Wednesday

It looks like it’s going to be a lovely day here in Bon Accord.

And so inspired, I offer this:

Some Thoughts on Summer, or, A Simple Ode to Summer

©KLarson 2011

The sun was shining at 6:30 this morning.  A rarity these days, when rain and clouds, or, rainclouds have been the norm.
No rolling angry booms of thunder to shake the eaves or flashes of sheet lightning to bruise the morning sky.
It’s a clear day, with a beautiful sky, a mild breeze that just might help dry up the puddles in the road.
(Wouldn’t that be nice?)

“Summer’ is half over and we’ve barely had any.  Temps in the high teens and low 20’s on those days the sun prevailed.
Still, we’ve made the best of it — we’ve camped, festivaled, ate greasy side-cart food and even
gone motor-biking (in the rain, of course).  The gardens should be lush, but with no heat
they’re simply water-logged.

The chickweed, though, is healthy.  Were I intrepid enough to make a salad!  Perhaps if I had planted some nasturtiums?
To see the positive in this rape of our shortest, our most favorite of seasons is at times, at best, difficult.
So, it’s shorts and sandals, pretty summer dresses, hair tied up loosely in imagination.
(Sweat tickling the back of a bared neck.)

The overhead fans are on in protest against humidity and venetians clatter wildly in patio doors flung stubbornly wide.
I will have summer!  I will pad naked through the darkness for a glass of cool water and then, shivering
dive back under the warmth of my down duvet only slightly grateful that here, at the end of July
we are not sweltering and sticky in our sheets.

Wind chimes play melodically in the constant breeze and lilies nod their heads in pretty unison.  The colours of summer;
and the sounds, too, are present.  Hammers and saws — the building of trellises and  decks, roofs being re-shingled
(in fits and starts these projects take two and three times as long) — thanks, always, to the rain.
Today, though, we’ll bless the sun.

And sit outside with a cold beer in a lounge chair and kick off our sandals and turn our faces to the full glare of the sun
beaming in defiance of UV rays and the possiblility of skin cancer.  We deserve this bit of warmth, this bit of
risky business.  In no time at all the trees will be turning reminding us that cold, real cold, is returning.
But not yet, not this day.

This is a SUMMER day and we will revel in it we will soak it up like medicine like memory like music like poetry like love.
It will be the spark that ignites the rest of the days we have left into a glorious bonfire around which we will dance
in our barefeet and, delirious in our joy, pretend our joy will not and can not ever end.
That is the magic of summer.

The bruised and darkened morning sky -- summer in July.

Random photos

First off, apologies to Dan Juraks, whose blog I subscribe to, for not having the quality of photos he posts.  I’m learning.

Thes

I’m not ready to change my theme apparently. . .

So, this morning I got the bright idea to change my sites’ theme.  Bad idea.

I chose the new one, Manifest, thinking it looked nice and clean, uncluttered a new look for my new attitude.  I clicked ‘activate’ and voila I had a new look.

It was terrible.  Just a plain white screen and no sidebars.  Everything was gone!  Now, I probably could have re-added everything, but I don’t know how.  I went to the widgets area and clicked on all the widgets I currently have, but to no avail.  None of my links, no pages, no calendar, zilch, zero, nada, nothing appeared.

Scared witless I then wondered how in the hell do I get my stuff back?  So, I went to the themes and searched until I found my old friend, Thirteen, and clicked ‘activate’ again.  And, voila! it all came back.

Huge sigh of relief.

I would like to create a new look for my page, but as I am so totally inept at it does anyone have any advice?

I am looking for something that is a tad more professional looking, a little more writerly and clean.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

For now, though, I am just immensely grateful that I have everything back the way it was.  Although I did make one minor little change.

Did I mention that I don’t do change well?

Wonderful

Hailey and I all dressed up to attend Wicked

I am borrowing from Siggiofmaine today.  My entry is a mere six words.  All I have time for.

Hailey and me, Wicked, wonderful time!

Busy, busy, busy

It’s been a busy few days for us here in Bon Accord.

