Sunday, December 30, 2007
Travel is always - an adventure.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
In Au Nang, Krabi, Thailand, limestone cliffs punch sky before spiraling into the ocean. It is a place where caves are plentiful and where James Bond made an appearance in “The Man With The Golden Gun.”
We begin in a long boat. The driver speaks no English and the guide knows little but tries hard. We settle in for an interesting trip. Two plastic kayaks bob behind us. Exhaust spews over the placid river as we head out. Soon the trees crowd in, overhanging far over the water with mangroves pushing the boundaries of tree and water as they spread roots in the river.
The monkeys arrive from nowhere. One head appears from amidst the trees and others pop into sight behind the first. Within minutes they are all overhead. The first one, who is much larger than the others, appears to be the leader. While the smaller monkeys hang back, the leader jumps down, plopping onto the guide’s boat. He bares his teeth and charges for the bananas. The guide holds him back with his paddle but this primate version of the godfather isn’t deterred. To our horror the guide gently smacks the monkey with his paddle. The guide stands and the kayak shifts, water rippling ominously, as the monkey charges again and we don’t know if we should intercede. But it’s soon apparent that this is a dance the two, monkey and man, have had many times before. And the primate soon grabs an overhead branch and swings upward. This seems to be the cue for the smaller monkeys. Agilely they balance amidst slender branches and dangle mid air before plopping onto our guide’s kayak. They’re all playful as they jostle each other. The guide feeds them bananas and offers none to us. He explains, as we’ve already witnessed, that it’s too dangerous. So we take pictures of the monkey’s antics instead. Overhead we glance up and meet the watchful eyes of the patriarch.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
At the age of nine or ten it was the job of the local store owner's children to flag the train down. They would set a kerosene lantern by the track to let the engineer know there was a pickup. Unfortunately, the lantern was small and by the time it was spotted the train would usually overshoot the stop. Because the cream cans were too heavy to lift, the children often worked in pairs and dragged the cans to the train. When they reached the train it was usually at a full stop or moving slowly and someone would reach down with a hook and pull the cans into the train. Back then, no one thought that it might be dangerous or too much for children of that age to drag heavy cans in the dark to slowly moving trains. I'm not too sure what people would think now. It really was a different world then.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
First there was Baby, a calf who she fed daily and who eventually learned to jump into the grainery after her so that it could get the best feed of the herd. The calf continued to follow her everywhere even after it was full grown. When the cows were herded in at night, Baby hung behind and walked beside the girl. If any of the dogs dared to walk anywhere near "her girl", the cow chased them away. Baby was the best milk cow they had and for that reason one day she was sold to a local farmer. Neither the girl or the cow ever got over that. The cow's milk production decreased significantly and the girl, well she still talks about the cow called Baby who was her friend and companion through some tough years in her young life.
Well, if the cow didn't work out you just have to move on. So then came the colt. So many years later my companion doesn't remember the colt's name but what she does remember is that she snuck sugar to it daily. The colt began to look forward to this and expect its daily treat. One day she was busy in the kitchen and hadn't had a chance to feed the colt its treat. The colt got tired of waiting and came up the porch steps and right through the screen door. It ended up standing in the middle of the kitchen looking calmly around for its sugar handout.
And then came Nellie. Nellie was an obstinant creature. An unrideable horse that had to be wrestled with to do the most basic duties like pull a plow. Obviously a challenge for any animal lover. "So," she says and only the wrinkles in her face give away her age, "I set out to train the horse." Nellie let her up on its back, kicking a bit before settling down. They rode along for a few minutes until the horse arrived at the appropriate destination. The slough. And that's where she was thrown off. When she arrived home, soaking wet and muddy her Dad took one look and said, "Nellie."
Who said a horse doesn't have a sense of humor?
She ran a hand along the cow’s tough hide. “Men are nothing but trouble, Ingrid. Do you know that?" Eva Edwards - From the Dust
Sunday, November 11, 2007
We are the Dead.
We Will Not Forget!
Saturday, November 3, 2007
For Tate Prescott Brown, "From the Dust" the depression all began with the stock market crash of 1929.
