WHERE IS M?






She isn’t dashing from window to window checking wind speeds at six in the morning. Her kayak lies dry in its rack.

She isn’t standing at her stove, pouring boiling chokecherry jelly into jars; or chopping vegetables at the counter for the homemade soups she lovingly crafts, a recipe rebel.

She isn’t kneeling in front of a rock bed in the yard picking leaves from between their jagged teeth. Nor is she sitting on the back deck laughing at an industrious sparrow taking his morning shower in her birdbath.

She isn’t at her desk. Her laptop lolls a dusty witness proclaiming productivity nil. A half-made puzzle splatters a table, the pieces scattered and isolated like the bits that make up M.

Step lightly across the hardwood floor and peek around the edge of the double door into the bedroom. Is that M curled on the bed, her breathe a reassuring rise and fall? Is she asleep or enclosed in an imagined sanctuary, a sandy alcove on a private stream where she can float in cool water and dream.

STOMP ON THIS






Today is International Earth Day. While governments of one hundred and ninety-two countries are recognizing this important event with speeches and programs (and please not a flood of bright coloured balloons set aloft to kill more birds) little is being done to save our planet.

Traditionally, today, I pick up the garbage others have strewn over the living surface of our land like confetti rained down on a globe. Years of observation force me to conclude the people most dependent on the land are the ones that least respect it. I watch TV shows of subsistence dwellers in the north, who take 200 salmon out of a river a day while the runs are on, and drop their spent cartridges onto the land without retrieving them. I find empty bait containers of Styrofoam and plastic tossed away by fishermen (reaping the rewards of a tasty trout without respecting the waters that produced it). I see the farmers covering hay bails with mammoth sheets of plastic, spraying their crops with fertilizer and weed killers which sink into the water table and ripping up the brush around a small slough to squeeze another bushel of wheat from their land, while birds are left with nowhere to nest. Urban dwellers are little better. I locate the bag of trash someone throws into the ditch once a week on their way into the city. I pick up the bottles and cans and shiny pieces of foil that, heated by the sun, spark a flame in the dangerously dry grass and bush.

EARTHDAY.ORG is supported by many organizations trying to voice the despair of a dying planet. They sent representatives to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2021 to plead for more action and are behind many structured and positive programs to resuscitate our world before it chokes to death.

They’ve posted eight ideas to teach children about green living – which I think is a hoot, because our youngest generation knows more about it than the three generations who proceeded them and who still create the greatest amount of destruction. So, while you are “reading a book on nature” to your children or grandchildren as EDO recommends, please absorb the message.

“Go out and enjoy nature.” They suggest as an act of honoring Earth Day. They don’t say leave pieces of clothing, footwear, backpacks and your food wrappers behind when you head home. They don’t ask us to swing on tree limbs until they snap under our weight, or trod a path across the hills, where others have gone until a wavy line of bare dirt replaces the prairie wool and indicates your passing for the next millennia.

“Open your windows.” EDO notes homes contain 2.5 times more pollutants that the outdoors. They don’t point out that opening our window can bring in the toxic smell of manure from a feedlot, the acidic destruction of land from pig urine, the chemical vapours of a crop sprayer or the ripe smell of the lagoon filled with our waste; all caused by our greed for food and more food.

“Feed the birds”. I live in a provincial park. The administration has asked us not to put bird feeders out because the seeds dropping on the ground bring in other predators. So, while you’re kindly feeding a bird you’ve set up a bait stand for a fox or coyote.

“Take a bike ride.” Ha! More and more overfed people are buying electric bikes, which mean more lithium batteries, in other words more lithium extracted from rock or alkaline water in the earth and more batteries to dump into our landfills. According to authorities our planet has approximately 30 to 90 million tons of lithium in reserve, which means we will deplete the earth’s supply, possibly as early as 2040. Will we then sit upon a mountain of junked electric cars and bikes? And more frightening to me, has anyone projected the damage done to our water systems when we start harnessing more rivers and waterfalls to produce the mammoth amount of electricity needed to charge electric transportation?

One of EDO’s ideas I can get behind is “buy more locally”. Imagine the difference in how much fossil fuel is used to transport bananas from Brazil to the prairies, or pineapple from Hawaii to Toronto instead of eating the local berries and apples grown within a few kilometres of our homes? I wonder why governments aren’t investing in large greenhouses, employing hundreds of workers to grow the kind of food we insist we must have. We already make ethanol from plants, so we can heat the greenhouses with the waste from the plants we produce. But hey, maybe this idea is too simple, cost efficient and easy – let’s pay another three quarters of a million dollars to study the problem for five more years and come up with something far more complex and short-sighted.

