Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This Regularly Scheduled Broadcast is Interupted

Because I am not finished talking about my holiday. The social commentary comes next. You knew that was coming, didn't you? But anyways, not today.

On Monday I had a nap. One of those naps that feel like you really cannot do anything else but sleep and when you sleep it is deep and so very hard to wake up. I had spent the morning helping a pregnant friend in her garden and the day before my young, fit sister and I had a looooooong bike ride. So as usually happens with late afternoon naps, even if they are unavoidable, I couldn't sleep. Amy and I watched my all time favourite movie, "Out of Africa" which she had never seen and I lay tossing and turning in bed from 2am to 3 with Dean occasionally issuing sleepy, grunty complaints about my restlessness. I started to wonder if my dear friend was in labour. Then Andrew was at the door, just after 3am and it was her! I rushed around, grabbing stuff and headed over there to be with her children. I tell you, the distance between my place and hers, has never seemed so very far apart!

It is hard to find words to describe her birth. There was such joy and excitement. I sat with her as she groaned through her contractions. In between her eyes were bright and full of the awesome wonder of bringing life into the world. Then she was ready for her children so I went with their dad to wake them up gently. They were both instantly caught up in the sacred joy of this moment. P sat on my lap and whispered to me about what was going on. A sat by her mother's head, with her eyes full of excitement.

Then when she wanted to be alone, we went into a nearby room where we could still hear what was going on. A ran to get some good stories. I read to them between groans. When we could hear Mary Sue groaning and moaning, we stopped and closed our eyes and sent her our love and support and imagined her opening up. P whispered "Mommy's opening up... My baby's coming". They were so well prepared for the sounds and the experience. Their parents were so calm and full of joy that there was absolutely no fear in them. What an honour to be with them through this experience.

Then it was time to return to see the actual birth. I watched with them as their new sister emerged into the world. She came up out of the water with her eyes open, looking right away at her big brother and sister. A instantly a mother bear. I swear when the midwife took the baby from Mary Sue for the first time as she was getting out of the tub and the baby squawked and fussed, A grew 10 feet in seconds and told them she didn't think the baby liked being moved around like that! But soon she was nestled on dad's bare chest and very content.

Upstairs into the family bed. A in peaceful excitement and P so excited he couldn't hold still but never farther than 10 feet from his new baby. I left them there as the new day dawned and the birds sang. All 5 of them in the family bed with such peace and joy. I know I have used those words a lot but that is how it was. It was a perfect birth. Mary Sue was so completely in that moment and her family was with her, loving her, completely believing in her and so excited to meet this new member of their family.

I have never been at a birth other than those of my own children. What a precious gift my friend gave to me to be there with her children, whom I adore to witness their new sister into their lives.

Isn't she incredibly beautiful?!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Trip Reflections Part Three - Further West

The next morning we took it easy. I am always the first one up so I took the dogs and my journal to the beach. We were the only ones there except for the geese. I even found a wee patch of grass that wasn't covered in goose poop to sit on in the sun and write. Look at that? Isn't that a serene morning?

Kaetlyn wanted to see Terrace but Dean and Drew had had enough driving. So they hung out at Tyhee Lake and us girls headed another 2 hours Southwest. We stopped at all the spots. First one was Moricetown, just outside of Smithers. We got to watch some aboriginal fishermen catch salmon using only hand nets. Rhiannon walked down and put her hands in the Bulkley River. She put her hands in two of BC's great rivers on this trip.

It was a perfect day for a full view of the Seven Sisters.

And here is my first glimpse of the Skeena after 9 years...

Once we hit Terrace, first stop was here. The house I spent most of my teenage years in. The front yard used to be full of trees and shrubs and there were lots of flower beds. There are still 2 of the 4 cherry trees in the backyard.... and it is still white and green....

I went to see my jr high but it has been torn town. A new, very glamorous jr high now sits where the parking lot used to. They let me in to look around. Rhiannon and I walked on those same old streets that still looked the same!

