Going Silent and Coming Back

Jar Room Wonder

Well, WordPress followers … if you’re still out there … I’ve gone silent since September 18th, 2018 with my Lady Ashburn Mustard Pickles post. What a post to go out on. By the way, those pickles are so delicious! Okay, all kidding aside, months can fly by when one is filling non-writing time with food preservation, road trips, holidays and sock knitting.

Happy feet

There are about a hundred good posts in the above activities, but this blog is supposed to be all about writing. If I come to a dry spell again, I might start an all about non-writing blog. Then again, not writing really meant not writing. I have been hard pressed to put something as short and simple as an email together.

Let’s talk writing blocks. Every author has them. Getting my last book (No Compass to Right) out in 2017 was a huge effort – faster than usual writing timeline for all stages, a rush to publication to meet certain promotion opportunities then blissful nothingness. Stepping back from the whirlwind was much needed.

Kayak & kid magic

My well-earned rest flowed right into summer at the lake, visitors and a bountiful garden to enjoy. Along comes fall and there is the imperative of fresh produce begging for preservation. Then immersion as a sideline cheerleader on our jar and freezer room project (check it out in the first pic on this post). More than satisfying to see that space completed! And suddenly it is time for a road trip. We get home, catch our breath and we are in the Christmas rush. Busy, busy, busy.

Brit, Fran and Emma at Crowsnest Pass in Alberta Nov3-2018 - bruce witzel photo

I’m not fooling any of the writers out there with my busyness excuses. When we need to write, nothing gets in the way and everything else still gets done – for the most part. Writers are efficient with their time.

Coming back is hard. I can’t deny it. The longer I stayed away from daily writing, the more of a brick wall went up. Deconstructing the wall takes time. My endurance for sustained writing is low. In the first fifteen minutes I fight down a constant stream of demanding thoughts. I need to get up for a snack, perhaps another cup of coffee, maybe I should check my email and on it goes. Then, without any fanfare, I fall into the zone and the next forty-five minutes whiz by.

In a rush of energy at the end of writing No Compass to Right, I created extensive notes for the next book. Last week, I started back to those notes and simply hanging out with the characters. Asking questions. What is on their minds, where do they want to go, what do they want to be doing in book five? And do those characters ever clamour for attention. They speak, oh man do they speak – some go so far as to yell and scream. The ideas come in front of the keyboard as I write and while I do my daily walk. I snapped this photo through the glass of our greenhouse the other day. Datura in full bloom with evergreen reflection.

January Greenhouse Datura

Once I am back to writing, the desire to send my thoughts out into the blogosphere returns. This has been my longest WordPress silence since I started blogging in 2012. Here’s to going silent and here’s to coming back. If anyone is still listening … here’s a couple of pics of me and Bruce at Emerald Lake in YoHo National Park.

Me and Bruce at Emerald Lake         Emerald Lake - Yo Ho National Park

For the Love of Beans

Purple Peacock Beans 2

There’s an old adage about gardening that I fully subscribe to – grow what you like to eat! For us, that means lots of fresh beans.

Here are two of my new-time favourites.

Bush Beans

Dragon Tongue Bush Beans – a beautiful Dutch heirloom variety that is perfect to eat fresh or preserved, or even as dried beans. When the beans turn from lime green to yellow with their bright purple stripes, they are ready to go.

Three Bean Varieties

Purple Peacock Pole Beans – Twining stems, light purple flowers and dark purple pods. A striking plant that provides a wonderful garden screen. This variety handles cool conditions well. The pods keep their flavour and tenderness even when very long. Don’t get too attached to the colour though – they turn green when you cook them.

Purple Peacock Pole Beans

Purple Peacock Pole Beans 2

Scarlett Runners are the old timers in our garden. We’ve been collecting our own seeds and growing a tepee trellis full of these beans for years now. The flowers are pretty and the vines are vigorous but for an optimal taste experience, get those beans before they get too big!

Scarlett Runner Beans 2

Scarlett Runner Beans

We also grow Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans – this type of bean has been grown by gardeners since 1864. Popular due to its vigour and fine heirloom flavour. I’ve gathered the brown-seeds and dried them for planting the following year with great success. You can see them growing in the picture below on the tepee trellis at the back of our under-the-clothes-line section of the garden. Just coming into flower now, we won’t be eating these until a bit later in the season.

Kentucky Wonder Bean Trellis

For the gardening enthusiasts, we grow in zone 8 to 9 here on Northern Vancouver Island and the varieties of beans I’ve mentioned will produce from early August through late September.