Yes, the cynic in me is up and running and using the weak weapons of sarcasm and irony to attack. Nature is my battery charger, my spiritual inspirations and mental medicine. It infuriates me to see how carelessly others treat her. So today I post this blog in hopes my plea stops a paper cup from being tossed on the sidewalk, or a large piece of plastic being shredded on a barb wire fence. I stand by Mother Nature who is waving that plastic in the wind and rattling that cup down the street trying to catch our attention.

COMMENTING ON COMMENTS






Over the past two weeks I’ve heard multi times, “I read your blog, but my comments didn’t show up”, or “Your website wouldn’t accept my comment”. This is not good! An email to my tech, some changes in my dashboard and the problem is semi fixed; enough that I can reply to comments waiting since October. Yikes! I discover the algorithm sending me an email link to a submitted comment has stopped working. Believing I am getting no comments I’ve not investigated, instead I sagged with rejection.

No wonder I’ve lost my writing momentum. Without your feedback my conclusion became, “No one is reading me. Is there any point?” I trust this explains why I am addressing the importance of your comments – not just for me, but for every writer. Your interaction is a vital part of the process of putting ideas, through words, into the universe. A writer plants the seed, the reader sees the tender shoot, and waters it with comments. These, in turn, form the bloom. And of great interest to me, both sunshine (good comments) and fertilizer (negative feedback) unfurl the petals.

Writers write for a variety of reasons. My husband will be the first to point out I don’t write to make money. My sisters will say I’m not in it for fame – or notoriety.

I write firstly to inform. It pleases me, that through my blogs, I can share something I’ve learned, a philosophy tickling my soul, or an inspirational idea sparking my mind. I am happiest when I evoke my reader (you) into an inner search of your lifestyle, heart or mind.

My romantic suspense books let me entertain. Night and day my imagination feeds my brain stories. I write them down, get them in print and hope you take a vicarious ride with my protagonists through the amusement park of my plot. My goal is eliciting a belly laugh, an eye rolling groan, a cry of fear, the heat of anger or a swoon of sexy endorphins in you.

I write so my readers know they are not alone. My books and pieces on chronic disease proffer my experience on living with Crohns, along with the knowledge gained, and the challenges overcome of many other people dealing with physical and mental health problems. When you comment, you support them.

Good or bad, a comment moves my goals forward. Whether you argue my theory on Facebook, write a glowing review on Amazon, or share your experience of the topic on my blog, I benefit. I learn from you. Your thoughts on my remarks make others think, maybe even share. Your reviews cause other readers to read my books: your criticism stimulates discussion. All has a purpose. You are the one thing a writer must have – comments are the bonus.

STS – SMALL TOWN SYNDROME






I grew up in Rosetown, SK. And although I’m not a proponent of saying the SK is flat, Rosetown, in its square-on-square shape sits on a flat piece of prairie. If you wanted something exciting to do you had to drive at least 50 minutes in any direction. The nearest thing to nature we had was a low set of hills along one edge of Eagle Creek (which held only a trickle of water for as long as I lived there).

We were the Thrasher kids, privileged, popular, vigilantly protected from town gossip by our guard dog father and conflict avoiding mother. However, we couldn’t escape the labels, expectation and rampant gossip that goes along with small town life. It is a given that if you live in a small town, you are entitled to be apprised of everything that happens to your neighbours. With a high-profile father, and community involved mother, the Thrasher kids were fodder for gossip.

As a child I can remember making a lot of exciting moments for family and friends. A three-year-old, I fell between the side of a bed and a small space on the wall and slept soundly through a town search that went on through the night. At five I played hookey from kindergarten and defecated under the steps of the Presbyterian church when I couldn’t go home to use the bathroom. At seven instead of walking to school I hid behind a set of skis in the back yard and watched my mom hang laundry on the line. As I look back now and see a theme building, I guess I didn’t much like the rules. Even then I bucked the system.

In grade four they discovered I needed STRONGG glasses and finally my family had an explanation why the town labelled me stuck-up. With my blurred vision I couldn’t recognize anyone on the street, so I walked past without acknowledging them, too embarrassed to guess. To this day I am oblivious to much that goes on around me – taught in my early years to avoid rather than observe.

The Thrasher kids created conflict of every type between themselves, but Lord help anyone who went after one of us. Suddenly we were a united unit, fiercely aggressive in our defense of a sibling. The fight for fairness and burning loyalty still fire my gut today

We were raised with upper middle-class standards. Our dining table every evening became a classroom in proper etiquette and edifying conversation. My parents hosted many adult guests for Dad’s business and pleasure, and we were expected to entertain them with courtesy.