My grandchildren came for three days — a much-anticipated visit.  We were set to go camping for the weekend.  Were to leave on the Friday, July 15th to spend a few fun days out at Long Lake Provincial Park.  Where we had gone camping with our son a few times when he was much younger.

I was excited — the weather was supposed to be good — at least no rain, and the thought of spending a couple of days at the beach in the sunshine seemed like heaven.  However. . .

. . . we woke to grey skies on Friday and a temp of only 18 for a high.  Still, undaunted, we set out.  We arrived at the campground around 3:30 (can’t check in before 4 p.m. — camping is certainly not what it once was, more on that to come) and found our spot.  I wish to God I had taken a picture of our ‘campsite’ because it was nothing but a joke.  Tim and I were appalled.  It was barely big enough to pitch our tent!  The description said it was a pull-through, but in reality all it was was a patch of gravel with a fire pit in the middle and a picnic table to one side.

We think that this ‘site’ once was a place for visitors to park as there were three concrete parking barricades in front of it.  But, we decided that since we were there, and it was the last spot in the campground we had best make do.

This is where I rant a little about how camping has changed.

I had reserved our spot two weeks in advance; at that time I was told that there was just one spot left in the campground.  When I checked out the picture on-line the site actually looked pretty decent.  It seemed large and well treed, with plenty of space for the kids to run around in.  When I asked could we not just show up and pick a spot I was told no, that the campground was now a 100% reserve-only camping facility.

Years ago, before the government handed over the operation of its parks to private contractors, this was not allowed.  Anyone could drive out to a park and pretty much be guaranteed they would find a camp site.  That is always how we camped — none of this reserve first nonsense.

Now, you can’t get into some parks unless you have a pre-paid permit.  If you arrive before 4 p.m. the day of your reservation you are charged an additional $5 for early check-in.  If you stay beyond the 2 p.m. check-out time you are charged an additional $5.  Firewood is $6.00 a bundle, and a bundle is barely adequate to get your fire started.  We spent $30.00 on wood.  Our campsite cost $23/night plus an additional $12 administration fee.  Suffice it to say I will likely not be returning to Long Lake.

My husband said it years ago, and though I don’t like to paint him in the guise of a prophet, I’d have to say he was right when he said that camping was going to become an activity only for those who could afford it.  Once upon a time at Long Lake a camp site cost  only $7/night and the firewood was free.  I realize that times change, and that governments cannot run things like parks at a loss, but really, to turn to gouging people for the right to spend a few days and nights in the fresh, open air is criminal.

Anyway, back to my story.

We made the best of the situation that we could, got the tent up, took the kids to the playground, cooked some hamburgers over an open fire and generally had a pretty good time.  There was some difficulty in getting in touch with my son and his wife to let them know we had arrived safe and sound as there is no cell phone reception at the lake, and I did not have enough quarters for the payphone ($2.25 for 3 minutes), I could not place a collect call to my son’s cell phone (not allowed) and, apparently the texts my husband was sending were not getting through.  The park rangers came to our campsite to tell us our son wanted us to call.  How? I asked.  Oh, you have to drive out of the park, up to the store at the corner of the highway, they said.

I took my 22 month old grandson with me and went to place the call.  After assuring my son that his children were safe I made my way back to the campground where I wound up stuck behind some a –hole who was filling up the water tanks in his trailer.  He could have pulled over to let me pass before he started but no, Ethan and I had to sit there for 20 minutes waiting, waiting, waiting.

By the time we got to our camp it was nearly 10:30.  He was tired and so was I.  I heated up his bottle then nestled him inside his father’s sleeping bag and covered him up with extra blankets.  I’m sure he wondered what the hell was going on.  Having never been in a tent before he laid there with his little eyes wide open, his head turning at each strange sound beyond the wall of the tent.  Eventually, I left him and went out to join Tim and my other two grandchildren.

It was now feeling quite cool outside.  We roasted marshmallows in the dark and told the kids some stories about camping with their dad.  At about 11:30 we decided it was time to tuck them in.  I was feeling pretty miserable by this point — the total inadequacy of our arrangement was glaring.  And, to make matters worse, when Tim inflated our air mattress the valve burst, so, all of us, except Ethan, were going to spend the night sleeping on top of gravel.

