she had not run into her classroom and hidden a cigarette lighter in her desk just before the fire was discovered. and she was, most adamantly NOT lying about it.

mum spent hours cornering teachers and students, cross examining those who were there on 'the morning in question'. she felt like a low caste Agatha Christie. teachers didn't actually refuse to speak to her, but answers were terse and often sarcastic. during her conversation with the principal, he straightened his tie and, looking uncomfortably away when she met his eye, said, in a quiet voice like the edge of a knife, "one can have no respect for someone who refuses to admit their child can do wrong. Parents have a certain responsibility to their communities, to the laws of the land, and to their faith."

that comment didn't score the points he'd hoped it would. having begun the school year, due to being a single parent, at just about zero, she knew all about not being respected by parents of 'proper' families. and she knew, without his advice, that she was now working with a deficit, with regards to respect, from any of them. after two weeks, things had settled to a semblance of normalcy, with no resolution. if you can call being an 8 year old pariah normal.

in time, there was another of those conversations, hand to hand, eye-to-eye. "i believe you sweetie, but hardly anyone else seems to, and we can't seem to prove that they're wrong. it's not right, and it's not fair, and i wish i could change it, but i can't. life isn't always fair. i want you to know how much i admire you for how you've behaved through this. you've been more grownup than most of the grownups, and i'm very proud of you."

"it's alright, mum."

it wasn't alright. it was heartbreaking, and unjust, and cruel, and she was ashamed and angry that she had no power to change that. when the nice young police officer appeared at their door once more, she nearly didn't let him in.

he came to tell them that the case was closed. they both stared at him stupidly. well, he said, with a somewhat puzzled look on his face, they'd caught the culprit.

"who is it?"

another quizzical, awkward glance. seems the school administrators and educators had known this for some time. no one had thought it important to tell the students, or the parent of the wrongly accused child. or least of all the injured party. there would be no repercussions, as the perpetrator was the foster child of a ministerial family with prominent positions on the school board. she was a troubled child, who needed everyone's compassion. no 'official' statement was ever made by the school, clearing the name of the innocent. the purjors were never reprimanded, or even corrected. it was, after all, a small thing. not important.

but these things have a long life in impressionable minds.

"do Willy and Nilly play with you now?"


"i'm sorry to hear that"

"it's ok mum. i don't want to play with them. they're not nice people. now i know who the nice people are."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

work continues

..... on the ReStore.  i'm now filling the 12th rollaway bin with stuff that litters the yard and buildings, that's so useless or damaged or out of date that no one will buy it.  

this photo is of a group of volunteers dismantling a shelf that was too heavy to move.... without a forklift.   the thing must have weighed 300 lb!!  two of the volunteers are high school boys whose parents want them to keep busy over the summer. they get credit toward ReStore purchases for volunteer time worked.  so far they've each taken home a cool chair for their bedrooms.  3 more (not all in pic) are summer students hired by a business that supports Habitat.  they didn't have a job for the students for 2 days, so 'volunteered' them over to me.  not what the kids had signed on for, exactly, as the firm that hired them does accounting.... but they were pretty good natured about it all.  

this building currently has a greasy dirt floor and a very old wood burning stove in the corner for heat.  i'm beating the bushes for a furnace and donations of building materials to put in a sturdy (and clean!!!!) wood floor.  then it'll house the ReStore's appliance and furniture sales.  

volunteers have been stupendous, and i have a summer student on staff now.... till fall.... then?   ....sufficient unto the day are the troubles thein.   i'll worry about that when it comes.   

just had a fellow bring in two beautiful old pump organs yesterday.... will post a picture when i have one....  

had my first kayaking lesson a while ago... am now the proud owner of my very own wetsuit (no pictures forthcoming... it's not a pretty sight)  and am going for a second run this evening.   

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summertime, and the livin' is..... complicated

'twas the most gorgeous day here yesterday. we've had a long, cold spring, and cold windy summer so far. just in the last week we finally started to get the rain local grain farmers have, for many weeks, prayed would come. and it's warmed up to weather that feels like it's really summer. i hope it hasn't come too late for the grain crops and the hay fields.

so last evening, after a lovely, lazy day off, reading a trashy book while the laundry washed and dried, sipping a glass wine as i took my turn cooking the evening meal (butter chicken, with naan bread and salad - ta die fer, if i do say so myself) i took my poor neglected bicycle out for a spin on the walking trails in the city's green space. along the creek valley that bisects the city. initially, it was a business trip. i wanted to know how long it would take me to ride my bike to work. my ReStore is right on the banks of the creek, and my daughter's home, where i'm staying, is also near the creek. fifteen minutes, exactly.