For one vivacious lady that one would never dare call elderly, money wasn't even a consideration. For her the depression began like this:
"One year everybody seeded grain and gardens. That spring we had alot of wind every day. The crops didn't grow. No rain. No garden. The wind was blowing every day. Not only wind, it was dusty wind. We had to put towels around the house windows to keep out the dust. The next year was bad. Hardly seed to put in and the dust storms didn't stop. There was no snow and no rain that year. We got some seed from the municipality but we had to work for it. There was no relief."
Smiling broadly and pouring more coffee, my hostess continues with the interview:
"If we had a nickel we went to the store bought chickory to add to the coffee to taste better or we bought socks because we didn't have any." She smiles.
"In fall boxcar loads of potatoes came from the east. Each family got one bag unless it was a big family. We got nine bags. Then we had one potato to a person only on Sunday." She says this as if that one potato was the biggest treat of her life.
Her gray hair gleams in the sunlight as it streams through the window and skips across her kitchen table. And the senior continues:
"The grain was only about 10 inches high. We cut it down with grass mower and put it on the tarp run over with a disc to thresh it out then we put through the grain cleaner to blow the chaffe. After that we put kernals in the chopper. Sifted the seed fine, that was our flour for bread, course flour was our porridge. That was the wheat. Barley was done the same only fine flour was our potatoes and course barley was roasted and made our coffee."
Sunday, October 28, 2007
He stayed in town with the others like him for two weeks. In that time she found many excuses to come into town, to seek him out. She fell in love. Now no one knows if he loved her in return. What we do know is that when the men trouped back to their boxcar, there was one extra. One man who was not really a man. A young girl with a cap on her head and her hair tucked under it. One girl who had exchanged a dress for a pair of pants and was determined to fit in, leave small town Saskatchewan and head to the big city and adventure with her beau.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
She tosses him a treat and turns her attention back to me.
"Why did you quit?" I ask.
"I didn't want to but I had no choice. My father needed me on the farm. My mother was sick and my brother well..." She nods her head and her expression is closed. There is another story here but one she is reluctant to go into.
"He arrived at the school and said, 'I need her at home to help out.'"
She nods. "That was the end of my schooling." Again she shakes her head. An intelligent woman who could easily gone on to higher education and instead spent much of her life working at low paying and often menial jobs."And that was it, at thirteen, the end of my schooling. I cried and pleaded to stay but I was needed on the farm. So I went."
"Did you have any books?" I ask.
"Books?" She looks disbelieving. "There was no money for books. I worked in the fields with my father. I was in charge of my own team. We used them to harrow and when we thrashed."
"So that was the end of school?" I persist.
"Yes," she replies. "There was too much work. I had to take care of the cattle, my team, help Dad in the fields and help Mom get the meals to the hired crews at harvest." She pauses and looks almost proud at the next statement, "I built the hip-roofed barn. At least me and Dad built the roof on that barn."
"But you were just thirteen."
"And a girl," she confirms. "But I have big bones."
As if that explains everything.
"We got water in milk cans for threshing. The men were thirsty. I was in charge of lifting the milk cans off the hay rack and carrying them to the well, filling them with water and then carrying them back and lifting them on the hay rack. Not many girls could do that."
And I'm thinking not many girls should.
"When my knee was hurt, Dad sent me to the blacksmith for axle grease."
Apparently every farm had an area in a shed or the barn where all the tools were kept. That was the blacksmith. In there was also vast quantities of axle grease as there were so many wheels and mechanical items needing grease. "So I plastered axle grease on both knees an inch thick to my thighs," she said, smiling. "Dad was furious. He gave me a lickin'."
"Lickin'?" I ask horrified. "He hit you?"
"No, he yelled but his yelling was scary. He said I used all his grease. And it was true. We couldn't afford to buy more and we needed it for lots of things." She laughs. "Worse, we had no paper towels back then, no extra rags, so what do you get it off with." She is still laughing through her words. "Well, I used the only thing available, the only thing we had lots of, prairie grass."
She takes a sip of coffee before continuing. "Axle grease isn't easy to get off you know but it sure makes your knee feel good. There's something in that grease that's good for everything."
Who would have thought?