Tim and I packed it in shortly after midnight.  The kids were sound asleep, in fact, when I had tucked them in they were thrilled to get in their sleeping bags.  This, thankfully, was a huge, exciting adventure for them.

And all would have been fine if I had managed to get some sleep and it hadn’t been raining when I woke up the next morning.  As we were situated above a beaver pond I heard the beavers felling trees and slapping the water in alarm all night.  Then, there were the party-ers a few camp sites away who were up til about 3 a.m.  Add to the that the couple of dummies who decided to get in to a fight around 4 a.m.  I was terrified that the kids would become uncovered and catch cold so, every time they moved I was up adjusting blankets over, under and around them.   All in all, a very rough night.

At about 6:30 I got up, staggered down the road to the toilet then came back to put on some coffee.  The rain had tapered down to a fine drizzle, but as I poured hot water on my instant coffee it suddenly picked up momentum.  That’s when I decided that enough was enough.  I woke Tim and said, let’s go home.  We can’t have the kids out in this all day with no proper shelter, the beach would be terrible in the rain and there would be nothing for them to do.

We packed up as quickly as we could, bundled the kids into the car and headed home.  But not before letting the person at the gate know just what a horrible experience we’d had.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t care.  And, they said that had we let them know before 2 p.m. the day before that we weren’t going to be staying our second night we could have been given a refund.  The absurdity of that left me speechless.

I am over that now, however, and will be lodging a complaint with Alberta Parks.

The rest of our weekend with the kids was great.  We went swimming, had a picnic, played at the park, went for ice-cream several times and just generally had fun.  There’s always next year to try camping again and there are many other parks for us to try.

We’re in the market, though, for a small trailer or tent trailer.  If the weather isn’t great at least we’ll have proper shelter. And, besides that, Gramma and Grandpa simply cannot sleep on the ground anymore.

Our next adventure is a week at my sister Lori’s cottage with Landon, Jenn and the kids.  That, I’m sure, will be wonderful.

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Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Well, I survived the white water rafting.  What scary fun!

Literally, I was scared half to death.  I have this love/fear thing with water.  I’m fascinated by it, love the romanticism of it, the beauty and mystery of it, but, I’m terrified of drowning.

As the old cliché goes, though:  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Or, it makes you scream:  “Holy Shit!”  a lot.  Really a lot.

Thank God there are young men in this world like Brock, our guide, who revel in this sort of adventurous life-style and make it their duty to take excellent care of us holiday thrill-seekers.  These young men (and women) who work these types of jobs are truly heroic.

I chose, purposely, to sit at the back next to our guide as I figured (rightly) that it would be the safest place on the boat.  If I was going to be pitched overboard, at least he’d be there to grab me right away.  Thankfully, for both of us, that never happened.

But, we came close.

A class IV rapid is a scary, scary beast.  Big drops in the water called bowls, where the raft just plunges down into, huge waves  that slam the raft about as if it were a toy, and the loud, angry churning of the water all around, so loud you can barely hear the instructions to get your oar into the water and paddle HARD!

Then, you’re out of it and laughing, amazed that the last 30 seconds of your life were lived so intensely, but there’s no time to contemplate your success because Brock is hollering:  “Okay, here we are, oars in the water on my go!  WE DO NOT WANT TO GO FOR A SWIM HERE, DO YOU HEAR ME?”  And then, it’s another class IV, this one bigger and nastier than the last.

I nearly came out of the boat on that one.  Ass up in the air.  The only thing that saved me was the ropes.  The lovely, lovely ropes.  I grabbed on and held on.  To hell with paddling!  Meanwhile, Brock is up behind us, steering us out of the rapids.  The amount of physical strength such a feat must take.

I asked him after if he was done for the day.  Nope.  They would be going out with another group almost as soon as we got back.  There was a break for lunch of about an hour.  But that was it.

My hats off to them all — they are an amazing bunch of young people.

The rafting was the highlight of my trip to the mountains this time.  Usually, it’s just hiking, but this time we decided to switch things up a bit.

Our first day we drove to Field, B.C., where we stayed with some friends of Heather’s.  Wonderful people.  We drove up to Takkakaw Falls and got soaked, partly because of the mist spraying off the falls, (which are beautiful) but mostly because of the rain.