but business very soon melted into pure pleasure. the air was thick with heat and humidity following an early afternoon thunderstorm. sweet and rich with the nectar of rose scent. thousands of wild roses in full bloom, everywhere i went. they're Alberta's provincial flower. they grow everywhere here. many think of them as weeds. gentle honeyed sunlight slanted through the incredibly lush green of overhanging trees... like warm water pouring on my skin. Every person i met, pedestrian or fellow cyclist, smiled a greeting. many commented on what a beautiful evening it was. i think my own smile, as Rudyard Kipling said of the Parsi Man who helped the rhino get his wrinkled skin, wrapped around [my] face. Twice."

so i continued on past my destination, grinning from front to back. i'd begun at the northernmost extremity of the trail, and sailed throught the heart of the city on a warm thermal that stroked its underbelly... to the southernmost extremity. it wasn't enough. i was intoxicated, and wanting more. so, as i turned round to head back, i determined to take the long way home.

which took me through the park @ the city's centre. there's a kind of natural ampitheatre there, where concerts are held. they've built a stage @ the bottom of it. i could hear music from far up the trail. and i thought, "that voice. i know that voice." a dark truffle of a voice, rich and strong and true. i was a moth drawn to the light. and sure enough, there she was, on the stage, belting it out as she strummed her guitar. bongos in the background, a bass guitar and a keyboard weaving soundwaves around her. a highschool girlfriend, moved away years ago, back in town for the reunion her church was holding that weekend. and there were others too! many others! in particular, a very gifted pianist i used to do a lot of gigs with back then, and for years afterward. she now has MS and is in a wheelchair. hasn't been able to play her piano for nearly a decade. as i approached this second friend's wheelchair, pushing my bicycle through the throngs of people dancing, singing, swaying, milling in front of the stage, calling greetings to each other and to me, i felt somehow ashamed that i could ride that bike, and walk alongside it, and push it. my healthy body was an embarassment.

there was a man standing beside my friend's wheelchair.

my hearing, after a lifetime of being in the middle of loud music, is not good. especially with a lot of background sounds, no matter how gorgeous they are. it wasn't till i was right beside them that i could hear what he was waxing so passionately on about, to my friend. it was the same old stuff. she's been hearing it for nearly 30 years now, since she was first diagnosed with MS. the same old fundamentalist Bible-thumper insolence and cruelty.... how she's in charge of her body, and how sickness is only a state of mind, or of spirit, and if she can just get it right, she can be healed. she's a gentle woman, a staunch Christian who rarely says a cross word, but i could see the strain on her face as he poured his poison over her. she was a captive audience. couldn't even walk away. couldn't so much as get a word in edgewise to tell him that she's already heard all that stuff. And poured her heart into believing it, and trying it. to no avail. many times. and beat herself up over it every time, till she was bleeding internally.

i wanted to hit him. if good health was really all about faith, there'd be hardly a healthy person on the planet.

instead, i kissed her cheek and asked her if she'd like to go for a walk. so i pushed her wheelchair off to the edge of the noise, where i could hear her, and we had a long visit. she's still waiting for some understanding of what god's plan in her illness is. still trying to believe in a miracle. and it still breaks my heart to hear, because i stopped beleiving that a long time ago.

some things are beyond our control. and life isn't fair. maybe i'm just old and cynical.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Canada Day parade

Canadian, Eh?
a gaggle of cute little girls with hardhats, paintbrushes and hammers charmed the crowds. (and there WERE crowds) the sweetie here is my grand daughter

our ReStore float in the Canada Day parade. Shoestring budget. The lady on the left is chair of the board of directors.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck?

this is my woodchuck, known locally as a groundhog. they're members of the marmot family. she has 4 babies, now about half as big as her. they live in my ReStore yard. i think i'm going to have a contest to name her and her tribe. i usually spot her in the evenings, after the store is closed, and people aren't wandering all over her yard. most of the heaps of stuff that used to cover the yard are gone now, so she doesn't have as many places to hide as she once did, but she doesn't seem to mind too much. i wonder if she likes carrots....?

Friday, June 12, 2009

they're not all happy endings

Oprah and others of that ilk love to sensationalize reunions between adopted children who search for their birth parents and those parents. not all of these stories are prime time material. here's one i know of:

It happened about this time of year. Maybe even on a day like today, when the world is so bountiful and alive, so fertile, that the very air is heavy with the reproductive cells of plants. Amoeba and behemoth, plant and animal, we all strive to be immortal. To live on through our children.

Did she savor the heat of the sun on her face that day, inhale the scent of her own skin as it browned and glistened with perspiration? It used to be said that women don’t sweat, they glisten. All those years ago, it wasn’t considered laydylike to sweat. And one must behave like a lady. But, no one would call her a lady. Ladies, in the fifth decade of the 20th century, didn’t cohabitate with men they weren’t married to.

