Friday, July 30, 2010

A Sanctuary

Yesterday morning, I woke up retching and coughing. It was 4 AM, just before Dawn.

The bedroom was filled with smoke from Forest Fires, presently burning about six or seven miles away from our house. And it was not the only one...there were Fires surrounding the entire area.

As I drove into Williams Lake to give a Reiki session, the entire city was shrouded in a misty gray-brown smoke from the tremendous amount of Fires, started by Lightning, that dotted the area. I could barely see the buildings. Breathing was difficult for me, but not nearly as difficult as it is for people who are struggling with respiratory problems already.

This morning, as I checked the national weather forecast on my home page on the computer, I see smoke will obscure the Skies for at least the next three days.

In the house, there is a fine film of ash covering everything...the counters, the furniture, even the keyboard of the computer has a gritty feel to it. And everything smells as if I have been sitting next to a smoky, wet campfire.

It has been mind-blowing...the heat, the smoke and a ferocious hot, it sears my face as I close the windows.

We have no air-conditioning, since it would only be in use for a couple of weeks of the year. It seemed a waste of money when we moved in, but oh! how I wish we had it now.

The Sun is a round, orange ball in the smoke laden Sky...there is so much smoke it is barely visible and I am able to look directly at it. There is the constant sound of aircraft...the whump, whump, whump of helicopter blades. I fight a feeling of the entire World shrouded in smoke? I can barely see the Trees not too far distant from me.

I notice Plants outside looking wilted and sad, barely hanging on. Their leaves have a fine coat of ash, making their life in my garden miserable. There has been no Rain of any significance for a long time. I water them a little, but cannot give them much...our well Water is a precious commodity in the Summer.

I hear stories of Animals on the move, some ending up under people's porches, trying to find an area without the eye-burning smoke. It makes me feel ill, all that smoke, it makes my stomach roil...I can only imagine how the wild Animals must feel. Where can they go to find relief?

Even as I watch a herd of Mule Deer move through the property, I notice the abundance of Bird life going on all around me. Birds that have been absent, going further North to their breeding habitat, and others, have returned. Some of their fledglings look very young, and I wonder if Fires have urged them back to us.

I watch two Birds on a limb beside the feeding the other, much younger one. I imagine their nest was destroyed, along with all the other Birds that are reappearing.

There is only a little relief in sight. Thunderstorms are in the weather forecast for the next three days; each one with the potential for many more Fires. But each may be accompanied by Rain, which will help the Firefighters presently working in such hot conditions.

My eyes are swollen and red; my chest feels tight and sore. I will close the windows in a short is the only way to cool the house down with the cool early morning breeze...but the smoky air is becoming unbearable. I will wear a dust mask today.

The whole province of BC, with the exception of three small areas, is under extreme Fire conditions. Fires are burning the Cariboo district alone, 39 Fires of note began yesterday. And that figure may be higher today.

I live in the middle of a deeply Forested area. I must admit that when I moved here, I had no knowledge or understanding of how dry the Cariboo Region is. Had I known, quite possibly I would not have bought this house, which has huge Interior Fir Trees surrounding it.

In any situation, I try and find the good. I'm hard pressed to find good in this one, unless it is strength and experience in an atmosphere where the air quality is deemed very poor.

And so far, we are safe. There is great thankfulness in that...I am not one of the people whose homes have either burned or will burn. I have not been evacuated...I do not have to deal with leaving my belongings behind. I made it through last year, which was only a little better regarding any moisture, than this year.

And I am so very grateful that the Air quality in my area is generally very fact, where I live, in higher is excellent. It has given Animals and  Birds a sanctuary.

Smoke has shown me how difficult air pollution really is and how easily it can lead to health problems. It gives me insight into some of the Hospice clients, who struggle to breathe.

I now know what that's like.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


One thing I didn't take into account when my family came to visit was the fact that all of them live in an urban setting. Crickets, Wolves and Birds woke one or all of them during the time they spent here.

I'm accustomed to the sound of Animals in the night. For the majority of my life, I have lived in the country. But this morning, even I was catapulted out of sleep by a Wolf's howl...and I began to understand how different living in the Bush is compared to city life.

On the whole, however, the visit went very well...singing Crickets notwithstanding.

My family arrived on a sultry afternoon, a harbinger of the following days, which would continue to become even warmer, until the inevitable Thundershowers finally occurred.

I was enveloped in a hug by a granddaughter who has grown another few inches since I saw her a few months ago, as soon as the family vehicle stopped outside my door. And not long after that loving, smothering hug, my grandson pelted through the door, with his arms held wide...and I was the recipient of another huge hug from a very excited little boy.