Rain has plagued us now for nearly two weeks.  Straight.  We are sick of it.  We had hoped that up in the mountains it would be drier and more summer-like.  But, no.  It was overcast and rainy most of the time.  We did not let that dampen (ha ha) our spirits or our plans.  Albertans, Canadians, in general, are an intrepid bunch.  Especially as our summers are so damned short.

Sunshine or not, temps barely in the teens or not, we are going to get out there and enjoy ourselves.

After the rafting, we had a couple of hours of down time and then we headed into Banff to pick up our hot springs tickets and to go for our trail ride.  It was a lovely ride, a bit cool, and unfortunately a nose to tail affair, but really, quite lovely to trek on horseback into the mountains.

We’ve decided that our next adventure just might be a 3 or 4 day horseback trip into the back country.  I think that would be fun.  But I’ll have to really take some strong measures to stretch and stretch and stretch.  My knees and groin tendons were just screaming after two hours on the back of a horse.

Sunday, we drove back into Banff for a small hike around Johnson Lake and then a soak in

the Banff Hot Springs.  It was lovely.  But, I have to say I do prefer the hot springs at Miette over the ones at Banff.  Up at Miette you are surrounded by mountains, at Banff you’ve got a view of one mountain and then the hotel.  Just not the same experience.

Monday, Heather and I got up and left Lynn who had to return to work that day and drove through the mountains via the Columbia

Highway and then into Jasper.  We stopped at Mount Edith Cavell for a short hike around the base of the Angel Wing Glacier, and oohed and aahed over the lovely alpine flowers.

The glacier put on a grand show by delivering a number of avalanches down onto the tail that hangs above the foot of the glacier and the glacier pond below.  Was quite amazing to watch.  The sound was like a freight train or jet flying very low overhead.  Then there would be a massive crack and the snow would cascade down over the rock face.  Very beautiful.

So, now, I’m back at home.  My mini vacation is over. I’ve got a bazillion things to do and time is flying by.

Hope everyone is enjoying this break.  Let’s all pray for sunshine and summer weather!

Boonstock and a couple shots of flowers in my garden

the stage area at Boonstock

campers as far as you can see at Boonstock

Boonstock 2011

grouping of poppies

In full glory

July 5th — My Dad’s birthday

Happy Birthday to my father who turns 73 (or is it 74?) today.  Him and Mom live 3 provinces away, so unfortunately I won’t be able to go have cake with them to celebrate, but he should be getting my really funny card in a day or two.  I am always late these days with the cards.  It’s a Black family thing.  Just ask my parents.

So, I am fully immersed in the joy of being on holiday.  These first few days have been pretty terrific.

We’ve ordered our new patio door — should be ready in 8 to 9 weeks.  Just as long as it’s in before winter.  That’s all I care about.  We have altered our deck plans — yet again.  We may be expanding it a little.  We’re taking a few days to really think it through.

Of my list of things to do I got the bathroom cleaned yesterday.  Yeah!  Not that it was Hoarder’s filthy or anything like that, I just needed to wash those walls and the baseboards in the worst way.  Now I can sleep at night!

On a personal writing goal type of note — I put six poems in the mail yesterday.  Stuff I had written a couple of years ago, the six I chose to send off are all about relationships — didn’t realize when I was writing them that they made a nice little sextet.  We’ll see what happens.  Fingers are firmly crossed.

This weekend I’m heading off to the mountains with a couple of friends.  We’re going whitewater rafting and horseback riding.  All in the same day.  There will be a barbecue in the evening to wind everything up.  Am so looking forward to this trip.  We’ll do some hiking and some soaking in the hot springs at Banff.  Heather and I are planning on taking the Cowboy Trail home — it’s a beautiful drive — have done it many times.  The scenery is often breathtaking and so much nicer than rushing back along the #2.

This past Sunday Tim and I finally got out on the bike for a little day trip.  We travelled to Evansburg and stopped at the Pembina River Campground for lunch.  Now, it was not particularly warm on Sunday — at one point only 16 degrees — that was around 2:30 I believe, but still, down there on the river were hardy Canadians determined to get the most out of a summer long weekend.