Although times were unbelievably harsh for this senior, she partied like she was nineteen at her ninetieth birthday party and her response to the attendees at her surprise party was, "Let's have a drink".
And they did!
Friday, October 19, 2007
1930 - 1940. The dirty thirties. Years of nightmare weather; harsh winters, blistering summers, unending winds.
1936 was one of the hottest summers on record across North America and one of the coldest winters. The American side of Niagra falls has only been known to freeze over six times because of a combination of its lower water level and a harsh winter. Two of those times were 1936 and 1938.
But even harsh weather didn't stop the fun. In a phone conversation, where I would have sworn I was speaking to a much younger woman, an enthusiastic senior remembered spending many evenings skating on an outdoor rink. There was a skating shack with a heater to warm up between sets and gas lanterns strung along the ice. It was rather more a dance than a skating party as the boys would take turns skating with the girls. They would skate in pairs all evening.
“You would dance with all different fellas all night. It was like going to a dance.”
Seems like there was a lot of fun happening in those tough years. When the ice finally melted and skating ended the town children migrated to tennis. And on Sundays they switched to baseball.
Summer temperatures may have reached record highs and the winds become relentless, but when things got really unbearable there was always a dip in a nearby slough, lake or dugout.
Monday, October 8, 2007
"What did you do for fun?" I ask.
"No dances?" I prod.
"I played the fiddle my Dad bought."
"You didn't have any money," I remind him.
"We bought it before the thirties, when we still had some money."
"Did you play at dances?" I ask again.
"Wasn't that good," he says in his cryptic manner. "The neighour taught me. We had musicals at different homes. I played at them sometimes."
"And dances?" So give me credit - I'm persistent!
"Yeah. I played at a few. But usually we had a real orchestra come out."
"Orchestra?" Now I'm puzzled. What about the no money thing?
"Yeah, my cousin played banjo, his wife played fiddle and a friend played saxaphone. They came out every Saturday night."
Nothing is sure becoming an interesting term. There's a whole lot of nothing going on. But I press on.
"From the city?" I ask.
"No, from the farm." He looks puzzled at the question. "They came into town."
"So you danced every weekend?"
"When we didn't have money. Sometimes we had money you know."
He eyes me like everyone should know this fact and continues,"then we went to Disley and bought beer."
"Yeah. But we got rid of the empties."
"So you returned the empties?" I ask assuming poverty stricken as they were they would want the cash on a bottle return."Oh no." He shakes his head. "That would mean we'd have to take the bottles home with us. We threw them away so our mothers wouldn't find out we'd been drinking beer!"
Life is Unexpected - Safe travels
“A farmer who loves the classics and plays the piano like a maestro. Interesting.”
Tate Prescott Brown - "From the Dust"
Friday, October 5, 2007
One youthful senior, who was a child during the depression, described her traditional Christmas present; no toys or books, just a stocking with one orange, some hard candy and peanuts.
A recipe book from the 1930's depicts a few recipes that you still see today and many that might be considered unique. Yet some of the old standbys, like a morning cup of coffee, existed then as they do today.
Coffee with a twist - Try measuring your morning coffee into a cheesecloth bag, add a scoop of crushed eggshells and set the pot over the fire on the wood stove - Coffee in 20 minutes!
“Toast stale bread, butter it and cut in cubes. Pour over it very hot milk, to which are added salt and pepper and if liked, a little more butter.”
And above is a page from that same cookbook featuring the following recipes; Onions and String Beans, Onions Au Gratin, Potato Cakes, Potato and Onion Casserole, and Peas in Baskets
““Well I surely won’t convince him of my value sitting here and moping.” It was almost suppertime. She squared her shoulders. She’d start her campaign by feeding him a good supper.”
Sunday, September 30, 2007
When the young couple finally bought their own farm, they got four sections of land which originally cost $3,000 a section. But after a $1,000 deposit the seller tried to swindle them by telling them the title was clear. It wasn't, a loan for a new tractor was now a lien on the property. So, the deal was $1,000 and the tractor for four sections of prime farm land. Not bad, even in Saskatchewan in 1939.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Today the journey I am on is different from any other trip I have taken before and likely any trip I will take after. Firsts usually are.