I was over-the-Moon excited myself! So much love was spread that afternoon on their arrival I wonder to myself how I could ever have thought my absence from my grandchildren's lives would make them forget me.

And that love continued throughout the visit.

Graydon, my grandson, and I walked the property with our Dogs at least a couple of times...the kinds of walks which last occurred with my granddaughter when she was three years old, where every Stone was overturned and each Stick became a sword. With his water pistol in hand, we went searching for the Mugglewump who lives in the draw in front of the house. The story of the Mugglewump came about because Graydon is not accustomed to Dogs. And I have two rather large ones.

The Mugglewump, you see, is also frightened of Dogs. He won't come over the Boulders which line the driveway, because the creature knows I have the Dogs with me, which, I told Graydon, is why I the Dogs live with Granda and I. They protect us from the Mugglewump who does nothing but mischief...he misplaces keys, books and dishes, he picks Flowers out of my garden and he would make life generally upsetting, if the Dogs did not keep him in his place. 
Well. Graydon didn't actually want to see the Mugglewump. But he definitely wanted to see where the silly creature lived and he wanted to squirt Water amongst the Stones lining the driveway, just as added protection. And when I told him the pee from the Dogs on the Stones were what the Mugglewump didn't like, he wanted to pee, too...

The Mugglewump kept us very entertained on our long walks with the Dogs...and Graydon, as much as Nate and Lucky bothered him with their kisses, accepted them from then on. He was even convinced he had a Mugglewump at his home...and that his cat Elvis, who is rather old and confused, was protecting him there as well.

My granddaughter and her friend, Sabrina, are too old for Mugglewumps and they are accustomed to our Dogs. Graham and I found something else to entertain them...we took them into town for a shopping trip!

This was where Brianna discovered a grandfather's pride and joy in seeing her in various outfits in the store would open his wallet. She went home with a new skirt and a couple of tops...and because she did not expect this, our love for this beautiful young woman only deepened. She also remembered to buy a gift for her mother, my daughter Heidi, just because...

Because Graham has been ill for a very long time with cellulitis on his ankle, making it difficult for him to walk, the trampoline was still down when our family arrived. But, as Brianna said, teamwork made short work of this, and the trampoline was up in no time.

There were a few times I went into the house when all the acrobatics on the tramp were going on. Brianna, Sabrina and Heidi, my daughter, are all pros on it...yet my heart was in my mouth quite a few times.  I thought it better to go in and have a cup of Tea, rather than sit and yell...Be careful...each time a somersault or another dangerous stunt (to me!) was executed.

This was the first time Graydon had used the trampoline. He was very vocal when jumps became too high when he was on it, and I blessed him for it. Soft, gentle jumps are more up my alley, as well!

Granda took Graydon for a ride on the tractor...another first for Graydon. He left the tractor convinced it was an Aston-Martin...who among us would not be thrilled to displace a lowly tractor with a luxury vehicle? In our minds, if nowhere else!

And so the days went by, much too quickly, of course, for my liking. We had cold roast Chicken and salads, barbecued Steaks and roast Potatoes, a couple of pies I had made beforehand, and a wonderful Goat Cheese Ravioli with fresh Tomato sauce Heidi made. For breakfast, we had farm-fresh Eggs and home-smoked Bacon. Of course, I had too much food...even the cashier at the store where I bought the groceries was astounded at the amount.

I discovered I no longer had any idea of how much to buy when the family visits, just as when I became an empty nester and was confused by how much food was required for only two people. But the extra food didn't go to waste...I gave it to my family when they left.

It was so difficult to see them go. It was all I could do not to take the car and follow them down the highway. Homesickness descended; in order to squelch the sad feeling, I cleaned the house, which looked as if a whole herd of Mugglewumps had descended upon us.

I wanted to hold Time, during their visit, until I decided Time was up. But I was not in control of Father Time; I knew before the visit occurred it would go much too quickly.

But I have things to do, for the next time I see them. I know Bree's taste much better now. Buying gifts for her will be ever so much easier after our shopping trip. And I will flesh out the Mugglewump's story a bit more for my grandson. Perhaps the Mugglewump will try to drive the tractor/Aston Martin, perhaps he will get stuck when he drives down into the draw...who knows what will happen?

This morning, as East Wind blows and Wolf howled, I am convinced I am right where I am supposed to be, just as my family is right where they are supposed to be...with visits here and there to cement the awesome love we all carry within us for each other.

It is the way of things in life...

And for our family, at least, there will always be that next visit!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Long Ago Gardens

The very first time I built a garden I was very young, before my second child, Katrina, was born. Heidi was two years old and had found friends in the neighbourhood; the only way I could keep tabs on her was to be outside, along with her and her gang.