Our strict parenting meant we were often isolated from our peers. I couldn’t be out the same hours as my friends, go to movies they were allowed to see, sleep in on Saturday morning, miss church on Sunday for a skating party or hockey game. We were expected to give to the community. So, I entered my adolescence with a lot of rebellion. When I wanted to be with my friends, I was expected to babysit a neighbour’s kids. If I wanted to go to a party with my boyfriend my curfew was so early the party had barely started before I was expected home. Our after-school hours were filled with dancing lessons, music lessons, skating practice, extra curricular activities, helping mom, doing chores and as soon as we were old enough a job to teach us the lessons of good work ethics and budgeting our money. No time to get into mischief or learn bad habits. Regardless of my parent’s hopes I accumulated many!

I had a paper route from age 14 on, and this again exposed me to the censorious attention of many townspeople. I could be labelled that lovely Thrasher girl who always gets the paper here on time, or just as quickly the idiot Thrasher kid who got her bike stuck in the mud of the back lane. And faster than the spin cycle on a load of crap word spread through the town.

How does this affect me still? You may have guessed foremost I have an antipathy against small towns. I resent labels, spent the first fifty years of my life fighting to gain control instead of letting others control me. Since, I continue a constant battle for autonomy. I may not shave my head, cover myself in tattoos or piercings, but my mind and heart are those of a born rebel. Don’t tell me I can’t do something. Don’t expect me to do something just because you think I should. And whatever you do don’t back me into a corner, because I’ll come out as mean as a badger poked with a stick.

Living in Rosetown also influenced me positively. Because it was so blah, square streets, flat land, rigid controls, and spying eyes everywhere, my imagination became my greatest friend, weapon and savior. For several years many people thought I’d be sent to school in Texas. I told them that when they asked where I got my strange accent. They bought it and pinned it to the gossip clothesline faster than Pinterest works today. The truth is we had a German nanny at the time I was learning to talk. As my father worked most the time and my mother was hospitalized with a back injury a German accent crept into my speech, then was later diluted by an Irish caregiver, then a country girl who helped mom into my teens. I call it my Mickey Mouse voice.

My imagination and creativity also made me extremely sought after. I had three sets of girl friends and could join any group from the popular to the losers – yes small-town labels! The boys hung around because they liked my grit, adventurous spirit and willingness to take on any “I double dare you’s”. Part of this spun off from being a middle child and the constant fight for attention. Whichever group I took part in expected – yes there is that word again – me to come up with something exciting to do, something new, and of course fun, and just short of breaking the limits – my limits – because my friends’ generally exceeded them.

Like the title of a Clint Eastwood duster, small town life was for me the good the bad and the ugly. I am adamantly opposed to living in one again, and decry STS with passion. It has taken me 70 plus years to shake the labels of snob, spoiled, ferocious, soft-touch etc. “out of my hair” as Mitzi Gaynor sang in South Pacific – a song to which I related. The one label I claim with pride is rebel. It got me to where I am today, and that’s a mighty fine place.

DON’T SELL WINTER SHORT






 

Today I made a snow angel. After shovelling six inches of new snow off the deck, I felt like I needed to celebrate. Thank you, mother nature, for treating the land to a vanilla shake. Our poor dehydrated soil will slurp it down with gratitude.

Winter is my second favourite month after fall. Fall gets first billing because usually the bugs are gone, and it is a great time for campfires and kayaking. But winter brings delights of its own – especially when we get snow.

I have proven, many times over, that if I get out and ‘do it’ regardless of what the weatherman promises in the way of cold, wind, rain or snow, I will have a blast. Oh how I regret the early days when concerns about bears coming out of hibernation, or muddy riverbanks with nowhere to camp kept me from joining an expedition. Conditions never prove as extreme as promised, and ‘the doing’ rewards you with exercise, mental stimulus and joy.

Christmas week we set records on the prairies for coldest temps. Yes, we’re talking -38 and the wind chill fell off the thermometer. It didn’t stop my ON grandchildren (experiencing a prairie winter for the first time) from layering up in my extra winter wear and exploring the unknown. We walked/cartwheeled across the river – a first for them – gorged on hot chocolate and ginger cookies on the other side and came back in high spirits.

This weekend I x-country skied with a friend on Clearwater Lake. There was a miraculous oasis of good snow there we hadn’t seen at the Landing for weeks. From home it looked like a windy day. When I set up the ski date, I hoped the cabins would shelter us enough to make it doable. Yep, you bet, at Clearwater there was no wind. We skied around the perimeter of the lake in sun warmed air. A day later I joined another friend for her first snowshoe, promising her enough snow to make her inaugural attempt a workout. Again, icy mounds covered with a skiff of crusted snow at the Landing, became banks of soft snow inviting another step and another until we’d covered several kilometres around the lake and trekked back to the SUV for a hot soup lunch. Did you guess we were back at it a half hour later? Another great day of healthy living.

