Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Speed of Green

Yesterday we received the first copy of a year's subscription to ReadyMade Magazine, a gift from Zak and Mandy. They obviously know us well. :)

James or Cathy kindly deliver mail too large to fit into our post box. When James brought ReadyMade to the door yesterday he admitted lingering on the way to make a quick assessment of its articles and was as excited as we were by its contents. Guess we'll have to share our copy with them once we've scoured every word several times.

The entire premise of this neat little magazine is reuse, recycle, and green it up. With the continuing media coverage (at last!) over climate change, and some kind of "green project" being discussed everywhere you turn I got to thinking about the evolution of the green movement itself.

I was in high school when I read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Carson could be called the Mother of the green movement, because she was the first to recognize and publicize the harmful effects of DDT, which was used everywhere without the slightest caution by the 1940s. Tony's family lived in North Africa when he was a small boy. His mother said she (and all her European friends) regularly dusted DDT into their bedding, clothing, drawers, kitchen drawers, along every baseboard. About the only place they didn't deliberately add it was to their food.

When I read Silent Spring I felt despair, deep deep despair. I spent a goodly part of my childhood as free as a colt, poking along stream beds, lying flat on my belly peering into pools, wading through meadows chest deep in grass, curled up in or under a tree, laying against sun-warmed rocks. I felt a part of all I explored, as much as a creature of nature as the leaves, fish and animals. I couldn't bear the idea that we were doing them harm.

Reading The Silent Spring made me green, but I didn't realize it at the time. I was never a hippie. While the hippies danced on the streets of San Francisco, shared their joints (and their bacteria) I married, worked, and had a little baby boy who was (and remains) one of the lights of my life. I remember a particular moment. Ian was perhaps six or seven months old. He was damp and sweet from the bath and when I toweled him off and picked him up he threw his little arm around my neck and laid his head on my shoulder and just relaxed totally into my arms. I thought that if I lived 100 years I'd never ever experience again the intensity of happiness I felt at that moment. I have of course, overall I have had a very happy life, but such moments of pure unallied joy don't come often.

My generation has largely sold out. Many feel they can acquire their way to happiness and contentment and have gone about trying to do so. I can tell them that it isn't true, and unbridled acquisition carries a huge price tag. When someone says, "I gave the earth for XXXX", it's often more true than they realize.

It's taken 40+ years for the message of The Silent Spring to finally filter into the consciousness of perhaps half the population. But the green consciousness finally has powerful allies. The greening of the First World has begun despite the resistance of politicians like George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, both under the thumb of oil and gas interests. Both say we can't meet Kyoto targets, while the City government of Toronto, Canada's largest city, has already met and far exceeded the Kyoto target by reducing their greenhouse emissions well below the 1990 levels.

Within a generation Green will be the only acceptable way to be. Perhaps we will rethink our mass consumerism and materialistic standards and realize that we do not own the earth, we are only a part of the symbiotic relationship all creatures have worked out together over millions of years. Moments of pure joy, for all creatures, can continue.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dripping and Ripping

You know how it is. You iz too tired to even wiggle (which I am) and disaster overtakes everything. Let me back up.

Ian and Julie arrived Sunday evening. We were really looking forward to spending time together, and we did have fun. We ate like piggies, we shopped, we laughed ourselves breathless. We took some pictures....

We'd asked Ian to buy us a dehumidifier in Calgary, since we couldn't find one here, and we were sorely in need of a good dry-out. So they brought a dehumidifier which has turned out to be a godsend in more ways than one.

We set it up and turned it on about 10:30 Monday night and it pulled about 15 pints of water from the air by Tuesday evening. The perpetual film of water on the inside of our windows has disappeared, and I no longer have to towel out the window tracks two or three times a day to keep the water in them from overflowing, or worse, leaking into the wall beneath.

We'd had a couple of busy days before Ian and Julie arrived, shopping, and running a list of errands one day and doing half a dozen loads of laundry the next. The two days they were here were busy as well, so by the time they left Tuesday morning I was very much in need of a rest.

Unfortunately I got up yesterday morning to a flood in the kitchen. Tony went into our wee bathroom to have his shower and left the water running in the kitchen sink. I think I mentioned before that our fourth pressure regulator had failed within a couple of days of installation. That meant until we replaced it we had to leave a faucet dripping to keep the pressure from building up in the pipes.

