Archive | August 2009

Pets in Love? It seems they can mourn each other’s absence

Mutzi

Mutzi

My daughter was once staying with us for a short period of time, and had brought her little female cat, Skittles with her.  My older male cat, Mutzi, was quite taken with her and they frolicked together with joy and abandon.  Alas, the happy union was about to be torn asunder through no fault of their own.  My daughter’s boyfriend had to go to Kamloops to take a work related course and she decided to go with him.  She took her little kitty with her and that was when we noticed what seemed to be signs of depression in our cat. 

Skittles

Skittles

After Skittles left, all the play seemed to go out of him.  He lost his appetite and moped around…  looking, if this is possible, unhappy.  This change in him inspired me to write a little ditty which I will share with you here. 

 

 

You should imagine this verse as a country western lament in the old style, complete with twang and steel guitars.  Here it is!

All She Left Behind Her Was Her Fleas

All she left behind her was her fleas,

A chewed up toy, a hairball and some cheese

I cry and cry all day, but she never comes to play

Oh what can I do? I’ve never been so blue.

 Chorus:

She’s a furry little heartbreaker

She leaves them sad wherever she goes

She’s a furry little heartbreaker

And I miss her from my ears down to my toes.

 

I hear she’s gone to Kamloops for awhile

No doubt she’s making all the people smile

She’s with some other guy, and I know that she’s not shy

She’ll be keeping him happy, and she won’t remember me.

 Chorus

 

If she doesn’t come back I don’t know what I’ll do

It’s lonely here and I haven’t’ got a clue

I can’t eat and I can’t play, I sleep and sleep all day

I need love in my life – what happened to my fluffy wife?

Chorus

 My son has promised that he will put this to music and record it on his first CD – so remember that you first ‘heard’ it here!!

 Addendum:  I am happy to report that Mutzi and Skittles now live together in perfect harmony,

Together at play

Together at play

due to a series of changes in my daughter’s life, for which I am grateful.  Sometimes our children leave us with things or pets we don’t want as they go through the process of sorting out their lives – my son, for example, although he has his own home just a couple of blocks away, inevitably manages to leave a piece of clothing behind after each visit.  I once collected about 10 white socks that I mistakenly thought belonged to my husband, until he said one day “these aren’t my socks”.  It turned out  they belonged to my son, who was grateful to get them back – and clean – as a bonus.  I think a part of our adult children likes to remind us that they will always be our children.  And that is as it should be.

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Best Places to Kiss – Locally!

Raphael (first husband) and me, Lodge honeymoon 1981

Raphael (first husband) and me, Lodge honeymoon 1981

Perhaps you remember the series “The Best Places to Kiss”.  I think the series or travel book came out about ten years ago.  In any case, we have a locale very close to us that seems to inspire romance … Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre.  From the name of the place you might wonder – where is the romance in outdoor education?  There is no ‘retreat’ anywhere in the name and seldom in the promo, or ‘romantic getaway’ or any of those key words that might lead one to believe this is a place to get cozy in, let alone meet someone who inspires romantic feelings.

However, behind the façade of the strictly touristic and outdoor pursuits is a veritable Love Boat.  Not only do people taking courses meet, but there is a frequent incident of staff meeting staff, and the consequences that ensue.

Over the past couple of years, I assisted Myrna Boulding, the co-founder of the Lodge, with a book about the beginnings of the Lodge up to 1986 (Survival, Strathcona Style).  As we researched and talked to many former staff, it came out that we had compiled quite a list of people who met each other at the Lodge.  In fact, at the reunion (celebrating 50 years) at the end of June this year, a number of former staff mentioned that they thought a whole book could actually be dedicated to ‘who met who’ at the Lodge!