Back to the garden for me. These days I am hosting grandkids, friends and family and enjoying the beauty of the summer days here at the lake. Not writing yet but all experiences nurture the storylines brewing away in my mind. Stay tuned for more on all of the above and adventures from that Crater Lake gang.

Home and Happy

Clematis in full bloom

Will you look at that clematis in full bloom right outside the kitchen door! Wow!

It’s been two weeks since I came home from my travels in southern Alberta. From the land of rolling fields of canola, rodeo broncs and shiny buckles, cowboy culture and prairie winds to my Vancouver Island, lakeside cabin. I had some wonderful time with kids and grandkids. Life is good.

Kristen and Me

Me and my lovely daughter, Kristen enjoying music in the park.

Canada Day Cuties

My Canada Day cuties – Emma and Brit.

High River rodeo

They’re wearing that Alberta look well – daughter – Kristen, son-in-law – Matt, and granddaughters – Emma and Brit.

So – enough of holiday antics. I thought I’d share a few highlights from the last couple of weeks at home.

Fresh Salad Greens

Fresh salad greens from the garden is a big treat! The lettuce, radishes, baby kale and chives make an attractive side dish.

Garden

Lots of work for the head gardener but it sure pays off.

Lower Garden

Vegetables aren’t the only thing in the garden these days.

Oh my, bear and Buddha

Bear and Buddha – east meets west Smile

Bear and apple tree cha, cha, cha Bear and apple tree – cha, cha, cha. For this dance the bear is definitely leading.

Bleeding Heart

The last of the Bleeding Heart in the woodland garden.

2017 Wild West Rodeo – Making Memories Alberta Style.

Rodeo Days 8

Guy Weadick Days in High River, Alberta – Pro Rodeo, WPCA Chuckwagons, food trucks and … stop the presses right there. What more can you ask for?

Rodeo Days 16

I lunched on pirogues smothered in caramelized onion, bacon and sour cream. Wow, oh wow!

Rodeo Days 9

Rodeo Days 6

Rodeo and chuckwagons are an integral part of High River history and this prairie town knows how to host a bang-up event.

Rodeo Days 4

Guy Weadick, the man the High River Rodeo is named for, is the father of the Stampede tradition in Canada. He came to Fort McLeod in 1904 and fell in love with the area. In 1908, with wife Florence La Due at his side, the pair came to Calgary as part of the Miller Brothers Wild West Show. Guy organized the first ever Calgary Expedition and Stampede in 1912. He went on to introduce the sport of Chuckwagon Racing to the Stampede in 1923.

Guy and Florence Weadick

Guy and Florence lived west of High River on the Stampede Ranch. They brought Hollywood to the Highwood through their friendships with Will Rogers, Hoot Gibson and Charles Russell. Guy was laid to rest in the High River Cemetery in 1953.

Rodeo Days 7

All of the Pro-Rodeo events were exciting but my granddaughters and I loved the barrel racing best!

Rodeo Days 13

The Chuckwagon Races have always been a big hit in High River. Since first run in 1946, the town’s enthusiasm for the heart-stopping competition has never faded. I can attest to that fact. The crowds were packed in for the Sunday running and the boot stomping excitement when those chucks rounded the last corner shook the huge grandstand.

Rodeo Days 11

During a break in the rodeo action, granddaughter Brit took a fall and scraped her knee, drawing blood. A medical attendant was on the scene in moments. Like I said, a well-organized event!

Rodeo Days 10

I can’t end this blog without reporting on the first event of the day – Woolie Bucks. Kids chase after sheep to snatch envelopes of prize money from their backs. Only at the rodeo, as the saying goes.

Rodeo days 2

A few last minute instructions and the race is on.

Rodeo Days 14

The sheep were stiff competition but no match for these little cow pokes.

Rodeo Days 15

Run like you stole that money off the back of a sheep!

We recently looked back on the one-year anniversary of the day my daughter and her family sold their home in B.C. and made their way to High River, Alberta. Trepidation was high for Bruce and I. We wondered how this change would effect all our lives. I am happy to report that things have come out as right as B.C. rain. The community of High River has been a special treat for all of us – welcoming and packed with all a young family with growing kids could want as well as special events grandparents can enjoy!

Rodeo days 1

Yee-haw!

Ode to Joy–Holding My New Book

Me and the new book - back cover

I suppose the picture says it all Smile 

The proof copy of No Compass to Right arrived and, on first blush, it seems everything I hoped for. Of course, with proof copies, the devil is in the details. I discovered that uncomfortable truth the hard way with a previous release. I’ll be pouring over this one for a couple of days before placing my bulk order.

