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

Home Sweet Home to the Rain and Storms

Storm at the lake - Guenette photo

Home sweet home … never have those words resonated so strongly for me than my first night back in my own bed – requisite number of properly shaped pillows in place, my body comfortable against softly-worn, flannel sheets and the steady sound of rain against the skylights. Yes, indeed, it is good to be home.

I’ve been spending a lot of time comfy in my bed. My doctor tells me that it can take up to two months to recover from a bout of traveller’s tummy that resulted in the dehydration I described. Who knew?

Resting has given me lots of time to observe North Island rain-slashed storms and the subsequent rising of the water on the lake. I watch with interest rather than worry because our cabin is situated high up on a cliff above the water. This morning I awoke to a novel sight. Though I’ve spent twenty-three years here, I’ve never seen so many trees and logs floating on the lake – a veritable flotilla of moving debris. The migration of fallen trees that mark the shores around the lake happens almost every fall but this year is something new in terms of sheer volume. We cross our fingers and hope that most of it passes by us. We well remember the huge log that plunked down on almost half our beach and stayed for about eight years. It floated off two years ago and we were happy to wave goodbye.

Today will find me glued to the internet reading and listening to the latest news on the election results coming from our neighbours to the south. cbc.ca/news will be my venue of choice. In Canada, the image of the mouse living in the shadow of the elephant has a certain significance. We hold our breath and wait.

CBC US Election Coverage

On a final note – how can it possibly be November 8th already? Remembrance Day is just around the corner and Christmas not far behind. Does anyone else feel time racing by? I’ll sign-off with this gorgeous photo taken at Zion National Park. These native flowers springing from the surrounding rock cheer me!

Native Flowers at Zion park (2) - bruce witzel photo

Well-Laid Plans and Best Intentions

Early morning near Susanville,California - Oct. 3 ,2016 - bruce witzel photo

You may be asking yourself: What became of the road trip you invited us on? Life does interfere in my well-laid plans and best intentions. While contemplating a trip or in the early days of high enthusiasm, it’s easy to forget how tiring travel can be. The endings of each day get pushed later and later with the pursuit of things that must be experienced. Wi-fi connections are not always what one would like. Living in the moment soon takes precedence over everything else.

And then, to our great surprise and horror, Bruce and I succumbed to a nasty bit of traveller’s tummy. We can’t pinpoint exactly what was to blame but we have our suspicions. Bruce recovered after thirty-six hours but I took a full seventy-two hours to feel half-way normal and I still need to follow that acronym for the bland diet – BRAT – bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast. Not exactly what one looks forward to on a travelling holiday.

So, I didn’t blog any of the great travel stories I wanted to. We are on Day 14 and I have a long list of blog topics with not much writing to show for the constant barrage of ideas that come to me as I see new things and meet interesting people.

I’m guessing now the highlights of this trip will be shared after the fact but rest assured, those blogs to come will be worth waiting for.  Here is just a small taste.

Sand Mountain (2) Nevada - bruce witzel photo

This is a shot of Sand Mountain located on the loneliest highway in America which runs from Fallon Nevada to Ely. The native people compared the shifting dune to a large snake constantly slithering towards its hole in the desert floor. And they spoke of how, if you listened very carefully, you could hear that snake hissing.

The Silver Terrace Cemetery in Virginia City, Nevada

Silver Terrace Cemetery

Virginia City, Nevada is quite the place. The area’s history as an old west mining town has been used to turn the town into a tourist mecca. I’m betting that most people who visit are interested in the main street of funky western shops, bars and eateries. Well, we aren’t most travellers. We choose a quiet walk around the Silver Terrace Cemetery and we did not feel we had missed out on a thing.

Here is what I picked up from one of the informative signs. Established in 1867, the thirty-acre cemetery was once fully irrigated and sustained a wide variety of non-indigenous flowering plants and trees. A stroll through the shady, rose scented paths tapped into the senses in a transformative way. I was surprised to learn that these early cemeteries were so beautiful and inviting that they became the forerunners of the public parks system in America.

Rose bud at Silver Terrace Cemetery

Silver Terrace is an American West collective memory. Filled with symbols that emphasized a belief in everlasting life, a stroll through the cemetery immerses one in a socially infused cultural landscape.