If you have never been associated with the Lodge, you might wonder what could inspire so much blossoming of romance.  I have a theory.  One part of it is fairly obvious – you have 50 to 70 staff persons, who on the whole arrive single, year after year, and who live and work together in close proximity.  If they aren’t standing next to each other in the kitchen making cookie dough, then they are on an out trip together, thrown together to face the elements in the wilds of nature, and forced to depend on one another for survival.  The result is people falling in love –  right, left and centre.  The accommodation for the staff at the Lodge is for the most part ‘cozy’ – and for those of you who read real estate listings, you will know what I mean.  As many of the staff don’t own vehicles and often stay for days or weeks without venturing into town, social occasions are frequent – which includes dances, beach fires and climbing expeditions.  It is summertime, and there is a festive feeling in the air.

Upper Campbell Lake, early morning

Upper Campbell Lake, early morning

Some people part ways once the season is over, but some leave together and start a life together in the outside world.  The result of these unions is a phenomena Myrna refers to as “Lodge Babies’.  Lodge babies are a unique group who hold pretty much just one thing in common – their parents met at the Lodge, and what pleases Myrna more than anything is to meet ‘Lodge Babies’ years later and to employ them as quickly as possible.

Part two of my theory is that there is a particular ‘energy’ at the Lodge.  Rob Wood of Maurelle Island, (who has many years affiliation with the Lodge) in his book ‘Toward the Unknown Mountains’ explains this particular phenomena.

He says that “the place itself is quite likely a ‘power spot’.  Located exactly at the junction of the geometric axes of two big mountain valleys, it has the classic Feng Shui properties of a health-giving balance between the Yin elements, represented by the valleys, and the Yang elements represented by the slight rise within the valley and the high peaks all around.  The Druids would probably have built a stone circle here, the Buddhists a temple. The ‘euphoric high’ that people gain just from being there and the truly magical effect of the synergy generated is manifest in the frequently spirited music and dancing…”

Oil painting by Rosalind Finch

Oil painting by Rosalind Finch

The oil painting here of the view from the Lodge into the Elk Valley, illustrates what Rob is talking about.

I firmly believe in this energy, (having experienced it first hand) and aboriginal peoples the world over share beliefs about magical places that inspire healing or feelings of goodness.  I was struck with the love bug twice during my two separate sojourns at the Lodge.  I met the father of my two children there in 1981 (so yes, I have two lodge babies) and I met my current main squeeze there in 2001.  Someday, Myrna may write about the love that blossomed at the Lodge, in the meantime, the Lodge has become an enormously popular destination for weddings.  So not only are couples meeting there, but they are taking their vows there.  Does that mean the ‘Best Places to Kiss’ are outdoors?

‘Nature lovers’ seem to think so…

Wild and Wooly Weekend (and I’m just talking about the weather)

In early July, my hubby (partner) Terry and I headed up to our cabin at Greenpoint Rapids, located on the mainland between Loughborough Inlet and Philips Arm.  It usually takes about an hour by boat to get there when we put in at the Discovery dock downtown, or 45 minutes out of Brown’s Bay. I had a feeling though, that we should drive up further north to Rock Bay, even though it is a fair distance in from the road to where we launch the boat.  It took us 45 minutes to get from the highway to the bay, (it’s a pretty bumpy road) but we were rewarded by viewing a family of deer up close and a black bear.  When we finally got to Rock Bay, conditions were pretty windy and the place was a buzz with the story of how two men had been found wandering along the shore in a daze.  They had apparently run aground in their fishing trawler in the wee hours of the morning, and made it to shore.

Reports were that the sea was rough, particularly around the points we needed to pass on our way up (Edith Point for one).  This was true.  We have a 19 foot open motorboat, and we were taking it slow.  Luckily the skipper (Terry) is experienced on the salt water.

Coming around Edith Point

Coming around Edith Point

He  took it nice and slow and we navigated that treacherous point like it was butter.

We finally reached the calmer waters of Green Points – our home away from home.  There was a get-together at Shoal Bay (15 minute boat ride – on the east side of East Thurlow Island) that evening so we packed up after a couple hours rest and headed south in fairly calm waters.

Old store formerly at Shoal Bay

Old store formerly at Shoal Bay

The pig roast/potluck at the Shoal Bay Lodge is held every long weekend throughout the summer and the usual suspects turn up – neighbours who have places at Shoal Bay and just about anybody else who spends the summer (or even all year) on their boat like Herb.  Great time, nice people… and we met some new people (Andrea and Ron) recently arrived from the Northwest Territories who have Oceanside Bed and Breakfast in Alert Bay.