If you read e-books, you can pre-order a copy of No Compass to Right for release on June 1st. The big day is coming, folks!

Large NCR release banner (2)

And if all of that is not enough cause for celebration, I received another wonderful surprise in the mail yesterday. Delayed Mother’s Day gift – Bear Paw oven mitts. Many thanks to Kristen, Matt, Emma and Britney. Can you imagine a greater gift for out here at the lake? Now I can lift hot pans with my bear hands while watching bears stroll by – LOL. Wow – two goofy, happy pictures of me in one post. What is this world coming to?

Me and my mother's day gift

Who Has Seen the Wind

W.O. Mitchell - High River, Alberta

And all about him was the wind now, a pervasive sighing trough, a great emptiness, as though the prairie itself was breathing in long gusting breaths, unhampered by the buildings of town, warm and living against his face and in his hair. (W. O. Mitchell – Who Has Seen The Wind)

I remember being profoundly affected by reading W.O. Mitchell’s novel, Who Has Seen the Wind. I was in my thirties and I had a deep curiosity about the various landscapes mapped out across this huge country I call home … Canada. The way in which Mitchell so artfully described the prairie stayed with me. I had never experienced such a landscape and Mitchell’s words sparked my imagination and engendered a desire to hear the wind hum and twang in the telephone wires, to walk to the edge of a town and feel the prairie all around me. Because the book is set in Saskatchewan, I just carelessly assumed that W.O. Mitchell lived his life in Saskatchewan.

Museum of the High Wood - High River, Alberta

Imagine my surprise when Bruce and I visited the Museum of the Highwood in High River, Alberta and discovered their wonderfully constructed W.O. Mitchell exhibit. I learned that Mitchell had lived for years in High River. That he raised his family in the community and that, in fact, he and his wife were buried in the High River Cemetery.

High River Cemetery

For some background, I’ll turn this over to an article by Kevin Rushworth that appeared in the High River Times in 2014 to celebrate the opening of the exhibit.

By Kevin Rushworth ( http://www.highrivertimes.com/2014/03/10/museum-exhibit-to-celebrate-high-rivers-wo-mitchell ) High River Times, March 9th, 2014

MULTIMEDIA EDITOR

Who Has Seen the Wind, written by late Canadian author and broadcaster W.O. Mitchell in 1947, and his other literary works might have made him a national icon, but a new exhibit at the Museum of the Highwood will shed light on one of High River’s most prominent citizens 100 years after his birth.

William Ormond Mitchell—more commonly known as W.0. Mitchell or Bill to his friends—was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan on March 13, 1914.

Canada would come to welcome this literary figure with open arms, ultimately providing him with the Order of Canada and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, but Mitchell’s 20 years spent in High River started simply—he arrived in the community by bus in 1943.

By 1945, he fell in love with the community, brought his wife Merna to High River and his first and arguably most famous book, Who Has Seen the Wind was published in 1947.

W.O. Mitchell exhibit at the Museum of the High Wood

Irene Kerr, curator and director of the Museum of the Highwood, has found herself laughing out loud during research for the exhibit. The exhibit focuses on the years Mitchell spent in High River. “It’s so Canadian, so prairie and it’s so small town,” she said. “His humour was brilliant. He tells all these stories that we often tell at the museum, but he tells them in a little skewed, more humorous way.”

Mitchell drew inspiration for many of his characters from real people he met living in High River. His three children were born and raised in the community. While going about his daily routine, Mitchell would jot down notes about the people he met. Many of them became the so called ‘salty characters’ in his novels.

While being interviewed, Mitchell himself once said much of the inspiration for the town of Crocus—as seen in his Jake and the Kid novel and the CBC radio show—came from High River.

Mitchell wrote that High River was always a special place, “She’s a town with a conservative personality which makes you love her and lose patience with her, but she’s still a cowtown that takes her rhythms with the seasons,”

Rocky Mountains as seen from outskirts of High River, Alberta, Jan. 4, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

We thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the Museum of the Highwood. The curator – I didn’t get her name and sure wish I had – responded to our questions about the flood in 2013 by sitting us down at a table and bringing out several books with graphic photos. She regaled us with stories that made the whole event come to life and that, I must say, was a scary experience!

Have you ever discovered something previously unknown about a favourite author? Was there ever an author or book that made you want to experience a certain landscape?