Angel grave stone

These grounds was once described as the loveliest place of burial in Nevada. Not so anymore. A vast majority of the grave markers have been stolen or vandalized. In 2005, such theft became a crime in the state of Nevada and the cemetery is now remotely monitored twenty-four hours a day. This has served to halt the devastation.

Silver Terrace Cemetery - Virginia City, Nevada

I was taken by the sadness of this stone – baby Horace lived only one month and died on the same day my daughter was born – albeit one-hundred and eight years before!

Child's grave stone

I wondered about Mary Jane Simpson. Was she actually a mule or just a woman who could be mulish when it suited her.

Mary Simpson

And what more can be said of James F. Brown from Ireland but that after life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well. May we all be immortalized with such simple yet significant words.

James F. Brown grave stone

Day Three and Making Peace with the GPS

Road shot

Day three on the road and we have made peace with the GPS. We purchased it for a trip in 2012 and barely used it. We are old-school and we like our fold-out paper maps. It does seem a waste not to give the electronic gadgetry at least one more try.

We had a glitch on the I-5 as we tried to get past Seattle in Friday afternoon rush-hour. The GPS kept up a steady patter related to lengthening delays and offered tantalizing changes of route that would save us time. Finally, we gave in to the temptation. Four changes later and desperate to find a bathroom in the middle of nowhere, we truly considered throwing the GPS out the nearest window. Well, as my daughter said when I told her of our mishap – oh my, never leave the I-5. Words to live by.

So, imagine how surprised we were to discover, over the last two days, how useful the GPS can be. I can monitor when major turns and route changes will occur. As the directionally challenged navigator, I don’t want to be caught napping in the passenger seat.

Drum roll, please. Travel update:

By the end of our first day on the road, we had only made our way as far as Centralia, Washington. That rush hour traffic and those GPS induced detours really set us back. No worries – most of day one is always spent getting off Vancouver Island!

Crooked River Gorge

 

 

Day two we headed toward Bend, Oregon. Travelled the Mount Hood highway and had a picnic lunch at the Crooked River Gorge in Peter Ogden State Park. Bungee Jumping was possible but, as my granddaughter Britney often says – I’m just not ready.

 

 

 

 

Bungee Jumping at Crooked River

I took particular interest in the sign warning of the danger to dogs. Short of throwing your dog’s favourite toy over the concrete barrier, I’m not sure why a dog would do what the dog on this sign is doing. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

Watch your dogs at Crooked River Viewpoint

By mid-afternoon we were in Bend to enjoy the downtown Fall Festival with a delightful variety of vendors and musicians. Did I mention, they had Blackberry Cider. Very tasty.

They have Blackberry Cider

Band at the Bend Fall Festival

We lucked into seeing a whole hour of Tom Vandenavond with Larry and His Flask! Vandenavond is billed as part John Prine and a bit Mark Twain. He sang a song – How the West was Lost – inspired by his reading of Dee Browne’s book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The lyrics nearly made me weep. Well done, Tom! I’m feeling certain that Alexander is going to travel to Bend, Oregon in my next Crater Lake book and he’ll hear Tom singing that song.

Outback Scenic Highway

 

This morning we headed out along the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. Well worth the time. I love the high desert sights and smells. The scrub brush rolls out across the landscape like a wave of muted yellows, golds and greys. The pungent smell of the sage brush is something I would never get tired of breathing.

 

 

High Desert scrub brush

Outback of Oregon

Had a quick stop at Summer Lake Hot Springs. The setting is rustic and that high desert wind sure whistled through the boards of the old barn that houses the pool. Interesting experience.

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We’ve parked ourselves at the Super 8 in Susanville, California for the night and are glad to kick back with a tall glass of wine and a couple of slices of pizza. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Rainbows, anyone?

Rainbow on the Outback Scenic hwy - Oregon

On the Road Again

Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana - bruce witzel photo

I recently wrote a blog entitled – What kind of a traveller are you? I lauded the many opportunities a trip provides for a tried and true writer’s way to fill the time – people watching. I’ll soon be at that pursuit again, folks.

Bruce and I are in the process of turning our entire home upside down in order to prepare for an extended car trip to points afar. We love the car trips. There is an exhilarating freedom that comes from packing up a vehicle that one could never experience with a mere suitcase. Of course, this freedom can lead to excess.