We headed back before dark, the water was calmer and it was truly a beautiful evening.

View from Green Points on a calm day
View from Green Points on a calm day

It is difficult to describe the beauty of the area – it is wild and fresh, and stimulating.  I have accompanied this article with some photos of where we go, truly a spectacular portion of our coast.

The next day, it was still blowing.  We had no particular plans except to go fishing at some point.  By about 5 pm that evening, the wind suddenly died down, and I told Terry we were going fishing.  We hopped in the boat and headed a few minutes north, where our favourite cod fishing spot was – on the east coast of West Thurlow Island.

Waterfall near Loughborough Inlet

Waterfall near Loughborough Inlet

We had a bite immediately, then lost it – then a few minutes later, something heavy was on my line, and I struggled to bring it up.  When it reached the surface – there was a gorgeous big ling cod – but he wasn’t properly hooked!  Luckily, Terry was quick on the draw – he had his club with the gaffing hook on the end of it ready and made a lunge for it.  He brought it in the boat – a nice one about 15 pounds – which for me was quite a prize, because I don’t think I could bring up anything heavier.

That was dinner!  I fished a bit longer, but only got a couple of rock cod – so back for a superb dinner (if I do say so myself) of fresh cod, rack of lamb and salad from the garden at home.

That night it poured rain, and we saw some distant lightning flash.  It was still raining very hard in the morning, and we realized we would have to make the trip back in the downpour.  One good thing about the rain though, is that the water was calm. We were thoroughly soaked by the time we reached Rock Bay.  It was so good to be out of the weather and into the nice warm truck!

Shortly after we arrived home safe and sound in Storries Beach, one of our neighbours from Green Points who stayed home in Campbell River for the weekend told us that we had missed a spectacular thunderstorm the night before.  So it turned out it was a wild and woolly weekend for everyone, whether out on the water or not!

Gotta love them tomatazz!

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This has been a terrific year for gardening.  The burst of heat we had in early June, followed by the rain and another heat wave, has things growing with wild abandon. 

Everything seems to be early this year, including the succulent fruit known as the tomato.  I have included a couple of photos of one of my tomato plants here – I already picked and ate the ripe ones from another plant.  There is nothing like picking a ripe, red tomato and eating it warmed from the sun, just like you would an apple.  I once watched a documentary about growing tomatoes (yes, that is what middle aged people do) and one of the farmers interviewed said that we should consider them to be a tropical fruit.  He advised to not refrigerate them.  This doesn’t go over particularly well in my household, where the man of the house would like to see everything in the refrigerator, in case a fly might notice it.  But don’t worry, I won’t let this dissolve into a synopsis of a domestic dispute, all you need to know is that I pull out my farmer’s quote every time I find one of my precious fruits being murdered by the cold.

In any case, I am enjoying my tomatoes too much to let them linger long, and am sharing them with family – who appreciate organic and home grown food.  This year I purchased only heirloom varieties of tomatoes, and find that they are exceptionally sweet.  I have plans to keep the seeds and sprout them over the winter (that is, if I can stop myself from eating the tomatoes whole and swallowing the seeds).

Another of nature’s gifts to celebrate and another reason to be ever grateful for the exceptional climate we enjoy here in Campbell River!

Travels with my Aunt – seeing our island anew

Dorothy and I at Mt. Washington

Dorothy and I at Mt. Washington

Travels With My Aunt – seeing our island anew

I borrowed the title for this blog from an old movie which some of you may recall.  It doesn’t really apply to my recent weekend in Victoria with my mother and visiting aunt recently, but somehow the title kept reverberating through my mind.

My aunt Dorothy is 80 years old.  She swims 40 laps a day, talks virtually non stop and doesn’t even need to take a nap.  She still likes to have a drink or two, favouring lite beer and white wine.  She used to like gin, doesn’t drink it anymore (but has several bottles on hand from all her trips across the border and her quest for taking advantage of a good deal).

