Monday, August 31, 2009

And So It Goes

I don't like to write sad posts, which I suppose is why there are sometimes big gaps in my writing because something sad happens and it consumes me and I just can't fake it and be all cheery or think of something else to write about. And somehow, I think that my story, the one I share here in this blog, wouldn't be complete without this sad story. And I am sad today. Very sad. It has been a sad year, actually. One that has me pondering. There has been lots of death. It started with the death of my grandfather in January and on it has gone.

I had company for 6 weeks straight with one 24 hour break in there from the time Sarah arrived on July 17 to the time that Caleb left on August 27. During that one 24 hour break, my sister-in-law, Delanie drove away and an hour later, Bjorn died. My neighbour and landlady had sprayed her fields with an 'organic' weed killer to kill her burdock. It is extremely toxic but supposed to be safe after a certain amount of time. It was supposed to be safe that day so I let my sheep out. I tie up the adult sheep but the lambs wander close by. I noticed Bjorn on the edge of that field. Just hours later he was dead. I found him just after he died - still warm and limp and unbelievably dead. In 10 days he would have gone to his new home in Horsefly. I suppose I should have sheered him after he died - his pure white wool was like gossamer. But I couldn't bare it. It was the most I could do to write to the people who had arranged to buy him and tell him he had died.

Then last week a bear came one night. He ripped open my chicken tractors (which in previous years he (she?) has ignored completely even when full of meat chicks). He flipped over the one that held my two mother hens with their 4 chicks (I sold two already). My two hens died defending their chicks - 3 of whom survived. They also slashed up my big tractor and killed 2 of my young pullets. They killed 5 chickens - my two most valuable hens as they had proven to be effective brooders and good mothers. I woke up Sunday morning to the carnage - chunks of feathers and one black foot.

I herded the remaining 4 pullets and the 3 chicks into the big coop. Miraculously they have managed to integrate painlessly into my flock. Marigold and the hens have accepted them and they are all thriving. So there is one miracle.

Then there is Freya. She hasn't been well for awhile. She had a persistent cough so I dosed her with penicillin and then dewormed my whole flock. She seemed to be making improvement. The smoke this summer has been hard on her and yesterday the smoke lay like fog in this valley. Yesterday morning she didn't come when I fed the sheep some hay. I went to rouse her but she staggered along. I dosed her with garlic balls and slippery elm throughout the day and she seemed to be improving. But she died last night. I suspect it was a combination of things that killed her. When I first got her, she got pneumonia from the stress of travelling (shipping disease). I tried to cure her naturally and I think I left it too long or wasn't aggressive enough. In those days she was very hard to catch! In the end I got antibiotics which cleared up her coughing but she had been coughing for several weeks by that time. I was ignorant and naively hopeful. I think her lungs were weakened by the whole episode. She has struggled this smoky summer. And then she was a very good mother and gave her all to Bjorn. She was thin. I think she was depressed after he died. I suspect she would have been depressed even if he had lived but left our flock. She was a fierce mother and never far from him. Then with all these stresses on her immune system, I think she was no match for either worms or a strep infection. Probably worms. And although I did deworm her, I think they had too big a hold on her.

I love my sheep - my wee flock. I know them even by the sound of their baa. They are the first thing I think about each morning when I wake up as I search for them through the window. They live just across the driveway from our house, not in some distant field. I know their patterns of behaviour, their personalities, their likes and dislikes. Freya took a long time to trust me but when she trusted me, she did. If you visited, she would not be at the fence begging for a pat like Renauld or Draga unless, perhaps, you had apples. She was sweet and independent and wary. And she had the most amazing fleece. I loved her. Zeus laid with her body all night and this morning before we buried her, he freaked out if anyone went near her.

And I am very sad today. I am grieving. Last night I lit a candle for her and wrote for 3 hours in my journal. Here is an excerpt from it:

"... Good bye sweet Freya - Goddess of sheep. Good bye. May your sweet sheep soul pass speedily into the love and joy that is the essence of all life. Good bye sweet Freya.