My first book is about to be published!
“He died with liquor on his breath and poison in his soul. Doc MacPherson claimed that between the alcohol and the arsenic there were enough chemicals in his body to keep him pickled to the second coming.
It was a terrible way to die. Eva wouldn’t wish that on anyone, even him. She shivered. The last twelve hours had been awful. She pulled a bobby pin from her hair, rearranged a stray piece and secured it again. She hadn’t reacted well. She knew that. She regretted snapping at the child. She regretted a lot of things. None of them could be undone. Like Mr. Edwards, the time was gone, over. The damage had been done.”
And so begins the saga of Eva Edwards, a new widow and mother to a child not hers. Three steps ahead of one disaster or another, she struggles to survive on a Saskatchewan farm. It is 1935 and dust storms and poverty are rampant. But it is Tate Prescott Brown who becomes the biggest obstacle as he arrives from Ontario with wealth and status and a claim to her farm. It is a poignant battle against each other and the elements as two independent individuals face off.
“From the Dust”
A December release published by Black Lyon Publishing.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I do, all the time. Interesting, since I live in the same city where I was born in. While I do travel regularly, I've never moved away. Some day I know I will - but not now. In the meantime I think about what it would be like to live in another culture far from everything that I was familiar with. Exhilerating, for sure, scary, yeah that too. I've dreamed of doing just that for years. But for now I have a career, family and friends that hold me here and I have my vacation travels to hold the dream. Speaking of vacations and travels, I'm getting excited, the maps aren't out, as the destination isn't confirmed, but by the end of this year I'll hopefully be on the road to somewhere new and exotic. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, I have the map of the world pinned to my wall and am adrift in possibilities.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
A couple of things happened this week. One, I was scanning old family photos and trying to piece together family history. I am uncomfortable with how many faces are unknown to me. Who is that pretty baby or that elegant couple posed so earnestly for their portrait? On some there are dates, and it is oddly poignant to realize that many of these people are long dead. What were their dreams? What was their life journey like and what did they leave that we might learn from?
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Today we went to Moose Jaw. I had to include a picture of main street with all the old buildings still standing. That's part of Moose Jaw's charm. The history is still there; tunnels, possible gangsters, historic murals, old buildings and one thing not so historic, Nits.
Nits - The best Thai food in Southern Saskatchewan. It's a short 45 minute drive from Regina on a beautiful summer day. Moose Jaw is bustling when we arrive at the unimposing restaurant just a block from Al Capone's famous tunnels.
There's nothing special about the interior. Worn and plain would best describe it, full of patrons with one waitress trying to handle it all. Still she smiles and our wait for a cold beer to wash down the hot prairie dust is not long in coming. And the wait for the food is more than worth it as we view the menu that rests between pages that resemble a travel journal, sip beer and watch as the kitchen doors open and close and catch glimpses of herbs being pounded and the delivery boy running to and fro. The food is always worth waiting for. The appetizer is leaves that hint at lime and wrap around peanuts, ginger, coconut and we things we can't identify that results in an explosion of taste. The curry is amazing as in the Pad Thai. As we clean up the last morsel, a couple sit across from us. They are carrying motorbike helmets and looking rather disheveled. Another pair that have taken the highway drive on this gorgeous, hot prairie day to this little town in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan to enjoy Thai food like you won't find anywhere else, anywhere else but Thailand that is.And if Thai food isn't your thing, check out the dozen or so murals around town depicting Moose Jaw and Saskatchewan history. Whether you like history or not, they are just plain gorgeous to look at.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
To the world Hong Kong is the image of economic efficiency. A vibrant, modern city whose secrets are hidden behind the smiles of the old men in China town, behind housewives hanging their laundry on sampans in Aberdeen, behind Victoria Peak rising high in a tribute to nature, and behind the business men striding down the commerce jammed streets.
Hong Kong loves her secrets. When foggy skies hide the heights of the skyscrapers, it does nothing to dim the excited rumble of change that roams through her streets. Secrets are hidden behind frenetic building projects, shopping havens and, at night, a multitude of neon lights. In the sunlight, secrets whisper beneath the umbrellas of elegant women who move in a graceful flow to unknown destinations.