After that day, and for many days, many weeks, many months, perhaps even many years, there were few such beautiful days. The shine of summer obscured by clouds - of shame, of accusation and denial. Clouds of anger and of fear. Confusion. Hate and self loathing. Frustration and loneliness. The words she speaks are not believed. Words of one ‘loose’ woman against the words of six men. Six men who arrived on her farm, that day in early June, to ‘persuade’ her that she did not want to live there. There was some disagreement about whether one so young, and so …. female….. should inherit such a place.. The police would not believe one disreputable woman, whose story differed so much from the story of six ‘upright’ men. This is, after all, a democracy.

She didn’t extinguish the spark that began in the darkness of that day. Did she perhaps try, unsuccessfully? The spark became a flame. The flame grew till she felt she was merely a host for this all consuming fire. Did she hate it? Pity it? Wish only to be rid of it? Did she take extra pains to care for her body, knowing another life was dependent on her? Or did she deliberately abuse herself, hoping to put an early end to the humiliation that was more and more evident as time passed. As her frame expanded. Her shame was as big as her belly, which was as big as her shame, which was as big as her belly…. One fed the other. Till the darkest day of all, when she was finally separated from it, in physical and mental anguish such as she’d never before known existed. Now it…. It being a she…. was someone else’s problem. She never saw her child again. Nor did she make any attempt to know who she had become. Why would this unwilling mother choose to be reminded of what was the worst time of her life?

The child of that dark union lives now, wrapped with exquisite care, in layer on protective layer of tenderness. The tiny, fragile infant is enfolded within the sturdy, sun browned body of a woman. Inside, where no eye sees, there are gossamer layers of trial and error, thick layers of caution and of watchfulness. Layers of injuries healed, of hard, lonely lessons learned. Layered upon layers, laid with painstaking care, making her strong. Strong of heart and of body and of mind. Or so she thought, – but nothing could prepare her for the shock of learning her beginnings. In the passing of a few numbers on her digital clock, during the course of one telephone call, she has become someone she doesn’t know. She isn’t who she thought she was. She is no longer sure who she is.

Monday, May 25, 2009

order from chaos, or a ReStore is born

this vision of loveliness is the yard of my new ReStore.... 2nd hand, really.... the store, and the stuff. the site was subcontracted out by the local landfill operator to a private business, for the purpose of diverting materials from the landfill for the purposes of recycling and minimizing all that un-green waste. so what we have is a secondary landfill, now... only all above ground. we had 67 hours of volunteer labor last saturday, working very hard, and filled 2 monstrous rollaway disposal bins... the 20 or 25 foot long ones that take a big semi to load up and carry. and you can hardly tell....

once we get rid of the stuff that's undeniably trash, i'll have a huge truckload sale. all you can cart off for $100. we have hundreds of old windows, even more doors, dozens of lights, from chandeliers to swedish balls (remember the swedish ball?) bathroom fixtures, bricks, boards, yadayadayada. then we'll cull one more time, and start the store in earnest.

my first meeting with the Home Depot folks is tomorrow. they're huge supporters of Habitat for Humanity, and the manager made a strong point of telling me he really dislikes trashing things when they have to come off the floor. that's the policy. we're 6 hours from the next nearest city, half a continent from the manufacturer. the stuff can't be returned if it doesn't sell.

still looking for a cube van.

funny thing happened on Sunday morning. after wading through this stuff for 12 hours on Sat, i cleaned up real pretty Sunday morning, then went to do some admin work at the store before the long trip to the granny shack for violin lessons later that day. as i was standing by the chain link gate, locking up before leaving, a truck with a couple of fellows came cruising slowly by. we get a lot of that. people are antsy to see the place reopen. so the driver of the truck pulls up beside me, looks me up and down in that arrogant 'what have we have here?.... if i had a moustache, i'd twirl the ends' way some men have. and he says, clearly thinking he's making a very clever joke, "so are you running it now?" i smiled demurely, handed him my business card, and said, "sure am. Come back on the 6th of June and you can fill that big shiny truck of yours up for a hundred bucks."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

blessed are the feet of them that bring good news

a.k.a. don't shoot the messenger

i did some evangelizing today. what began as a seemingly innocent discussion of the local economy with my daughter's significant other today transmogrified into a session on my soapbox.