"Freya let me die with you. Let those parts of me that no longer serve me go with you into your sheep's Valhalla. Let my fears and doubts go with you there to be transformed.

"Freya, my love. Freya my sweet sheep. Rest in peace and prepare for your next life. Come again to me in the spring. I will watch for your face in the faces of the lambs. come healthy and whole again to me. I will look for your eyes. Come live with me again, Freya.

"Good bye Freya, my sweet sheep. You served me well. You were a good sheep and I loved you. You were everything I wanted. You were perfect.

"Good bye Freya, my wee sheep, my little lamb. Good bye. Go knowing you fulfilled your purpose here and I am grateful."

Maybe I am dramatic. Or at least I think that some will think that. All this fuss over a little sheep. However, my sheep are more than functional to me. I know them and I love them. They are my pets, in a way, too. And I believe that all things are connected. I don't think it is any coincidence that there has been so much death in my life this year (although I am looking forward to January 1, 2010!). I don't believe in a thoughtless, accidental Universe. I believe everything happens for a reason. In many ways this year has been a stripping away. A stripping away of false friendships, of habits that don't serve me, of fear and doubt and self-recrimminations. I feel myself pruned, pumiced. It has been a year of great introspection, of realizations, of growth under difficult circumstances. I feel pushed inevitably to the threshold. As I also wrote in my journal, "It ends here. This is the last death. From here, I rise anew... I am here to start again. I let go of what defeats me - my doubts, my fears, my self-recrimminations. I am 'born again', fresh this day. My past is dead. My old self is gone... I am at a threshold. The window is open. Will I go through it? I am. I am going through it. With ease; with love; with Freya and my mother hens. I am born again."

Perhaps I am weird and dramatic or even ridiculous. I'll leave that for you to decide. But this is who I am. This is how I think. This is how I live my life. Last night my wooly friend died. I believe we were/are connected. I believe that in her death I have the opportunity to die, too. To die in the sense that M. Scott Peck talks about in "The Road Less Travelled", when he talks about how sometimes our old self needs to die and we are reborn. So far this year has been one of death and rebirth to me. My journal is full of these serious kinds of thinking. I feel like I am being cleansed, pushed. It is time to be me. I believe we can let life happen to us and say she is just a sheep - livestock - and she died because she was sick and perhaps had some longterm issues with her lungs. It is just nature and nature had its course. It has nothing to do with me or my soul. But I think that, if we want, we can grab life and make it meaningful - find in it the meaning for our souls.

And what is in a name? Check out these references to the myths of Freya who was the Great Queen Goddess of Norse mythology. Notice this one where she tried everything to save her son, Baldr but she forgot mistletoe and he was poisoned. Interesting, eh? Here is a more complete synopsis of Freya's myths. Next time I find my little Freya's pale eyes, I will name her Eir.

There you have it: all my grief and sadness in one post!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I was sitting with a group of women a week or two ago and we got onto how families have changed. One woman brought up how we don't have 'Aunties' like we used to - adult friends that children called 'Auntie' or even blood Aunts who are really involved in the lives of children.

I know I was fortunate to grow up with two Aunt's who knew me well and were involved in my life in ways that only an "Auntie" can be - not quite a mother but not a friend, either - someone who explains family mysteries to you and give you guidance and feedback as well as being fun. Women I spent time with and know and who know me. My Dad's first sister, Elaine and my Mom's sister, Heather, were aunts like that to me. They really do fill a special niche that I think is lacking in a lot of kids' lives these days. I am sure that is partly due to shrinking families - when people only have 1 or 2 children, you just don't need the same kinds of support that you do when you have 4 or 6. And families are more spread out and often don't live in the same town.

So I am especially grateful to my brother who shares his children with me and I get to have the delight of being an "Auntie". And I have a feeling there will be other nephews I will get to know as well as they get older.