So, that's what happened this time. Tony left a drip in the kitchen sink so he could turn off the water in the bathroom between applying soap and rinsing, and the stream appears to have deflected along a spoon in a bowl and instead of going into the sink, went onto the counter, onto the carpet, into the cupboards...

We had to unload the cupboards, throw away some very soaked paper products, mop up the water, dry the counter, and soak up as much of the water from the carpet as a monster bath towel would hold. Thank heavens for the dehumidifier! It's busy pulling water from the carpet, as well as the air. I shudder to think how long it would have taken to dry otherwise. Maybe by Mid-Molduary.

After all that I had to go to town for a doctor's appt., grocery shop (why do we eat so much?) and do some other errands. I came back thoroughly pooped.

Ian and Julie had their own kind of disaster in the form of a prolonged trip home. Roger's Pass was closed due to avalanches, so they had to turn around and go back to Revelstoke to spend the night. The road was still treacherous the next morning, and about 30 miles short of Calgary a traffic accident closed the highway so they had to backtrack and take the old two-lane highway into the city. What should have taken 10 hours turned into a 36 hour ordeal.

The Tinpalace is officially a shambles. Tony spilled bird seed on the floor while filling the container yesterday, I haven't washed dishes since yesterday's breakfast, and computer bits are strung everywhere. Ian also brought Tony's big old desk Mac. Since Tony nearly killed my laptop I have beaten him with a hot poker every time he even looked like he wanted to use the Baby Mac. We left his old Mac behind because it takes up so much room, but I decided it was no sacrifice not to be able to use the table if it makes him happy and keeps his hands off my laptop. Baby Mac is no longer new, and was the smallest, cheapest model they made when I bought it, but I keep my research on it and the thought of losing even a day of that gives me the willies.

Though I can hardly wiggle I looked at the drooping paper on the back ceiling this morning and something snapped. I got up on the bunks and ripped all that paper down. I'll paint the ceiling this summer. I don't know where I got the energy, and for the rest of the day I will probably only get up from my bunk to eat and well.... go to the one room in the Tinpalace that has a door. But that's okay. I accomplished something, even if it wasn't what needed doing worst.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Still (Watching) Dancing After All These Years

It is 12.9 C (55 F) degrees and sunny outside!!! Wooooohoooo!!!

Yesterday in about three degrees and with heavily overcast skies I went big grocery shopping, to the pharm, and the PO, so today I weakly. I will overcome and take the cat outside for a good walk! Just gimme a minute.

I've been sitting here watching the local Oliver channel (18), which was running their broadcast of the weekly Oliver Senior's Centre Dance. Last week over 200 seniors attended. Some of them dance like me, stumble, plod - plod - plod, in no particular rhythm, but many of them dance beautifully, with lots of energy, bounce, fancy footwork and precision. The idea is to have a good time, socialize and it looks like dern good exercise too.

The band may not be world-class, and the songs they play may have somewhat indeterminate and wandering melodies, but they have a good beat and you can obviously dance to them! I enjoy watching them all enjoy themselves so much.

But it suddenly struck me funny that, here I sit at 61, watching folks mostly a few years older than myself, dance on television. Fifty or so years ago I was doing the same thing, hurrying home every day after school to watch Dick Clark's American Bandstand, where kids a few years older than myself danced round and round and round...

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


It was an adventurous sort of day. Remember back, some weeks ago I landed in the ER? The doctor on call (who has become our new family doctor) was suitably horrified by my wonky EKG which often sends ER personnel into a tailspin. So, today we went off to Penticton so I could visit a cardiologist (heart specialist) and have some appropriate tests done.

The last few days have been three or four degrees above freezing, so the ice and snow we've had on the ground since November has finally almost disappeared, on the valley floor anyway. The mud is drying up and the trees and bushes are sending up tender new growth in a rainbow of colours.

Penticton is 30 miles (43 km) from Oliver, and all along the route we saw the delicate golden green of new willow fronds, rosy-coloured shoots in the orchards so thick that they looked like pink smoke, and along creek beds the cranberry glow of coral dogwood branches. Not a leaf in sight, though the grass in the occasional vineyard or field is greening up.