We explored downtown to discover at least half of the stores empty, had ice cream and headed back to Smithers. Mission accomplished.
What was always spectacular about Terrace was not the shopping, anyways. It was the scenery - at the junction of 3 rivers (Nass, Kalum and Skeena) and with mountains on every side, it was green and majestic. I always felt so cradled, so safe inside that valley. Here is the view of two directions. I always remember it as beautiful there but every time I go back, I am in awe all over again at just how incredibly beautiful that spot is. It is easy to understand why the Tsiampsian have lived there for time immemorial.

The next morning we packed up again and headed toward home. Stopped in PG long enough to set off my Aunt's alarm and talk to the alarm company and the police.... We ended up in William's Lake for the night and ate delicious chicken at Bethany's place. We collected my youngest sister, Amy and squeezed into our van for the last stretch home. It got hotter and hotter as we got closer.

Trip Reflections Part Two - Further North

The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast and packed up and headed North to Prince George. After all these years, I still knew how to drive straight to my Aunt's house who lives in the same place she has since I was 5 or 6. And she keeps things in the same place, too. She doesn't like to change. So that was fun to still find the phone book in the same place after almost 40 years! There were a few changes, though and I made sure she knew I noticed! Auntie Heather was leaving the next day for Nanaimo so after lunch and some visiting, I took my kids on somewhat of a PG retrospective while she packed. I mean in grade 1 in PG, I went to 3 different schools. We moved ALOT! It would have taken a week to show them everything. So we did the highlights. First stop was 910 Gillette where Laura was born and then I zipped around the corner to find my childhood friend's parents in the house I left them in 25 years ago. We stopped and visited for about an hour and a half and was well hugged and reminded of how well loved I have been in my life. They were my home away from home. Even when we lived in Terrace, when I came into town, I was dropped off there on our way into PG.

Then it was over to Fir Street and Miller Addition and Fort George Park. Rhiannon sat in the old fire engine in the driver seat where me and my brothers sat before her. And we walked along the edge of the mighty Fraser which was looking rather lovely that evening, I will have to admit. Rhiannon and Dean went down to a little beach and Rhiannon put her hands in the Fraser and collected some river rocks. Kaetlyn took some great pics but she hasn't downloaded them yet. All that was left of the old fort was one tower.

After a swing buy the church I helped to build, we were back at my Aunt's for a BBQ with my cousin Bonnie and her husband, Mike. There were hamburgers and chips and some Portuguese golf and then it started to rain. And it rained and poured and we were snug inside my Aunt's house. After dinner, there was a very golden, dramatic sunset complete with 2 full rainbows. I drove them out to our house off of North Kelly - the last place we lived in PG when I was 17 - the house I left home from. And I talked about Jordan's dog, Cooter who was my walking companion and drove where I used to walk - up to Ferguson Lake which is now a preserve. And the sunset was spectacular and they really got to see PG at its best!

The next morning we packed up. Uncle Dennis improved on my packing system by strapping the food box and a cooler to the roof in true Uncle Dennis fashion, and admonished me not to go faster than 70 miles an hour with that stuff on top. Then we headed Northwest to Lake Tyhee in Telkwa just beside Smithers. We stopped in Houston for the traditional ice cream at the Husky station only to find it boarded up... How could they do that in the 9 years since the last time I was there?! We arrived by 3pm and had all our tents set up in record time so we could make K'San before it closed. In my memory, Hazelton was a mere 5 minutes away from Smithers. Turns out it is an hour drive...

K'San was great. It was raining when we got there and the weather was very moody and dramatic. Here is Stekyaden whose peak dominates the Hazeltons and K'San. And here is the Bulkley River has it flows the last few kilometres before flowing into the Skeena.

The moody sky and a view of a canyon that starts with H and I won't even try to spell...

And then back at our campsite, not a drop fell. It was a beautiful evening.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Trip Reflections Part One - Barkerville

I should have taken a picture of the loaded van as we left. Most people think that there is no way I could get all that stuff and the 5 of us into our minivan. Dean says of my packing "She believes anything is possible". It is true that I am a wizard of cramming stuff into our van... But I must say that it would all work better if my children were amputees. Those darn legs are such a nuisance. And I pack stuff into every conceivable place. How we got the two dogs in as well, is one of life's mysteries. We were aiming to leave at 6am but when I went to bed at 4am after finishing cleaning the living room where our housesitter would be sleeping, I knew that plan was not very practical... I woke up at 8am and we were out of here by 10am. We were supposed to meet my twin sisters and a husband at Barkerville for dinner that first night but being Clarkes as we are, we missed each other. Too bad, those were really excellent greek pork chops we brought, Bean!