we live in a small (50 - 55 thousand souls) northern city that has seen a lot of boom and bust cycles. it's in an area that's rich in oil and gas, surrounded by forest that's among the best in the world for pulp and paper production, as well as lumber, first settled by farmers who discovered it's a pocket of rich agricultural land a zone or 2 warmer than other places this far north. during the depression that followed the 2nd world war, this area was not as hard hit by drought, economic downturn and food shortages as were other parts of North America. partly because the climate is moderated by our location between mountains and prairie, with lots of lakes and rivers, partly because the economy has always been so diversified, and partly because the inhabitants were self sufficient pioneer stock who knew how to keep things solvent with very little in the line of cash.

i'm not convinced there are many here today who could manage as well. it seems to be all about money now. so when the gentleman in question, who is head of a fairly large communications company here, asked me if i thought the local/regional economy was in trouble, he probably expected me to agree with his view that things are going down the toilet, and that would be that. he didn't expect a dissertation on how the wealth of the community was being sucked out by the big oil and lumber companies, and the big box stores. he didn't expect to be told that a community's wealth isn't measured in dollars and cents. he didn't expect (or enjoy) being told that the premise that exponential financial growth is the only marker of a business's success, was dangerously flawed. they live in a big house that they bought new about 5 years ago, in a trendy new neighborhood. they drive new vehicles, and trade up frequently. take lots of holidays to the tropics. he didn't like being asked "why? how much do you need?" when he said he wanted to make more money, have a bigger house.

none of this was particularly heated, it was all very civilized and polite. he's a kind man, who is very good to my daughter, granddaughter, and the rest of the family. he's a good neighbor. he recycles, pays all his bills promptly, and is considered by his employees to be an excellent boss. he's putty in the hands of a child, has pets who are treated like they're his own beloved children. he cooks! he cleans! a really sweet guy. just very materialistic, with no social conscience beyond his own doorstep.

i think there's a crack in the polished veneer, though. he's applied for a senior position in the fire department. says he thinks he might want to do something more 'worthwhile and satisfying'.

but i'm not putting the soap box away.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tally ho!

one of the really great things about moving to the city is all of the family things i can be part of. this is granddaughter, Brooklyn, at her first riding lesson, with a dainty little quarter horse called Cocoa. Brooklyn is 8, and very much her own person already. she insisted on riding English, though Western is the fashion here in cowboy country. she's a well balanced girl, though, and has a very funky pair of pink suede cowboy boots that she loves to wear to school with her denims.

so grandma was the official photographer for the first riding lesson. then sneezed her brains out all the way home, as she's excruciatingly allergic to horses.

friday, the Alberta Opera Co. is coming to her school. everyone's invited!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

the granny shack is finished!!!!

and listed for sale

living room


below are:
dining room
front porch

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

starting a wish list

at the top of the wish list is a cube van, something like this one, for picking up donated material for the ReStore. it's also an amazing moving billboard. also on the wish list are things like a forklift, pallet jacks, moving dollies, industrial shelving, and lots of high energy volunteers.

got the word from the local landfill administrator today that they're giving us a location with 3 reasonably good buildings, on trial, for a year - RENT AND UTILITIES FREE!!!! does it get any better than that? i can probably start setting up my office next week.

we do the dance of joy!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

a gathering of friends

Nancy, on the left, was having a birthday. so Flo, next to her, invited a bunch of us to a birthday feast @ her country cottage B&B. and taught us how to play a card game called Dutch Blitz. Flo was raised in the nearby Holdeman Mennonite community. the Holdemans are a very conservative branch of the Mennonite faith who still are shocked to see a woman's legs, arms or hair!!!! their women wear head coverings, and calf-length dresses with high necklines and sleeves. Flo was single when i first met her, so she made a living selling baked goods at the local farmer's market for years. it's how she financed the B&B, believe it or not! and her rep as a baker got the B&B customers coming. but she's been ostracized by her people, for being an independent, unmarried woman running a business. just a few years ago, she married a man from 'outside the faith'. so now she's not just ostracized, she's actually shunned. shunning is alive and well in some bleak places on the fringes of civilization. but Flo is a strong and courageous woman. she continues to treat the people of her community with respect, and behaves with integrity and dignity. but she's not letting them tell her how to live her life. she's even taken to wearing (shudder) jeans!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Come 'n listen to my story 'bout a man named Jedd

borrowed a truck and a buddy and loaded up, a' la Beverly Hillbillies, to move some of my locks, stocks, and barrels. the grandgirl thought it would be a good place to ride, on back there. i suggested a rocking chair and a shotgun. she didn't get it. the joke's not as good when you have to explain it. she was mildly disappointed when i pointed out there were no seatbelts up there.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

signposts along the road of life

as i make the move to the city, things need to be sorted, gifted, stored and, when all else fails, become landfill. so i took my camera along to the dump with me. there were a few other industrious souls making deliveries there too. and they seemed to think it a strange place to be taking scenic shots. but they'll be great for my Earth Day power point presentation next week, introducing the ReStore idea to the city, and all its associated environmental benefits.... and beginning the campaign to recruit volunteers and contributors. know anyone in northern alberta who'd like to donate a cube van?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