We lived in an older home which had been renovated many times and not in a particularly good way. But it was affordable. For $20,000 we received a five bedroom two bath full basement home, with a mother-in-law suite and the added bonus...a large covered deck. During foul weather, that deck kept Heidi and her friends outside with all their toys.

There were the obligatory plants around the foundation in front of the home, a large Cherry Tree, and five smallish Walnut Trees, all in a row. Oh, and a poor, old Pear Tree on the West side of the home.

Having many gardeners as relatives and feeling a garden should be more than Trees and a few Shrubs, I thought I could make it look more inviting. And so, with very little knowledge of what I was doing, I went to work.

I had no understanding of Plants which preferred Sunlight or Shade, wet Soil or dry, or even in which direction South or North lay. I didn't know the prevailing Wind, which began to blow at four o'clock every afternoon.

And I didn't begin with only a small corner of the yard...oh, no. I wanted the whole corner lot on which the house was situated to be completely landscaped. Since we were broke much of the time, there was no doubt that I would have to do this landscaping myself.

I was lucky in that most everybody I knew had a garden. I received many cast-off Plants and a huge amount of Seeds from friends and family.

Plant nurseries, when I began to garden at the tender age of twenty-two, were not places I was familiar with. They intimidated me with the lush, gorgeous Plants on display. guessed was not long before I began to yearn for this Plant or that one.

And I wanted a soft-Fruit garden...Raspberries, Strawberries, Rhubarb and Currants. And of course, a Vegetable plot, as well.

In fact, I wanted to transplant my mother's garden right to where I lived...

I borrowed shovels and rakes and edgers. I mapped out the yard, just as all those gardening magazines said to do. And then I got to work...

Beginning on the East side of the house, mainly because I could see my daughter  more easily from that side, I began to dig. There was a concrete sidewalk, I recall, between the house and what would be the new garden bed.

Nobody told me that all Soils are not created equal. The Soil on this piece of property was nothing but very hard-packed Clay. As difficult as it was to dig, I still marvelled at the rich, red colour of it...and I was sure it was as fertile as any Soil. Even if I was told differently by my gardener friends and family, nothing could deter me.

I discovered then something which has never changed for me. I discovered that I loved to dig and make garden beds. Whether or not there were any Plants in those beds matters not to me, even now.

There is something about a clean, raked bed that I love. I could leave these beds empty forever, if Mother Nature did not have other plans. She strews her Seeds everywhere, and a bed that has been raked to the nth degree excites her no end. Soon, that beautifully clean space of Soil began to show signs of...oh, no!...the dreaded Buttercup...

Huh. I had to plant my minimalist garden, if I wanted to have more than Weeds surrounding me.

I had been given slips and divisions of plants and Seeds gardeners had saved. I planted the slips and clumps of Plants...yet, still, my long garden bed looked strange and empty, just waiting for Mother Nature...

A movie came out just around that time...The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds. I remember seeing it and loving those Marigolds featured in the film and planted all over in my Mother's garden.

I had Marigold Seeds, in my very minuscule gardening supplies. So very early on in my gardening career, I had no idea there were so many varieties. I planted those Seeds in my possession into that red Soil. And I waited for them to appear, glorious with their shaggy, golden heads.

And waited...and waited...

After two weeks of peering closely at the Soil where the Marigold Seeds had been planted, still nothing had appeared.

And then I learned that these same Marigolds I was trying to raise by Seed came in large flats, already half-grown and already quite charming, in my book. I saved the money for them by feeding my family some very creative wiener dishes.

Feeling quite flush, I bought myself a flat of those gleaming-like-gold blossoming Plants and planted them the very same day. Still there was room in that bed!

Hmm. The marigolds looked like soldiers on parade, all in a row...with at least a foot between them. 

The neighbours were watching the travails I was undergoing by now. They would wander over with coffee cups in hand and offer all kinds of advice. But not one of them suggested I wait awhile and let the Plants grow. They only suggested other varieties of Seedlings I could add to make the new garden bed look fuller.

One of my neighbours brought me a flat of Seedlings she insisted she did not need. It was true kindness on her part...any gardener will tell you there is always room for one more Plant in the garden.

At any rate, I planted them and was at last satisfied as to how my first garden looked. Full of Marigolds, Pansies, Nasturtiums, Spinach (yes...any Plant will do when you're desperate and we could eat the Spinach) and Petunias and Zucchini, it was a riot of colour!

At first. Then, with copious amounts of fertilizer and water, those Flowers grew and grew. Over and under each other, flopping here and wrapping themselves around another Plant there. And then...I noticed the Marigold Seeds I had planted earlier were also up. Not to mention the three Zucchini plants that brought forth great, green bats that seemingly grew overnight...