The next day we were rather tired but we spent most of the day wandering around Barkerville. Then we all went back to the campsite and had naps before dinner. I loved that it was still so much the same as it was when I was a child. They brag that they haven't changed their displays in the 50 years since it opened (1958).

I especially remember this one - the "painless tooth extraction".
Kaetlyn and Drew explored together for most of the morning.

Rhiannon and I sat down a lot. Here she is in front of the last person who lived in Barkerville fulltime until he died in 1979. He was an active gold miner.

Dean and Rhiannon went for a stage coach ride together.

Drew claimed to be exhausted and Kaetlyn and I left him sitting on a bench to browse the jewelry store. The next thing we know, he passes us with 3! girls - all of them dressed in Chinese clothes!

Rhiannon's favourite part was the lesson she attended in the old schoolhouse.

We had spectacular Caribou weather. Sunny and cloudy in the low 20's and only a wee light sprinkling of rain one afternoon. The campsite (Lowhee) was beautiful and the people were friendly. Blueberries were growing everywhere. A good start to our holiday!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why I have such a great appreciation for Okanagan weather....

It seems my children will really get to see what summers in Northern BC were like. Rain is forcasted for everyday we are away. Every time I check the environment Canada website, the forcast is worse! At last check, a high of 14 degrees forcasted for Monday in Smithers.... hmmm, going to go pack another fleece...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Tripping

The place is a frenzy these days as we prepare to leave on our summer holidays. This will be the longest trek we have ever made as a family. And counter-intuitively, we are heading North. North to where I grew up - to show my children the places that were so formative to me. The first night we will be in Barkerville for two nights where we will also hook up with my sister (and blog design guru) Bethany and her husband. Then we will head to Prince George where I spent 7 years of my childhood and stay at my Aunt's house who still lives in the same house she did while I was growing up. Here I will show my children where I learned to ride a bike and to skate, where I went to kindergarten in a church before kindergarten was compulsory and part of the school system. Where I went for long walks with my brother, Jordan's dog. Where I used to walk home from school in the dark at 3pm. Then we are heading to Smithers where we are camping at Lake Tyee for 2 nights and visiting the village of K'san. I only lived outside of Smithers for 6 months but it had a profound effect on me. We lived on 10 acres beside the Bulkley River which is as beautiful as the Fraser is ugly (Oh, c'mon, it is mighty and awesome but it is the colour of mud from start to finish!) I had few friends and spent hours walking around in the wilderness outside my door. And the summer before we moved there as a family, I lived there and worked for RSF Energy as my dad's sales secretary. During the week I lived in a cabin that Swiss settlers had built in the middle of a hay field. After work, I helped the family cut the hay, winnow it and pitch it onto a hay wagon. I drove a 1938 tractor and helped in every part of the haying. I remember stomping down the hay in my black circle calico skirt that my grandma has sewed for me with the scratchy hay on my bare legs. I was 17 while staying in the cabin and living on yoghurt, fresh whole grain bread and carrots out of the garden with no windows and no electricity, at the foot of those awesome mountains that remind the Swiss of the Alps, I wrote this poem to try to express the wonder and the awe and how deeply spiritually moved I was by this majestic natural landscape:

A Witness

Here in this land where cloud lies heavy
Between the mountains trapped in cold,
Here where nature's friends are more than man,
We breathe a testimony to God.
Mountains rise with unmistakable power
Of a head held high.
Even the most self risen man
Is humbled in their presence.
To look upon their blue and noble towers,
Thrusting above a clearing of waving hay
Wrapped in the peaceful soliloquy
Of a bird's hymn,
Is to look upon a witness
And feel that knowing
Strong inside your breast --
God is nigh.
God is love.
Without words or eloquent hymns,
God is real.
No man can rebut --
God lives.

We'll make a day trip into Terrace where I spent my teen age years.

When I think of going North to those places that I love so much, I can hardly breathe. A piece of my heart has been there ever since. Those Northern, wild places I grew up made me who I am. I miss them everyday. If only they weren't so economically depressed and could grow canteloupes and peppers there.... Anytime I go back, I have a hard time leaving. It's been 9 years since I was back there.