wicked stepmother

just spent the last two days in ICU with my stepmum and my dad. she's been a smoker for 56 years, and her lungs are shot. a lung cancer survivor, she's been packing an oxygen tank with her everywhere she goes for 5 years now. on sunday she stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital. they gave her 48 hours to live. that was about, (quick mental calculation) 72 hours ago. now they're making preparations to move her out of ICU into another ward, to recover more before sending her home. this is the second time she's fooled everyone. today she's angry, bitchy and poisonous. that's how we know she's getting better. i feel like i've spent 2 days marinating in venom.

an interesting fact. there are 5 siblings in the family. none of us smoke. makes me think of a quote a high school english teacher i had years ago had pinned above the blackboard. "there is something to be learned from everyone, even if it is only not to be like them."


Saturday, March 28, 2009

coming through pine pass, March 28

i had an offer, on very short notice, to catch a ride with a friend who was making a business trip to Prince George, British Columbia late this week. as there's a ReStore there i wanted to check out, i threw some paperwork in a duffel bag, grabbed my camera, a change of clothes and a toothbrush, and blasted off! chatted with the ReStore's assistant manager, hung out for a while @ PG's terrific library catching up on some favorite mags, had a great supper, with Guinness on tap at the pub around the corner from the hotel where we stayed, and discovered an incredible pianist entertaining in the lounge next to it, which we closed down. all-in-all, a really great trip.... but it's 6 hours one way, so the driving's a bit of a grind. this was taken near the summit of Pine Pass, coming home through the Rocky Mountains. the spring melt begins to seep through the rock cliffs, and freezes like glacial stalactites. there were even pussy willows beginning to peep out here and there, in protected hollows.... but none at home yet.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


this is what the fifth day of spring looks like north of 56

the Easter bunny is frozen solid. if his profile looks a bit odd to you, it's because part of him shattered and broke off in the cold. part of one of his ears is missing too.... who knew delivering pretty eggs could be such a hazardous job. he should join a union and complain about the working conditions.

spend your Easter break in beautiful Waynorth! book your reservations now, for Easter egg hunts in the snow, sleigh rides through town to show off your fur-lined Easter bonnet, and snowshoe races to church for the sunday service. the winner gets to sit closest to the heater.

it's not always like this here at the end of March. some years it's all slushy and melting and the pussy willows are beginning to peek out.... and one can, with a little imagination, convince oneself that winter won't last forever.

in the Yukon, now, things are like this right through Easter break. when i checked the weather network this morning, it was minus 20-something C in Dawson City, where eldest son lives..... which reminds me of one Easter when he was small, and we were all still living in Dawson City.

some folks got together and planned a big Easter egg hunt for the kids. it was a huge event. local businesses donated chocolate and candies and tinsel and nest fluff and baskets and doodads and whatnots. early in the morning a group of enthusiastic volunteers drove the long winding road from Dawson City, at the banks of the Yukon River, up the extinct volcano it nestles at the foot of, known as the Midnight Dome. it's called that because it's the place locals like to go to on summer solistice, to watch the sun circle the sky and not go down at all. it's become an annual bash. the view is spectacular. you can see up and down the Yukon and Klondike Rivers for miles up there. you're surrounded by rugged hills and forests, underneath a sky as deep blue as a broken heart.... so the Midnight Dome was the place of choice for the Easter egg hunt.

the volunteers made the trek up the dome, had huge fun tucking away all the booty, and came back down the hill grinning from ear to ear, thinking of what a hoot it was going to be watching the kids find all that glorious junk. the kids, by this time, had all been collected, and were waiting eagerly for the fun to start. into vans and station wagons and various assorted modes of transportation they all piled, and back up the hill everyone went, noise level raising with the altitude, till they all arrived at the top in an ear rupturing explosion of sound.