I’m considering not waiting for spring to get kayaking. Maybe I can mount a sail on my 14.5 foot Perception and made a run down river on the ice. OR, drag my 1978 Limited edition made in Canada plastic kayak up to the top of the river hills and ride it to the bottom. Oops! Watch out for the rocks.

After two years of Covid keeping me from the slopes, I drove out to BC and did some solo skiing, just to prove I still could balance on two sticks at 40 – 60 kpm still. I want to ski into my 80s or at least until I can ski for free at 75. Now there is a milestone worth obtaining. I’ve invested thousands of dollars in ski hills and want to get some back.

Yes, I’m heading off for some downhill skiing again next week. Who doesn’t like the high obtained racing down a narrow, mogul covered run and discovering you’re still alive at the bottom? Okay, we won’t do that one again.

A glance through my 2021 daily journal shows one other part of the theory “Just do it”. I take part in these activities while experiencing ill health before, after or during. Yet often they are my saving grace. Combatting Crohns and side effects from many surgeries taught me every minute is precious. I climbed out of my sick bed to snowshoe with my daughter. A last memory before she moved to Vancouver. Do the things you love when you can.  A side bar to this is that while doing them you are focused on the thrill and saturating your body with happy juice or endorphins, while distracting yourself from the pain and other symptoms. You are richly rewarded with a double win.

Having proven my point to those who have not rushed for warmer climates, shivering dramatically at the thought of a prairie winter, I will sign off and take the nap I deserve. After all, I need to store up energy for my next snowy adventure.

BORROWING TROUBLE






A popular idiom suggests, “don’t borrow trouble.” It means don’t spend a lot of time worrying about something that might never happen. While I’m a minute-by-minute cynic (I want to go kayaking so I’m not surprised when a 30 kph wind rises as I leave the launch) I have never seen the benefit of worrying. I think along with the scar tissue I grew from my many surgeries I accepted the belief life is transient. What is the point of planning ahead? “We might be dead by then,” I say to my long-suffering husband who is trying to organize a winter holiday or renovations on the house.

I guess saving energy – mine in particular – being a priority, I don’t see the point on wasting any on a plan a multitude of variants can demolish in seconds. I’m sure many of you are arguing with me all ready. How can you get through life if you don’t plan? I’ve had trips, with my suitcase already loaded in our private plane cancelled last minute for bad weather, family trips set aside for sick children. Kayaking partners pulled out of expeditions, planned for months, because of deaths in the family, and big pieces of my life disappeared into the black hole of illness. Life taught me a goal can be snatched away at a moment’s notice.

My plans are based on the latest information and last-minute decisions. Yes, I realize I must book the tickets for the cruise ahead, but the cynic in me says, “Don’t count on taking it.” I am not a brink master, getting an adrenaline high from doing things at the last minute. I am most comfortable working ahead of deadline and commitments, reconnoitering a new situation before I go into it, and finishing one thing before starting another. I am mystified by my insistence on painting in the details at the last minute. What a contradiction.

Part of this refusal may stem from the annual increase in my analytic side. It is shooting up like a pubescent teen I can’t keep in shoes. I hesitate in making these decisions in case they are wrong. It is an annoying trait—yes as annoying as that contentious teen!

Right now, we are going through renovations. “Pick the type of countertop you want,” my husband requests. I dally as long as possible, then make a choice. But based on experience my gut, intuition and cynic huddle together whispering, “They’ll be out of that one.” I choose a soaker tub, and my analytic wonders if a better one will appear on the market the next day. I am infuriating, but I am not borrowing trouble.

We just had our sewage tank tested by the provincial park authorities. We fill it to the top; they measure the amount it holds and twenty-four hours later measure again. No leakage. Hurrah! Aside from the inconvenience of not using it for that period, it had no impact on my life. However, for two weeks prior to the scheduled test my husband agonized over the possibility of a leak in the tank. This would mean purchasing a new tank, and the cost of having the old one dug up and removed, moving a shed, destroying a cement retaining wall on two sides of the yard, taking down a pergola, and digging up a 25-foot Ponderosa pine. Aware this might be a possibility, I didn’t dwell on it. Take action only when required. The test is done. The tank doesn’t leak, and my husband is just recovering from a near panic attack brought on by his propensity for borrowing trouble.

While I applaud those, who embrace a glass half full attitude, I examine all the negatives up front, eliminate or accept them and think positively about the end result. Am I negative because I voice my concerns first? Is a spurt of anxiety while I assess the situation like several weeks of worry over a possible result? Am I borrowing trouble? If so, I pay the lender back before any interest is owed, because I believe things happen for the best – maybe not the way I envision, but the way they are meant to be.