My nephew Caleb left on Friday after being here for almost 3 weeks. He was here last October for a similar amount of time. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to get to know him so well.

He is such an interesting kid. I especially love his sense of humour - always so willing to laugh at himself, as well. I pointed out tomato sauce that he had managed to get above his eyebrow. A smile pulled at the corners of his mouth and he says, "I really don't know how I get it up there!"

Here are some unforgettable highlights of his visit:

Some one on one Aunt, Uncle and nephew time at Ellison while Rhiannon was otherwise engaged at a sleepover birthday party. He loved jumping off the granite cliffs with Uncle Dean.

A visit to O'Keefe Ranch - the highlights for him were the fiberglass horse and the candy at the general store. Although he did managed to get through another tour of the mansion without complaining too much...

One of my highlights would be the time I cut up a sirloin tip roast and cooked it as steaks for dinner. I made 4 steaks - one each for me, Dean, Caleb and Drew (Rhiannon doesn't care for beef other than hamburger). Drew wasn't home for dinner so there was one steak left to be put away for him. I walked into the kitchen to make Drew up a plate and set it aside to find nothing left on the table. Caleb, who had lingered at the table had eaten it up. 2 huge steaks. That's half a sirloin tip roast! Oh well, gave us something to tease him about!

And with Caleb about, there was always lots of piano playing. Here is a recording he made of his own composition called "One Dream". You can also find it on Youtube. He'd love it if you left him a comment. Search for "One Dream (AN AWESOME SONG)" or click on my link. He checks daily to see how many views he's had and to check for comments.

He left on Thursday with grandma and grandpa. Sure seems quiet around here without him! Although quiet is good after 6 weeks straight of company!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Catching Up Part 6

So, Sunday morning we packed up the van and tied 3 bikes and some luggage on the roof. Mom as a little leary of that as her experience is that Dad looses something off the roof anytime he puts stuff up there. But I assured her that I am more of the overkill type and I had never lost anything off of the roof. Drew jammed on coming at the last minute and although I pulled out everything I had to convince him - even guilt, I could not convince him to come with us. So it was the 4 of us.

We pulled into New Denver just after lunch time. This year we stayed at a little internment house (hut) that we rented off of some friends of mine. We were starving so we skarfed down some bunwhiches and headed immediately for the beach. We went to Dean and Rhiannon's favourite beach which is the delta of Carpenter Creek. They call it "Island Beach".

I left to go register Rhiannon in the Suzuki Valhalla Institute for our third time. Mom came with me and I showed her the picture of grandpa on the wall looking dapper in his double breasted suit and handsome dark hair. And she found pictures of Auntie Heather's class but not of her own. But still lots of names she remembered. And then we rushed to Silverton for the Play In which I had thought was a lot later. Luckily because everything is only 2 minutes away in New Denver and Silverton, we still made it on time. Dean left the next morning after a little drama about a bank card that turned out not to be lost at all or at least not lost in the way we thought it was.

And that was the beginning of a fantastic violin week. I would say that out of all of our fantastic violin weeks that we have spent at SVI, this was the most excellent. Rhiannon had a great master class, a wonderful group class, a very fun note reading class and a great Music Enhancement class. She went to bed early each night pooped. We swam in the gorgeous lake everyday except Tuesday when it rained in the evening. We ate good food - Mom brought along a delicious chicken lasagne that we took two dinners to eat. And we had Greek salad made with my own feta cheese.

And during our breaks we took in all the local sights. We went to Mom's old house

This tree was just a baby tree when she lived there 55 years ago. From her old house, we walked the trail she used to walk with Auntie Heather and Grandpa to Bigalow Bay. She remembers running down the path with ease but now that we are a couple of old ladies, we were clutching and foliage and walking slowly down the steep incline.

Here she is at Bigalow Bay. We never actually got to swim there - we always planned on it but it never turned out. The campground beach was just way to convenient - a block away.

We went out for lunch at the Appletree which if you ever go to New Denver, you have to try. They make the very best sandwiches ever. Sandwiches you wish you thought of.