"Release the children!" someone called, and the extinct volcano poured forth a flow of small bodies, cheering and shrieking with glee. dozens of snow-suited and mittened little people poured from their wheeled prisons and the search was on!

i won't go into details. 30 years later, we're all still too traumatized to dwell on it..... the happy cries turned to wailing and gnashing of teeth, as, one after another, the kids found bits of fluff and tinsel, shreds of cellophane and foil, tattered and ravaged baskets and wrappers, but no treats. there wasn't an egg or a chocolate or a marshmallow goodie to be found. but there were clues. in amongst the shredded and mutilated remains of the feast were footprints. bird footprints. large bird footprints. on every lamp post and tree within sight were very smug looking ravens. dozens of them. it was like something from an Edgar Allen Poe story. all those ravens looked down gloatingly on the crying children and the stunned adults, and they chuckled. yes, ravens chuckle. they have an amazing vocabulary. they're very smart birds who live a long time. they play and they scheme, and they do pranks, and they chuckle. it's more than just a little humiliating being laughed at by a bird. the trip back down was more subdued, punctuated occasionally by the broken hearted sob of a child. somehow, someone found some Easter goodies that hadn't got sold and eaten already, and things were done again, on a smaller, less boisterous scale, and the day was redeemed somewhat.

chocolate doesn't seem to agree with ravens. Dawson City's raven population was a bit out of sorts for some time after that. not their usual carefree selves. and there were reports of really disgusting volumes of vile slime falling from the sky as a raven flew over. like it was our fault they felt rotten, and they were getting even.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

bloody cold today

Wind: 0km/h
Sunrise: 8:22
Sunset: 19:50
Relative Humidity: 60%
Pressure: 103.82 kPa
Visibility: 40.0 km
Ceiling: unlimited
i'm going under cover for a while. it's too damned cold for March.
this is my new identity

Current Weather Updated: Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 9:00 MDT - Grande Prairie

Saturday, February 28, 2009

on religion

Our Lady of Peace. Carved from marble brought from some far off land, she stands @ the site of the Dunvegan Trading Post on the banks of the Peace River in northern Alberta. i love statuary, and marble is beautiful all on its own, without human intervention. so last spring i asked her to pose for me, and she graciously consented.

i'm not a particularly religious person. spiritual, i think, but organized religions have had their way with me and left me a skeptic. as a single mum i was frequently 'taken on' in the way well-meaning Christians 'take on' a fundraiser for the hungry or a mitten knitting blitz for the homeless. people become projects, and it's impersonal, demeaning and humiliating. there were some who sincerely cared about my kids and me; those few i still count among my dearest friends, but most were more religious than caring, and we didn't find much common ground.

so, though i believe with all my heart in the mission of Habitat For Humanity, the fact that it's essentially a faith based organization was cause for some apprehension. there is, indeed, some of that 'people as projects' orientation there, by affluent Christians who have ulterior motives for being connected, but i find it far less rampant in HFH than in the general churchy population. and the ReStore folks are even less so. they're with the ReStore because they genuinely endeavor to live in a way that reflects a faith and a lifestyle that respect all human beings and the planet we inhabit together. my kind of folks.

in the pre-move prep phase, as word gets round that i'm leaving, things i've loaned out (and forgotten about) are returning. one is a book by Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams, that i'd loaned to a very special teen student when he mentioned his interest in the author and his works. it's called, Last Chance to See - about endangered species, written about this very serious issue in Adams' quirky, self-deprecating, thoughtful style. i highly recommend it. ...and a bit from it prompted this post. he and his accompanying expert, Mark, find themselves on a plane to Zaire with a flock of missionaries. here's what he says about them, and about religion in general. as their plane takes off:

".... i then became rather tense myself as the plane started to taxi out to the runway, because the preflight talk from our pilot included a description of our route, an explanation of the safety features of the aircraft, and also a short prayer. i wasn't so much disturbed by the 'O Lord we thank thee for the blessing of this day', but 'We commend our lives into Thy hands, O Lord' is frankly not the thing you want to hear from a pilot as his hand is reaching for the throttle.

..... i don't like the idea of missionaries. in fact the whole business fills me with fear and alarm. i don't believe in God, or at least not in the one we've invented for ourselves in England to fulfill our peculiarly English needs, and certainly not in the ones they've invented in America who supply their servants with toupees, television stations and, most importantly, toll-free telephone numbers."

i haven't quite sorted out what i do believe yet, but i'm very sure of what i don't. every time i see a magnificent church building, i'm, i confess, impressed, because i do appreciate architecture and beauty, but my next thought is often, "the cost of that could have fed, clothed, and housed a lot of deserving kids." and, like Albert Schweitzer, i believe we are our brothers' keepers. the affluence and decadence we're surrounded by, when there are hungry and homeless people who have done harm to no one, is a blot on our society, and on our humanity.

the argument that one person can't make a difference is a self deceiving lie. everything we do, no matter how small, has an impact, and makes ripples that have impact. we need to give careful thought to every facet of our lives - what we model for and teach our children; the kinds of homes we choose to live in; the kinds of foods we choose to eat, and where they come from; consumer choices about who we buy from, what we buy, and why we buy it; the way we treat our neighbors and our communities, near and far. each facet has an impact. our circle of influence may appear to us to be small. we may never see the cumulative effects our small acts of responsible stewardship and kindness have. this doesn't mitigate the importance of doing them.

