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Monday, January 11, 2010

a January morning @ the ReStore

these days, the sun is just heating the horizon as i come to work @ 9 each morning.   for all the cold and snow and darkness in northern alberta, we DO have pretty incredible sunrises and sunsets.  and, unlike the tropics, they last a long time here.   there's time to pull up a comfy  chair, stretch out one's legs, sip a warm cuppa and take a gazillion pictures as the horizon warms, glows, bleeds all over the sky, and gently fades.  

this is the southeast corner of my ReStore yard.  the tree is a black poplar - considered by many a weed.  it's the tree that makes all that high quality pulp for paper for  your photocopiers and computer printers.   and that nice soft toilet paper with the quilted surface.  pulp and paper are second only to oil here.  very big business.  this is a tree that can be cut down to a stump, its roots mangled, and come back stronger than ever, with dozens of offshoots filling a circle with a diameter of sometimes close to 100 feet.  Or be completely denuded of leaves by tent caterpillars several summers running, and make a comeback. they're incredibly resilient. from their unopened leaf buds in the spring, oozes a sticky substance known to herbalists as 'balm of gilead'.  good for healing wounds, skin conditions, etc.  this one is somewhere between 30 and 40 feet high.  a good size for a northern tree, but not half the size they can grow to, given the right encouragement. she's still decked out for the festive season in glittering, frothy hoar frost.  in order to show the lace on the tree i had to expose the sky more, and the colors washed out.  so i opted for a silhouette of the tree and the full glory of the color on high.  the temperature was -32 F when i took this picture.

this is the tree my store mascot, the groundhog, likes to bask in the sun near.   i'm considering building a deck or a patio around it, with a big climbing toy for the kids in summer, and a picnic table where ReStore staff can have our lunch and coffee breaks when the weather's good.  maybe do some saturday classes for people to make mosaic flower pots and patio stones from broken tile etc. i also got wireless internet for the store when we set up, with doing paperwork, etc outside in the shade of the tree on summer days in mind.   

the chain link fence with the prison wire on top was installed by the city, who ran a recycling centre here pre ReStore.   the field beyond the fence is the edge of a park that follows the creek which cuts through the city.   the homeless people sleep amongst the trees along the creek when the weather warms.  the  city fathers didn't like homeless people coming in the yard after hours and taking things to build shacks along the river with, so they imprisoned the tree and everything west of it.  the deer crawl under low spots along the fence and wander the yard at night.  i often see their tracks as i open up in the morning.   no doubt the homeless people can do the same, if they have need to.  their tracks aren't as distinctive as those of the deer, being the same species as staff and customers. our feet are the same; homeless or not.  not that there's any need to track them. not that there'd be any crime in them taking some things if they needed them.   housing people is, after all, our reason for existence. 


susan said...

The photograph is very cool and it's good to know you have time to stretch out and sip your coffee before running out to work.. or is that what you do when you get there? Nice either way.

I never knew about black poplars so now you can feel satisfied about educating another happy customer. The table and play area are a very good idea too especially with internet access so everybody can stay in touch with the business side of things while enjoying warm summer days. The store may be the smallest of them but I'm betting it's also one of the most enjoyable.

gfid said...

su - the photo's not half as cool as my hands were taking it ;0- i didn't mean to infer that i actually have time to sit and watch the sun come up usually.... except on a day off. i was only meaning to illustrate how long our sunrises last, and how pleasant they are. but as the days lengthen i'll have lots of time BEFORE the store opens, as the sunrise comes earlier, to enjoy them.... and, by gosh, what a great idea!

the poplars/balm of gilead. i like to make my own soaps. i'm planning a B of G batch in the spring when it's available.

i think all ReStores are enjoyable. they tend to be run by people who really love their jobs and are passionate about Habitat for Humanity. the more of them i meet, the more strongly i feel that 'these are my people.'

L'Adelaide said...

this is a gorgeous sunset/, the pink is amazing! but -32 is not, my goodness, i would freeze to the ground and not move til spring...

interesting about those poplars, thank goodness, with so many butts to wipe, right? lastly, the homeless and the razor wired chainlink fence keeping them out? that cannot be necessary and a bane to the whole place...sad it must be that way with the 'powers that be'--no sense whatsoever...keep warm and hope that warm deck is up in the spring, sounds lovely!

clairesgarden said...

stunning photograph. I am not a morning person so the only time I see the sunrise is in winter, at the moment its around 8am. wind chill here taking the temperature to uncomfortably low...we did get 3C today which is warm compared to recent weeks which were unusually cold.
I pity anybody having to sleep out in the park, and hope they are somewhere warmer for the winter.

Seraphine said...

i never thought of a tree as a weed. it just wasn't a perception i had.
i love your description of sunsets in alberta. i think of sunsets in minutes, not hours. again, a different experience, an imperception.
the most shocking thing is you have homeless up there. even here in san francisco, the homeless freeze at night. there aren't enough shelters for them when the weather gets bad.
but then, i don't understand how deer survive in winter. my fibre-filled coat seems warmer than deerskin, and i have pockets.
so here's to trash trees, deer, shelter and long sunsets. and crawling under fences.

gfid said...

linda - i haven't learned yet to take the sunrises for granted. ...and i didn't tweak this picture at all.... that's what the camera saw. the beautiful skies are some consolation for the intense cold. much of northern alberta is covered in these trees... or was, before the pulp and paper people discovered us. think warm thoughts of me in your vineyard. winter's far from over.

claire - it was a stunning sky. i'm usually a morning person. i love being up and about before the city wakes. the homeless people seem to find places to stay indoors at night through the winter. several churches have 'mat' programs where they lay out sleeping mats and blankets on the church basement floor each night for homeless people to sleep on. during the day we still see them carrying garbage bags filled with bottles past the ReStore towards the bottle depot, but they don't have to sleep outside in winter.

sera - the poplar is thought of as a weed, because it's one of those incredibly tough plants that can take abuse that would kill anything else, and come back strong. it also has a rampant root system that gets into sewer lines and building foundations, causing devastating damage. as if that wasn't enough, the roots also send up new trees something like the way strawberries start new plants along runners. there are whole groves of them, growing from one root system. you've heard the saying that the only things that will survive nuclear holocaust are rats and cockroaches? i'd add poplar trees to the list. i raise my glass to your toast. here's to trash trees, deer, shelter and long sunsets. and crawling under fences.

Seraphine said...

it's hard being a non-profit that relies some level of necessary commitment from both prospective homeowners and a group of incredibly motivated volunteers.
i don't see how that can't be life-changing for individuals and any community that embraces/supports them.
as to hockey, well all i can say is it's canada, and everybody (but canadians) know it's the perfect place to live.
so let the disadvantaged either learn to sleep on ice, learn how to operate a zamboni, or speak softly and carry a big (hockey) stick.

gfid said...

is your philosophy turning militant, Sera? ;0)