She told just about everyone we encountered on our trip that she was from London Ontario and had never been to the island, and how beautiful it was here – especially considering that fact that they’ve been having a lousy summer in Ontario and our weather has been great.

My aunt has travelled a great deal and enjoys telling (and retelling) the stories of her trips to Europe, Hawaii and to the southern States and northern Canada.  She also loves to talk about her six grandchildren and her two children and all their accomplishments and foibles.   This doesn’t mean that my mother and I found her to be in any way annoying.  On the contrary, she was entertaining and a joy to be with.  And we both knew that she would return home and tell everyone she knows with equal enthusiasm about her trip to the island and the time she spent with us.

Visitors are great, because they always help you to see anew this amazing place we call home.  We had her over for dinner and treated her to local prawns and lingcod we brought home from our last trip to the Thurlow Islands, black cod my son caught on the west coast and sockeye salmon from Gold River.  We had salad and sautéed vegetables from my garden to complete the meal. For three days, she talked about what a fantastic dinner it was, and I agree.  We are so lucky to have this bounty from the sea at our doorstep, and to live where it is so easy to grow our own food.

As for Victoria, I enjoyed the weekend there in the company of my mother and aunt, and discovered why Butchart Gardens has such a fabulous reputation.  If a garden like that could be created from an abandoned quarry, then perhaps there is hope for Catalyst Mill – could we make it into an amusement park?

Anyway, it’s great to be home and sitting under the stars in quiet and balmy Storries Beach, after a great swim in the ocean, knowing that a happy and healthy future is only a few laps away.

What on earth is a ‘Staycation’?

You may have heard the term ‘Staycation’ bandied about lately, and wondered what it meant.  I have the explanation for you.  ‘Staycation’ comes from the word ‘Vacation’ with the ‘Va’ removed.  ‘Va’ incidentally in Spanish means ‘Go’.  The ‘Va’ is replaced with ‘Stay’ which incidentally in English means ‘Do Not Go.’

So there you have it – do not go on a vacation (at least very far).  The idea behind this concept is that you should explore the areas close to home – you don’t have to travel very far to find interesting things to do or places to stay.  We often neglect what is near at hand as it doesn’t seem exotic enough or we have become so accustomed to our own milieu that we have ceased to see it as interesting.

Campbell River and area draws tourists from around the world who are enthralled by our mountains, oceans and forests – not to mention wildlife, all contained on this one island.  Tourists take whale watching and bear watching tours, hungry for a glimpse of wildlife that we take for granted is just ‘there’.  I’m not saying that local residents are not thrilled to see the Orcas coming through the passage, or don’t marvel at eagles in the spring, but it wouldn’t occur to many of us to actually book a tour on the water, in order to get a closer look.

I have often been astonished at where people have not been and what they don’t know about their own area.  I once took a group of ten adult tourism students who were all from Campbell River to April Point for a field trip.  Out of the ten, only one had been there before, and knew that you could take the shuttle across from Painter’s Lodge free of charge, to just visit and enjoy the restaurant or spa there, or rent a scooter for the day.  I organized several field trips to the Museum, Art Gallery, Maritime Heritage Museum and Quadra Island and the students were always impressed and surprised at what wonderful places there were to visit close at hand.

I have other stories about what people don’t know about their own area, but one that stands out to me, was told to me by brother, who was visiting Campbell River for the first time.  He happened to discuss his plans with a local store clerk to take Highway 28 and go into Strathcona Provincial Park.  “Why do you want down Westin Rd.?” she asked, “There’s nothing there”.

Luckily my brother was on his way to visit me at Strathcona Park Lodge where I was working that summer and was not discouraged by her comment.  When we drove along the winding road skirting Buttle Lake, he was so astonished by the towering mountains and stunning view, he nearly went off the road a couple of times!  Is that kind of scenery ‘nothing’?  I guess it is all a matter of perception. And speaking of perception, start your ‘Staycation’ now and see Campbell River and area through the eyes of a tourist.  You just might be amazed!

Sea Urchins at April Point

Sea Urchins at April Point