Friday, February 27, 2009

home cookin'

while he was here helping prep the house for sale, eldest son asked for a lesson in bread making. his first batch of 3 loaves of whole wheat bread was perfect. and he was justifiably proud of his accomplishment.

Monday, February 23, 2009

still dreaming

i got this picture of the Saskatoon ReStore posted, then got interrupted before i managed to say anything about it. i wish this was my store, but no such luck. our first store will most likely be much smaller and less impressive. i've been working with my son, who's been visiting from the Yukon for 2 weeks helping with finishing the house and getting it ready for sale. when it's cleaned up and de-constructioned, i'll post some pictures. but not much has been happening on the ReStore front as a result. i wish there were 3 more of me.

the Saskatoon ReStore is a renovated curling rink. back where the kitchen and viewing areas were, there are now 9000 sq Ft of offices for Habitat and other not for profit groups.... not accessible from the ReStore, and treated as a separate building, with separate entrances, etc, for fire code reasons. the building is super insulated, and has a floor that's perfectly level & smooth. without a crack or a bump throughout.... you could... well, you could curl on it! all very well organized and busy. very impressive.

on a different track, the visiting lad has confessed to an interest in domestic things while here, so he's taking the pressure canner and a few useful things back with him when he goes home on Thursday. and, in the process of packing up books, we came across an old journal from the time when he (age 6 months), his dad and i left alberta for the yukon. stories of his dad taking 20 shots to shoot a squirrel (we ate a lot of squirrel for a while) and notes about brining and drying salmon, finding a cabin to winter in, etc. it's the closest he'll ever have to the 'baby book' many parents keep of their child's first years. i think i'll post some of the stories from it here, when there's time.

Friday, February 6, 2009

7 sleeps

this is the finished side of our current Habitat for Humanity duplex, and the family who now own it. taken the day of their home dedication cerimony. a certain grannyfiddler/harpist we know provided the music.

today, a team of 9 of us from the evil oil company i work for spent the day on the other side, painting, installing light fixtures and emptying the basement of unneeded construction materials. so, obviously, the people working for the evil oil company aren't evil. they're actually mostly a really terrific bunch of people, and there are very few of them that i'm not going to miss, when, in 7 sleeps, i'm finished there. but i won't miss the corporation. and here's why.... after months of hearing boasts from the bigwigs in the headshed about what a phenomenal year the company has had, (record breaking profits) and how well positioned it is relative to others in the industry, first, annual employee bonuses were cut, then the BIG CRUNCH was announced. this is an old field. it's expected to produce well for another 15 years even without major new exploration. we're very far from the centre of the universe, where the head office, and all the 'important' people are, so, by oil compay standards, we run pretty lean. oil exploration has been cut everywhere in alberta.... mostly a political response by the big corporations to drive home the point that they are very unhappy about the new royalty regulations initiated by the current government. so even without new wells to develop known reserves in the area, this field pours money into their coffers faster than they can count it. for those who aren't in on oilco jargon, reserves are those quantities of oil and gas that are known to exist in land the company in question has the mineral rights for. it's like money buried in the back yard, left to you by very rich, Great Uncle Fred who thought of you as the child he never had. you know it's there. you know it's a LOT. all you have to do is go get it.

so, when i handed in my resignation, my area superintendent was astonished to be told that they couldn't afford to replace me. they could have afforded to keep me, but they can't afford to hire someone else to do the same job. now i'm not young enough, or pretty enough that they just kept me around because i was so ornamental, and there's no slack in the department where i work that can be taken up to make sure the work i do gets done when i'm gone. and if it doesn't get done, the maintenance department in a field where most of the work done IS maintenance, will have some serious trouble getting its bills paid (cuz i'm the one who paid those bills for them) ...and if the bills don't get paid, people sending those bills are going to make damned sure no more bills are run up. and i'm not the only one this whole chain of events has occurred to.... no one's very happy with me in that office right now. i really am counting the sleeps till i leave. trying not to feel guilty, but of course i do anyway, because the mess is left in the laps of people who, for the most part, i've enjoyed working with.

so, after spending a day painting doors and playing gopher to a crew of 20 volunteers who're all there to help a single mum with 4 kids have her own home.... after explaining the philosophy of Habitat For Humanity to those who came, who'd never heard it before, seeing the delight in their faces when they heard it.... after a day of hard work, watching them all trudge through the snow to their vehicles, tired and dirty and smiling, some asking when they could come back..... i came back to my daughter's place, where i'm staying the weekend, had a long, hot, delicious bath, and checked the email and the blog. Lindsay Lobe had posted about Albert Schweitzer and his philosophy "Reverence for Life"..... and i thought, "how appropriate; the perfect ending to the perfect day." and i knew i was doing exactly the right thing trading the oilpatch for the 'philosophy of the hammer' as HFH's principles have been called.