Another time we went to the museum which Mom especially loved and spent another couple of hours in after Rhiannon and I returned to class.

And we went to the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre where Mom found the name and address of her old friend, which turned out to be across the street from the little house we were staying in. And we marvelled at the beauty the Japanese made in such extreme circumstances. And at how many fishing boats and bicycles were confiscated. And Mom wondered at how much she didn't know as a child about the circumstances of people she knew. And we had a nice walk one evening through the Kohan Reflection Garden.

Mom and I had a very good time. In the evenings after Rhiannon was in bed, we worked on Bethany's wedding present that is only 17 months overdue - but much closer to completion than it was before when it existed in idea form only. Its gorgeous, I have to say and soon you might get a sneak preview.

It was just a really great week. Our time fell into an easy rhythm and we just did what we felt like - the three of us. We'd put dinner on to cook, go down to the beach for a swim. Head home when we felt hungry. Mom bought some beach shoes at the Donation Store after her first experience with the rocky beach. Her feet were a little more sensitive than they were the last time she was there... And then it was the final concert which Mom was amazed by- and it was amazing. Such a treat of great violin music of some of the greatest composers - all played by children!

And all too soon the magical week was over and Dean was there again to collect us but not without some last beach time. Last gazing at the glacier Grandpa hiked on. Mom wishing she could ask him who he hiked with and how he got across the lake. Last windy walk around New Denver in the evening admiring old houses and old trees. And then we were packing up and scrubbing up the house and locking it and returning keys and with our bikes tied on top of the van again, we were on our way home.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Catching Up Part 5

So on the Sunday of the FR, I took Rhiannon to camp - Circle Square Ranch. It would have been a short drive from Fintry but it was an almost 2 hour drive from the Mable Lake Forestry Campground. She was going to camp with her good friend, Nikala. She was excited and scared. Standing in line to check in, she was leaning against me. Nikala wasn't there yet and she was a little bit scared. It is a camp where they learn how to ride horses. At the last minute she wasn't so sure about it. "Maybe I'll just learn how to look after them and not ride them," she says. I got her checked into her cabin and her bed made and then it was time to go. By this point, with other girls around who would be her room mates for the week, she gave me a 'hand hug' without getting down from her bunk... I passed Nikala's family on the road just after I left so I knew she would be okay.

It was supposed to be a quiet week - time for Dean and I alone and time to do somethings that needed doing - like the advertising for the fall programs at the Inner World School and canvassing for washing windows. But.... My brother Doug's van broke down. Turned out not to be what people thought but a little computer chip on the cam shaft. But in the meantime we had Grandma and Grandpa and Doug and Delanie and 6 of their kids on Monday night. I made spaghetti with the last of my canned tomatoes. Then the next day Doug and 4 of the kids went home with Mom and Dad. Delanie, Douglas and Caleb stayed until the van was fixed which turned out to be Wednesday evening. They got to do a bit of beaching and we went out for ice cream, too. I managed to get some of the things done that I needed to.

Thursday evening Mom and Dad arrived. Dad came to follow up on some contacts for roofing. And Mom came because she was coming with us to New Denver for the violin camp the following week. We had an empty house for about 24 hours. But Dad helped out by helping us not miss any windows while the van got the brakes fixed and dropping me off and picking me up for canvassing. But he left Friday afternoon although Mom wanted him to stay.

So Friday night Grandma came along as we went to pick up Rhiannon at Circle Square and watch the 'rodeo'. And there was Rhiannon on a horse and feeling very comfortable on one, too! She was so proud of herself and disappointed she didn't get to show us everything she could now do on a horse. And she was very, very dirty! She had a fantastic time at camp and had a hard time coming home to her boring old family.