Britney, Grandma & Emma at W.O.Mitchell's headstone in High River cemetary, Jan. 4, 2017 - bruce witzl photo

When I visit High River in the summer, I want to walk to the end of a street and have a W.O. Mitchell experience of prairie:

I would walk to the end of the street and over the prairie with the clickety grasshoppers bunging in arcs ahead of me, and I could hear the hum and twang of wind in the great prairie harp of telephone wires. Standing there with the total thrust of prairie sun on my vulnerable head, I guess I learned — at a very young age — that I was mortal.

Outside of High River - Guenette photo

Holiday Reflections

Saint Benidict's Anglican Church (2), High River Alberta, Jan. 04, 2017 - bruce wtizel photo

Reasons to spend holiday time staying with family in another province:

Grandkids change so fast. The opportunity to reconnect with where they are in their lives is a precious one. We took Emma and Brit on a snowy outing to the High River Cemetery. More about why in a later blog. Emma was so excited to run between the gravestones and brush off the powdery snow so she could read the inscriptions. She is at that wonderful stage when the ability to read has clicked and she can’t wait to decipher the written word anywhere she finds it. The day was quite cold and when Brit headed back to the car, Emma looked disappointed. She told me, “I don’t want to leave.” I told her we would come back in the summer and spend as much time as she liked. She said, “Can I wear a dress?” I felt that would be perfectly fine.

High River Cemetery

A couple of snow angels visited the High River Cemetery.

A couple of snow angels

Kristen - Bruce Witzel photo

 

 

 

Grown kids still need their moms. Well, they do! Especially when mom can bite her tongue now and then. Listening matters more than always heaving the proverbial two-bits into every conversation.

 

 

 

The opportunity to do things one wouldn’t do at home. For example, watch ten episodes of The Crown on Netflix – I loved it!

The Crown - Goggle Image

Experience a white Christmas. For someone who grew up on the coast of British Columbia and hasn’t strayed far from coastal waves, this was new. As was watching Emma and Brit skate on an outdoor lake and multiple sledding trips down what passes for a hill in High River.

White Christmas - High River. Albe

Emma sledding - Bruce Witzel photo     Brit sledding - Bruce Witzel photo

Brit - winter skate - Bruce Witzel photo

Winter skate - Bruce Witzel photo

Understand what -30 with wind-chill feels like. Britney told us that her school doesn’t let students play outside at recess if it is colder than -20 with a windshield. I guess announcements over the PA system are hard to decipher whether it be at a school or in an airport.

Tsunami warning - Goggle ImagesBe terrified over one’s first experience at a wave-pool. When the waves hit me, I was standing in the worst place possible – near a wall and in the outflow from one of the water slides. Add to my terror the fact that Kristen told me to stay close to Britney. I seriously felt as though I was on the beach as a tsunami rolled in with no hope of keeping my head above the water let alone staying close to anything. Suffice to say, as Brit bounced towards me with a grin and helped me get my footing, I realized I was to stay close to a five-year-old for my safety not hers.

Baking with grandkids. Making and decorating sugar cookies is my Grandma baking specialty.

Emma & Fran decorating  Christmas cookies

Playing cards and games. We discovered Phase Ten this year and enjoyed it. Pass the Ace continues to be a favourite. As usual, I stayed on the receiving end of loss after loss at crib. Good to know all is as it should be with me and the gaming universe. One day, Emma, observing yet another of my losses, patted me on the back and said, “Don’t worry Grandma. I’m on your side because you’re the thunder-dog.” And so I was.

Candy purchases at the Bulk Barn. Hot Tamales by the pound, anyone? This is the sort of good time you had to be there to enjoy!

Getting familiar with a new, family-oriented community. I am helped to put the day-to-day events of kids and grandkids in context with such information. And we did such a good job at this that we ended up in the local High River paper. Can’t complain about that.

New Year's Eve in High River Times

Reasons why it is wonderful to come home:

No matter how comfy the bed I land in, nothing can replace the tried and true of my own bed and pillows.

The opportunity to eat in tune with personal preferences – fresh baked bread, homemade soups and a spicy black bean dip made with balsamic vinegar that is to die for. Unfortunately, Bruce is not a fan of three things – balsamic vinegar, cilantro and lentils. All of which, I love. But I had read in my Bean Cookbook that balsamic vinegar is a bean’s BFF, so I had to throw caution to the wind. The consequence I am willing to live with is that I must consume all the spicy black bean dip on my own.

The off-chance that I may finally return full-time to writing the fourth book of the Crater Lake Series – yippee!

Significant blocks of quiet that allow me the time to enjoy the memories of a great family holiday. Life is good!

Kristen & Matt - Bruce Witzel photo