and i'm happier than i've been in many years.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

15 sleeps!!

till i'm through with the evil oil company, and changing the world, one recycled board at a time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

i've been memed

by Susan of Phantasythat. so, from page 64, approximately the 5th sentence, of The Ingenuity Gap, by Thomas Homer-Dixon, here goes:

page 64 is a graph, entitled: CO2 Concentrations and Temperature Have Varied in Lockstep.
this shows temp variations and CO2 levels running almost exactly parallel over the past 450,000 years, as show by Vostok ice core sampling.... so i've cheated a little and given a quote from p. 65

"Experts can't say for sure what effect this increase in carbon dioxide concentration will have on the planet's average temperature. But the Vostok ice cores suggest temperature will rise, and perhaps rise fast. And one thing IS certain: with each incremental ton of carbon we emit from our cars, power plants, and logging operations, we are producing, inexorably, an atmosphere that is significantly different from the one that influenced human civilization in the past. In fact, in the next two hundred years we may produce an atmosphere with carbon dioxide levels that Earth hasn't seen in hundreds of millions of years."

i'm dropping the ball, as my neighborhood is rather small, so am not tagging anyone. if anyone would like to volunteer, i'd love to have a peek at what's on your bookshelf

the funny thing is, i've been thinking a good bit about my books lately. i'm deliberating over what books to move to the ReStore office, and which ones to send to my girlfriend, who's adopting most of them. i need to pare down my possessions. Again. i plan to live very simply. i want my lifestyle to reflect the things i claim to believe in. this means less stuff, which includes, gasp! books! .... and more responsible consumer choices. deja vu! didn't i do this 30+ years ago, when i went to live off the land in the Yukon bush?!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

the future looms

i spent the early morning today dismantling my past.... it's really the past that looms.... or did - pardon the pun. my weaving days are on hold for now. i won't have a place for this beautiful thing soon, so it'll be packed away somewhere - hopefully safe. this loom is over a century old. built in BC (that's the province of British Columbia, on Canada's west coast) near the end of the 19th century by a gentleman for his wife, it has been passed on to 2 others before me. the rule is, it cannot be sold; it must be given away. if i knew someone who'd use it, i think i might give it away now. i hate the thought of putting it in storage for an unknown length of time, but i'll soon have nowhere to keep it. my eldest son is coming for a 2 week visit in early February to help me finish the trim and final renovations on the house. i'm getting my cute little granny shack ready for sale... beginning the decluttering process, finding people who'd like to borrow my furniture - one girlfriend and her kids, who all love to read, are very pleased to be babysitting all my books. possibly even adopting them.... i'm dowsizing once again, and moving to the city.

i gave my notice at work last week. my last day is Friday, Feb 13... good thing i'm not superstitious. as of last Thursday, i'm the official manager of the ReStore the Habitat for Humanity affiliate i belong to plans to open in 2009. there's a lot of work to do to make that happen, and i won't see a paycheck from it till that's accomplished and there's cash flow. but it's something i'm passionate about, and i've always been a bit of a risk taker. i may continue with the oil company part time for a while, till the ReStore can pay me a wage. another ending, and another beginning. both thrilling and terrifying.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wars and Rumors of wars

this won't show up as a hyperlink, so i'll just give you the address to copy and paste.

Zee posted a bit on the ongoing Israeli / Palestinian situation.... he's much more articulate and well informed about these things than i am. i'm just left with the feeling that the more things change the more they remain the same. maybe war is a guy thing. there seems no logic to it, however long and hard i ponder the question. it seems abundantly clear to me that violence only perpetuates more violence. When has it ever ended anything? and yes, i think it really is that simple. just stop the violence. if as much effort was made to get along, as is made to get even, or to get ahead, or to get the advantage.... etc, the world would not be in the state it's in.

i think Stevie Wonder says it very well in the utube clip above. i remember it done by....? Joan Baez? but still the same powerful song, and the images, though not pretty, are, i think, appropriate

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Toast to all my Friends

happy new year, and a raised glass to all of you in blogland who come by the neighborhood periodically. it can be cold and lonely up here. you're all a breath of fresh air, and a word of wisdom in what sometimes feels like a social, cultural and intellectual vacuum. so, in keeping with the spirit of the picture, i'll leave you with an Irish toast and blessing

May those that love us, love us
and those that don't love us
may the good lord turn their hearts

and if he can't turn their hearts
may he turn their ankles
so we'll know em
by their limping

many blessings, and all good things in 2009