If there’s one chance in a million we might need it – sure, throw it in! We excel at this type of thinking. We won’t leave home without a very large unopened jar of peanut butter stowed away somewhere. No way we’ll risk the chance of being stranded without a good source of high calorie protein. You just never know!

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We are constantly tuned to arranging the many items in our car in such a way that laying our hands on what we need will be as painless as possible. It takes a few days on the road for true organization to emerge – setting up a roadside picnic in a matter of moments, laying our hands on bathing suits and towels for that wonderful hot springs stop we can’t miss, finding the essential electronics when we stop for the day. But no sooner do we get into the swing of things than the early starts and late stops take their toil on our organizational skills – meagre at the best of times. The well placed suitcases, coolers and organized shopping bags start to shift. Travel guides for the day’s miles to cover and sights to see go astray, a precious chunk of cheese gets lost in the melting ice at the bottom of the cooler, and though I packed at least twenty-five hair ties, the one that is left can’t be found. All part of the joy of a road trip.

Watch for my posts as we travel the scenic byways. We’ll be in the RAV4 with all our gear perfectly organized. Not! My plan is to post every second day, keeping it short – highlights and a couple of photos. Feel free to follow along – we all love a caravan.

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What Type of Traveller Are You?

Flying over Mountains - Guenette photo  (1)

I can tell you the type of traveller I’d like to be. Get up and go with a moment’s notice. Work until the moment I have to leave. Be an organized, unflappable veteran of airport security. Squeeze every drop of life out of a trip and make it all fodder for the creative mill. Return home, get those bags unpacked and be back into the swing of things in no time flat.

Alas, I am far from my dreams. I am the person who sees the departure date looming a couple of weeks ahead and decides there isn’t much point sinking into a project because I’ll just have to pull up short to hit the road. What’s the point of that? I am as far from spontaneous as one can get. Those we know me, know better than to try surprise tactics. I can only hope I don’t look as frazzled standing in airport security as I feel. And it generally takes me a week to ten days to resettle when returning from a trip. I’m like an old dog circling the mat of my life over and over until I’m able to settle back into any type of routine.

Prairie Sky 2 - Guenette photo  (1)

Where I find success is in squeezing every drop of detail out of my experiences. For a writer, this makes the disruption of travelling well worth the effort. I’m good at taking note of details – the look of a prairie sky, the eerie feeling of an empty school yard and a long row of swings totally still in the afternoon heat, the noise a helicopter makes when it lands, what a magpie looks like, two men in conversation at a Tim Horton’s, one rubbing his jaw and saying, “Now, that, what you’re talking about right there … that’ll kill you sure as sure.”

Schoolyard swings - Guenette photo

I love to study people. On my recent trip, a woman at the airport caught me eye.

Short, sculpted, blonde hair, a chiselled jawline and a face dominated by a large mouth and gleaming teeth. I have no idea why but I can’t stop staring at her. She stands ramrod straight – her posture is admirable to the slouches among us. She’s dressed impeccably – heels, black slacks and a clinging, patterned top, the type that has an off-set neckline. The strange lack of symmetry in that throws me off somehow. She reaches casually into her black leather, designer purse and withdraws a small object. It turns out to be a miniature measuring tape. It snakes down to the ground as she goes about measuring the height and width of her carry-on bag. Maybe I don’t travel enough – I’ve never seen anyone do such a thing. I’ve watched people eye their bag up with nervous glances to and from the metal contraption near the gate that defines exactly the size of a carry-on bag. I’ve seen people trying to stick an oversize bag into said contraption, insisting it will fit. I’ve stared with disbelief while a person went so far as to tip the whole contraption over in her desperate efforts. But I’ve never seen anyone actually measure their carry-on bag. The action seems so natural to this woman, so effortless. The tape snaps back in on itself and is tucked away. I stare at her purse and imagine it containing dozens of useful items all stored in well-organized pockets. She can put her fingers on anything she might need. This woman is unflappable, I can’t imagine a scenario that could ruffle her.

And then the writer in me starts imagining …

Helicopter at Auburn Bay - Guenette photo

You put that woman with this helicopter and throw in those swings … those kinds of juxtapositions are bound to make a story.

What sort of a traveller are you?

Prairie Sky - Guenette photo