But she wasn't home for long!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Catching Up Part 4

The Family Reunion Part 2

Once we all got there and survived the rain of the first night, it was fun. More than fun. I mean, just imagine 30 cousins in one place. There was a lot of playing, a lot of swimming, some singing, some drawing and ridiculous story making, some hamming it up at the usual 'talent' show. Here are some photographic highlights:

Uncle Doug and some of his adoring nieces and a nephew.

The 'cool' older cousin crowd.

Kids getting tossed in the water - this is Dean and Rhiannon.

This is Caleb and Uncle Jordan

Mermaids. There was lots of good sister swimming fun. We even let Evan come, once and he almost behaved himself. they let me come, too with my prosthetic fin (I'm not a big fan of hanging out in the middle of deep water unless I have a floaty - a little lame, I know...)

Handsome, tall cousins - Drew and Douglas.

Cute little cousins

Gabe the babe - he is getting to be a little boy these days... sigh... it happens way too fast!

And this is the Laura series. She does not allow a pretty picture to be taken of her. Nope. Only she is allowed to take pretty pictures of herself. The rest of us get this. Everytime. I think she just likes getting her picture taken because I kept trying and trying and trying... Even the one with her eyes half closed. It is not an accident. She did that on purpose. She held it like that until she was sure the picture was taken.

Did you get this far? Here is your reward. A rather dark but still hilarious video of "The Turkey Song". Its Jordan, Kyle, Doug and Evan. This somehow encapsulates us all right here. A bunch of hams.

Still reading? Good for you! Here is the real reward... these somehow appeared on my camera - mysteriously along with a bunch of ugly pictures which have already been posted on Facebook. So relax, Amy, I won't post them again here...hehe. Mom and I discovered these videos together. She almost peed herself laughing. She said she had a family of hams... Here are two of the mysterious videos...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Catching Up Part 3


Well, if you have known my family for any length of time, you know that tradition often is that when we plan outings, disaster often follows in one form or another. It makes for good stories to tell, anyways and there is never a dull moment. This was no exception. The reunion was scheduled to start at 1pm on Friday the 24th at Fintry. We had a group spot reserved. We had showers, flush toilets, a beautiful beach and a covered eating area reserved. At 10am on the 23rd, Fintry campground was evacuated because of the Terrace Mountain Fire. In fact, it is still evacuated to this day.

So, all our plans for Thursday flew out the window. We spent our time on the computer and the phone trying to find another place to have our reunion. And ours is no small reunion. We were expecting 49 people... not including nursing babies... That would have put the number to 52. I called everywhere. Everywhere was full. I started with the campgrounds that met our agreed upon criteria - showers, etc. Full. Everywhere. And I asked for suggestions and I followed them up. Full.

I knew there were forestry campgrounds that were off the radar and that there was one on Mable Lake past the provincial campground. You can't call these places and you can't reserve them either. The campground attendant at the provincial campground on Mable Lake said that we might have some luck there as the campground had been enlarged by quite a bit that spring.

So with some sketchy directions we sent the man of action along with a tent and a tarp out to check it out. In the meantime there was a family conference call. I don't think I'll write much about that. Or the yelling. And I won't write much about how I felt when I was told I was giving up without trying because I was no longer looking for a place with showers but just for a place. Nope. I won't write about that. All I will say is that Sarah is very good at that kind of thing and I admire how she handled it.

Anyways. Despite the conference call or maybe because he wasn't there for it, Brent managed to snag us camping spots in what was probably the only campground within 100 km's with some spots. It was 20 km's past where Mable Lake turns to gravel. And the road has suffered some slides in the spring run off. There were only pit toilets, no running water and no showers. But it was beautiful. We managed to fit the whole fam-dam-ly into 4 spots. 2 huge spots held most people and then we had a spot to ourselves with Evan and Erin and Tyler shared a spot with Amy and Andreas. Anyways, I didn't hear any complaints and that is the main thing. And I thought it was a beautiful campsite. This is a picture that Andrew took. I think most people who come there come for boating or fishing and to ATV or ride their motor bikes. Not so much for the beach which was a lovely sandy beach. We had it almost to ourselves.