Hong Kong is the world's dynamo but inside this vortex of activity, the old world floats at an easier pace against a backdrop of business and modern technology. That's what I love about Hong Kong, its ability to fold both old and new together into a spicy mix of new ideas and old world customs. Its secrets draw one here again and again - for you'll never really know Hong Kong.
Its secrets make the rest of the world sigh as they take a collective breath and say, some day. Some day they too shall visit.
Here's to you, Hong Kong!
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
It’s times like this that make me long for the solitude of nature. So with my dog, Rourke in tow, or was that Rourke with me in tow. I headed as close to nature as I could easily get without adding to global warming and starting up a gasoline engine. Between the highway that skirts the city and the last row of houses, there's a path, overgrown with quack grass, and bracketed by trees and straggling bushes. Nature goes crazy here, in the silence heavy with the roar and rush of traffic that edges the city. Here you can turn off the traffic, take a sweet scented breath of meadow grass and meditate, about life, or about nothing - mostly about nothing.
The picture shows how easily things can be reframed, perceptions changed. I appear to be walking within an arbor of green, lush grass, not on an overgrown path on the fringes of the city.
To a life with purpose.
"The wise man knows that it is better to sit on the banks of a remote mountain stream than to be an emperor of the whole world."
Monday, June 25, 2007
Friday we headed for Calgary and a trial run at a kennel. So with our always amiable Irish Terrier, Rourke, loaded in the back we headed out. The Pet Planet people had assured me that there would be a minimum of six play times a day. Dogs are allowed to run in groups in a fenced yard. If that didn't make my dog nut, dog happy - nothing would. Of course, there was also body massage, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, pedicures and daycare if we wanted those options. Not this time. It's only a weekend visit. His suite, as it's called, is a four by eight room with cinderbrick walls, to give privacy, and wire mesh doors, wide hall ways and no stacking of suites. I go in with Rourke - it's surprisingly roomie. I can stand upright with plenty of room. He's given a raised bed that looks like a small trampoline. I put his blanket on that with his duck and he's curled up before I'm ready to leave.
How did he make out? Well, he didn't drag me from the resort. In fact he didn't seem anxious to leave the dog play yard - I had to coax him out. He was exhausted but untraumatized. Yep, dog kennels have really grown up. And by the way they don't call them kennels anymore - they're resorts and your dog is on vacation too. And in this case, I think he really was.
Rourke post vacation
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
It's rare to find a patch of prairie these days. Most of it has been cultivated or developed in one way or another. Today we found that little piece of heaven. Because that's what real prairie is, heaven. Wild barley and rye tickle your legs, spearmint's spicy scent and imprints of the past whisper on the breeze.
And then it happened!
The camera's battery died.
So this trip all I have to offer is a rather dark photograph of what was really an incredible prairie scene. You'll have to imagine the wild roses, clumps of sage and camomile and the tall grass that hides it all. I remember a long time ago we had picnics and sat cross-legged, unseen by the outside world. I'd take a picture to hold that memory but did I mention the battery?
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes."- Marcel Proust
Friday, June 8, 2007
He is building security. The man who makes sure that during our working day we are safe from mechanical malfunctions or unauthorized visitors. He does his job in the background and his world rarely touches ours. Today, in my bored and restless state, I began a conversation with him. And I made a discovery. We share an interest. He is a stock market buff with an enthusiasm that eclipses mine. His knowledge of historic facts and his ability to link them to future possibilities was a totally unexpected delight. Who knew that a simple question about what was news in the local newspaper would lead to a discussion on finances?
When was the last time you had a conversation with a stranger?
Friday, June 1, 2007
Today's border crossing only emphasized how small our world has become. The customs officers looked at the passports and saw the Cambodia stamp from two years ago and began to ask questions. Not questions regarding our eligibility to visit for an afternoon in the United States. But questions about what kind of travel destination Cambodia was and if it was a place they'd be interested in visiting.
There are travellers everywhere and you're sure to meet them in the most unlikely places.
"The border means more than a customs house, a passport officer, a man with a gun. Over there everything is going to be different; life is never going to be quite the same again after your passport has been stamped."- Graham Greene