That year, even as I enjoyed cut Flowers for the house, I learned a gardener needs patience. Gardens do not just takes concerted effort. And time. And even (although I disagreed and went my own way at the time) knowledge, either from others or books.

I learned, as well, that my enjoyment of this little garden was not only about sprucing up the corner lot we were living on. I discovered I loved giving away the extra bounty, and my neighbours seemed pleased to receive it.

At any rate, they were, until there was just one too many visits with those Zucchini bats...

My first long ago garden is lodged in my memory. 

Just as all first experiences of anything tend to be. 

Thursday, July 01, 2010

An Uphill Climb

A long while ago, I had a dream about climbing a Mountain. I could almost see the summit but it was mostly obscured by Brush and Trees. I was situated in a Meadow and there were Trees around the perimeter. From the Meadow there were paths that led deeper into the Forest and I suppose, farther up the Mountain.

There were people in the Meadow and some were taking different paths further into the Trees. Some were resting, their heads placed upon old, mossy Logs...Trees which had fallen to their final resting place. And some were returning down the Mountain. 

I was a watcher in my dream. It felt as if I were floating, unseen, amongst the other hikers in my dream. I noticed some had backpacks and other equipment, some carried blankets and pillows, some had walking sticks...and some had nothing at all.

I watched hikers coming into the Meadow, each one exuberant and full of life...happy to be there. I watched people taking paths further up the Mountain...their demeanour focused  and serious. I watched those who were well prepared leave as if for a great adventure. And those people who had nothing with them...well, some were happy-go-lucky, seemingly choosing a path at random and simply beginning to climb. But some of the unprepared people seemed discouraged to me, as if it was all just too much of an effort.

I noticed these people eventually went back the way they came.

This was one of those dreams which stayed with me. The Meadow felt welcoming; I did not want to leave it. There were friends and family who moved on, yet for was a safe and comforting place.

I've thought about it often. And I've wondered when the time will come for me to move on, farther up that Mountain. I've wondered if it is time to take on another challenge, another climb requiring more courage, commitment and directed effort.

The thought of another challenge makes me tired; hence, my long sojourn in the Meadow. But eventually, an opportunity will arise and I will long to climb those Mountain paths, once again. The difficulty of each path may be less if I am prepared for it, this time.

I consider my life and the paths I have taken throughout. I don't believe I was ever prepared for any of them, choosing instead to wander along, taking each challenge as it came, with faith that I would make it through. And because I was ill-prepared for most of them, failure was not unusual. But with each challenge, each Cliff, or Rock wall, or Lake that stood in my path...I learned.

And so, I feel a bit surer that I am coming closer to taking the path which will lead to the summit of the Mountain. But the Meadow is seductive. It induces a feeling of comfort and security...a feeling of wanting to stay where there are no challenges to confront.

There will be no inner growth, if I choose to stay in the sunny, warm, Flower-filled Meadow.

It is my choice, of course, whether or not I want to evolve further, if I want to climb higher up that Mountain. Do I want to make more choices that influence the rest of my life? Each challenge contains a lesson; each lesson leads me further towards the summit of the Mountain.

I have a feeling that whichever path I choose will be difficult in spots, will seem clear and direct at times, and it may turn suddenly in a direction that surprises me. And what happens when the path forks, as paths will?

I understand, as well, that no path is more difficult or easier than any other. I think the degree to which it is is up to me.It is what I make it.

And if I ever reach the summit of the Mountain, I know it is not the end of the journey. I will continue to rise, transcending my life's purpose.

But still...In my dream, I stayed in the Meadow, flitting here and there, checking the people who slept, watching the high spirits of the people who had decided to continue on ever higher, and realizing that the ones who decided to come down will eventually climb again.

I believe I am trying to forget, there in the sprightly Meadow, that life is supposed to be a challenge.  It is the effort of climbing ever upward that creates the fire within me to carry on and strengthen my Spirit.

Right now, I am happy in the Meadow. In future days or months or years, I will be ready to further my personal evolution. It is up to me as to when.

But I must tell you, I am beginning to feel a little behind. I am beginning to want to climb...I just need a tiny bit of further rest.

Climbing ever upward on that life's path to the summit of the Mountain does take it out of me.I have taken a few forays on some of the paths, but none so far have resonated deep within me.

But...just over there, around the bend, is a pathway I have not tried. It is calling, and I am ignoring the call, as yet. It is one that may be lonely and difficult...I don't see too many people taking it.

I will take my time preparing for it. Preparing...a word I don't know much about. And I know even if I am ready in all ways, there will be times I will wish I had never begun.

But that's what life is all about.

Isn't it?