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.


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?

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!