Here are some more of Andrew's photos. He really captured the beauty of the place.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Catching Up Part 2

Well, Sarah and co. arrived on Friday. On Tuesday the next wave arrived. First my sister Bethany with husband Ben and baby Owen arrived. Later in the evening my sister Katie with husband Brent and M, N and E arrived. It was a full house. Sarah had Kaetlyn's room as her suite. Now Andrew's room became Katie's suite with the girls in Rhiannon's bunk house. Bethany and Ben staked out the living room and Andrew good naturedly slept on the lazy boy in Dean's dungeon office.

It was so fun. We went for sisters midnight swim at Kal beach on the first night - it was scorching hot. Brent made supper and Ben and Brent made breakfast. I tell you, I have to have Brent come more often! He can cook for me anytime! We managed now to make to Juniper Bay which everyone loved except Brent who sat in his chair in jeans and a shirt. Juniper Bay is my favourite beach. Uncle Ben is always a huge hit with his nieces and he certainly lived up to his reputation at the beach!

I actually have no pictures of this time. I think I was just too busy to even pick up the camera. I loved having so many sisters here. There is nothing like having sisters in your house. I feel sorry for everyone who doesn't have 6 sisters. When my brothers come (mainly Jordan and Layne) I get to pamper them and make nice food and they sit back and enjoy. I like to pamper my sisters, too, but they pitch in and we share the kitchen. Bethany even managed to make a cheesecake. And I sewed up Katie's shorts. It was just so fun to be in my big kitchen with my sisters. It just was.

Eryn managed to make it over 2 nights for dinner and Kaetlyn came once. It just seemed there was always talking and doing and babies being passed around. And Brent and Ben were very good sports. And Dean? Well, remembering that in the 12 years we have been together, he has had 2 family get togethers and even if everyone of his extended family managed to make it, it would be only 11 other people - 17 counting us. There were now a total of 15 people staying in our house. Dean was having a rather low profile. He spent time in his office in the basement; he visited his parents; he was a little overwhelmed but a good sport nonetheless.

And that takes us up to Thursday morning...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Catching Up Part 1


It has truly been a summer of Clarkes. It started a week before the family reunion that was scheduled for July 24 - 27 in the group camping at Fintry with the arrival of Sarah and her two boys. We had a little time to ourselves before more Clarkes arrived.

I noticed in uploading these pictures that there are A LOT of pictures of Adriel who was super cute and loved spending time with me - the sure way to an Auntie's heart. And somehow there are only a couple of super-cute-Sloan and none of me and Sarah together...sigh...

Here is Adriel in the chicken coop where he found an egg on the ground. He loved getting up early each morning and helping me to feed the chickens. Especially picking 'weedies' (which sounded a lot like "Wheaties") to give to all the animals...

Every day we went to the beach - usually Kal beach which is a good beach to go to when you have small children and you are going for a short time.

Here's Adriel in Rhiannon's goggles...

He didn't like to have sand in his shorts....

And here is my gorgeous sister in her hot new bathing suit hiding in the water. (silly girl!) We all had a lot of fun at the beach - even Sloan.

Besides spraying things with my hose and making mud holes for the car Drew lent him to get stuck in, this was his favourite thing to do - drive Rhiannon's little battery operated car.

He even took Sloan for a ride. I love this picture of Sloan's chubby arm hanging onto his big brother as he drives him around. I think Sloan is at a stage of absolutely perfect chub-ness - the kind that makes you want to gobble him up!

It was so much fun to spend that time with Sarah, Adriel and Sloan. I seem to have 'the touch' with Sloan and I can usually get him to stop crying unless he is starving to death - in which case, I just don't cut it - my equipment is long past its due date... It was just so easy to be together and 'hang out'. Sarah wanted to make sure she got to eat the good food that others have blogged about on their visits. I think we got most of it made and eaten. And we made it to the ice cream parlour where we like to take guests - the Garden Parlour where they make all their own ice cream on site - soooo good!