Friday, July 11, 2008


You know what this is? This is about a 3 tablespoons of sheep milk. It has been a slow process. First I got Brida to come and eat oats in my vicinity. Then I got her to eat oats out of a bowl while I held the bowl. Then I got her to eat oats from the bowl between my feet and I grabbed onto her horns while she did. Then, the next day, I got her to eat oats from a bowl between my feet, grabbed onto her horns and had Rhiannon pet her and reach down and touch her milk bag. The next day, with my friend Monique, I grabbed her horns, Monique held them and I got a wee bit of milk to squeeze out. She thrashed around while I tried and there was dirt in the milk but I tasted it and it tasted like ice cream - I could swear there was vanilla in there! And then today, I grabbed her horns and held her while our neighbour girl who milks their two goats came and milked her. And this is how much we got. Tomorrow, she's going to help me while Dean holds her horns. It seems like incredibly fast progress to me! And I have a glass with a wee bit of sheep milk in it in the fridge!

Monday, July 07, 2008

July 7, 2008

I am 43 today! It couldn't have been more perfect. A morning spent with a friend, lunch with friends and our children. I ran once around the oval at Polson Park. (yes! ran!) and even had the courage for the first time in 7 years to run full out. It wasn't very fast but I ran. Weeding, cleaning and tea at my house and the most amazing cake I have ever had made with love by a loving friend and ate with good friends.

Then supper down at my favourite beach with all 5 of my favourite people in the entire world who were feeling good and taking silly pictures of each other. We ate sandwiches and chips and watched the sun go down. Rhiannon swam and I floated along on my tube looking up at the trees and the blue, blue sky. You know, that is one of the things I love about my birthday here in the Okanagan - it is almost always sunny. Previously to moving here, it rained on my birthday every year. And I mean every single year without fail, wherever I lived, it rained on July 7.

Hey look, someone even remembered to take a picture of me without me asking them to!

Kaetlyn made me another cake - my traditional fare - cake with strawberries and whipped cream. She got all organic stuff. She knows me, my girl! Andrew arranged the candles in roman numerals for 43 (maybe he isn't illiterate after all...)

For me my birthday is always very significant. It is a time to assess what I have accomplished in the year and where I want to go next. A time to write in my journal and ponder what it all means. A time to surround myself with those I love and who love me. A time to clean out dusty cupboards in my mind and in my life. It was a great day!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

And So....

Here are the newest additions to our farm. Right now there are 8 sheep in my little pasture. But only 4 are for keeps. Four of them will make their way to the freezer.

This one is a 3 year old named Brida and came with 2 black lambs from Pineridge Icelandics in Chase. She is a moorit, which means brown in Icelandic. We are going to try milking her some day soon when she is not so afraid of us.

This beautiful white ewe lamb came from Sooke. I picked her and her mate up in Chilliwack on Saturday. She has been named Freya and is naturally polled (no horns).

And here is her mate from the same farm in Sooke - Tideview. He has been named Renald in honour of Ronni (Ronalda) who came with me on the very hot journey to get them. She is a city girl through and through so it was rather challenging for her to ride in the van with two baaing lambs in the back. Especially after the people we picked them up from warned us they could jump over the seats (not).

This is Oregano, a ram lamb from last year who is destined for the freezer shortly before he impregnates anyone! So far he is the friendliest. He will let me get the closest to him.

And this is Taragon who is also heading to the freezer soon.

And here is the latest addition from Greencroft Gardens in Grindrod. She arrived this afternoon. She will be part of our permanent flock. Her mother and grandmother have been milked and are very tame. She is definitely a large, healthy lamb!

And here is one of the twins from Chase. This is BaaBaaBlackSheep named by Rhiannon (Bubba for short). Her twin is Paprika. They will both make their way to the table.

And here he is, getting used to his new job. This is Zeus, Dean's new puppy, a livestock guardian dog. He is a Maremma x Akbash. And I've got to say, he is the sweetest dog I have ever known!

It really is starting to feel like a farm around here with 2 dogs, 3 cats, 8 sheep and 64 chickens....

How did that happen?