There were dozens of people in bathing suits and shorts tubing down the river.  Not only was the air not warm, the water was colder!  I had to laugh, though, at their blithe determination.  Everyone was laughing and having a grand old-time.  We ate our lunch up above the river in a small stand of spruce trees that sheltered us from the wind and the mosquitoes.  Then, because the sky was getting darker by the second we decided we better hit the road again.

We just got back out on the highway when the rain started.  It only lasted about 10 minutes, so we weren’t too bad off.  We drove to Mayerthorpe thinking we’d stop to get a coffee and warm up a bit, but couldn’t find a coffee shop anywhere.  So, back out on the road we went.

About 20 minutes from Mayerthorpe on Highway 44 we came across Rochfort Bridge.  A tiny little hamlet named after the bridge just a short ways away.  We stopped at the lovely little gift shop/restaurant to take a peek.  There’s a small, four building museum,  a vegetable market and the gift shop.  In behind this are about two dozen homes, well hidden by scrub and tall grass.  I can’t imagine what anyone does there.  Beautiful country surrounds the place, but there is nothing but fields and highway for miles in any direction.  Kids must go stir crazy.

We managed to make it the rest of the way home without getting rained on too much — a few sprinkles here and there. The trip was a good six hours and by the time we got home we both needed a nap.  A lovely way to spend a Sunday.

Well, that’s what I’ve been up to for the past few days.  Hope everyone else is having a fantastic summer, or a not too terrible winter.

Aaah…

. . . first day of summer break.

Can you say relief?  Good God I am so glad to finally be on holiday.

Not that we’re doing much.  There will be a trip to my sister’s place later on this summer with my son’s family, but until then it will just be chillin’ at home and tending to all the little (and not so little) jobs I’ve neglected over the winter months.

I am really looking forward to getting some serious writing done.  I have a couple of projects in the works and so have committed myself to a couple of hours writing time each day.  Then there is the organizing (and culling) of my photographs.  I need to reinstall Photoshop — that is scaring the hell out of me.

Photoshop is one of those programs that makes me feel awkwardly stupid — I don’t understand how to manipulate layers or where my edited copies go after I’ve saved them.  It’s a snobby, but rightfully so because it’s so brilliant, program.  I will just have to do my best to contend with it.

Then there is gardening.  Much to do outside, but always enjoyable work.  I love pulling weeds, talking to my flowers, filling my bird bath, just putzing about out in the yard.  I listen to the birds, I catch snippets of conversation from passersby, smile at the kids riding by on their bikes and simply, genuinely enjoy breathing and being without any sort of stress hanging over me.  I do some of my best thinking and planning when I’m out amongst my plants.

I have a few maintenance type chores I want to tend to this summer, as well.  My bathroom cupboard and baseboards need a paint touch-up, and the whole room needs a cleaning from top to bottom.  Which will be easy because the entire room is tile.  Even the ceiling.  So, it should be a relatively quick and satisfying job to complete.

I need, also, to restain and reseal the windows on the south side of the house.  They look awful.  Plus, of course the windows all need cleaning.  I chore I hate.  I do the outsides once a year ( I can hear the gasps of horror), the insides of the lesser used windows maybe twice a year.  Main windows get a bit more cleaning, but really, this is not one of those jobs that I happily approach.

If there is time I would like to repaint the bedroom my grandchildren stay in when they come for a visit.  And the guest bedroom in the basement.  Though my own bedroom has never been painted in the 21 years we have lived in this house it will wait — I would like to remodel the entire room, so painting it seems like a waste of time, energy and money to me.

My husband has promised me (sort of) that he will build my deck this summer.  I really, really hope so.  I want so badly to buy a new barbecue!  Long story and an example of my stubbornness.  But more than that I want to be able to sit outside and enjoy my surroundings again, I want to be able to entertain people in my back yard, to be able to sit outside and enjoy the beauty of a Summer’s or early Fall’s evening.

And in amongst all that I want to have time to just sit and relax with glass of wine and a good book.

I’ve got seven weeks.  What are my chances?