It was a pleasant drive, if you ignore the 18-wheeler that sat on my back bumper at 90 km an hour in the long no passing section. I was doing over the limit which was not enough for him. We finally hit a wider spot, I pulled to the shoulder and let him fly past, where he sat in front of me, going no faster than I had been, until we came to the government way station and he was forced to pull off the road to weigh his load.

We found the hospital easily. The young cardiologist was very pleasant, and I passed the BP test 110/80, aced the echocardiogram, and managed five minutes on the devil mill. I could have gone ten minutes if need be, at a moderate speed. But when they turned it to "roadrunner" my legs quickly forgot how to work my feet.

The cardiologist asked, "What do you mean you are having trouble making your legs work?"

"I can't coordinate them this quickly! They simply don't work this fast. I sort of have to think about walking anyway and I can't think this fast!"

He pushed me to keep at it 20 seconds more, which I did by hanging onto the bar and supporting part of my weight on my arms. But it was my legs and not my heart that stopped my walk.

My heart is fine, according to him. Like I said, I have a wonky EKG and when my potassium gets low my heart muscle complains that it isn't getting the blood it needs. I have no chest pain with exercise under normal conditions.

Once I was finished we found a restaurant which had been recommended and we had lunch. Then we retraced our steps, enjoying the scenery in reverse. I think my arms will be sore tomorrow but the drive wasn't hard.

The cat wasn't even upset when we got back, which he usually is when we leave him for any length of time. He probably slept the whole time.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mud Time

The water for which we may have to look
In summer with a witching-wand,
In every wheelrut's now a brook,
In every print of hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

Two Tramps in Mud Time; Robert Frost

The snow lies in scattered, broken patches, holding on as if hoping that another blast of winter will come and stop its migration to mud. In between the snow patches are the puddles. At night they freeze up, but it doesn't take much warmth to dissolve the ice.

The cat walks as if he's walking on broken glass. He doesn't stay outside more than 10 minutes, even though it's not cold. He hasn't yet learned to tolerate wet paws. I stump around with great clumps of mud hanging off my shoes. You'd think gravel wouldn't make a good mud, but it has excellent adhesion and more comes in the door than I am prepared to welcome.

Mat count has reached four. A rubber-backed felty thing started out as the principal mat, laid outside the door, but soon sank beneath the responsibility. A black rubber thing was put on top of the grey felty one. The black rubber has lots of intersecting rings, to scrape the shoe soles on. Both disappeared beneath the snow for weeks.

Mat three is ugly and brown, rubber backed, lying inside the door. A drip-catcher, foot stomper mat, bought because it was small enough to fit in the entrance without folding, stapling or mutilating.

Mat four is a ridiculous thing I bought in a moment of nostalgic insanity because we had one like it when I was a small child. It's pale blue and has heavy twists of cotton cording looped into the backing. It shows every spot and while it's washable it takes an hour ($4.00 worth of quarters) to damp dry in the big commercial dryer at the laundromat. It lays beyond mat three, to catch more drips. I've given up on keeping it spot-free and will not wash the dam thing again until summer, when I can hang it on the line, or lay it on the picnic table, to dry.

Despite the sloppy conditions and general muckiness, this is the way the earth forces winter out of its den. Flood it out so spring can move in and coax every living thing awake. Mud time is a time for celebration. When mud time comes spring is never more than a short step behind.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Holy Man

Word spread across the countryside about a wise Holy Man who lived in a small house atop the mountain. A man from the village decided to make the long and difficult journey to visit him. When he arrived at the house, he saw an old servant inside. "I would like to see the Holy Man," he said to the servant.

The servant smiled and led him inside. As they walked through the house, the man from the village looked eagerly around the house, anticipating his encounter with the Holy Man. Before he knew it, he had been led to the back door and escorted outside. He stopped and turned to the servant, "But I want to see the Holy Man!"

"You already have," said the old man. "Everyone you may meet in life, even if they appear plain and insignificant, see each of them as a Holy Man. If you do this, then whatever problem you brought here today will be solved."

Sun, Sleep and Snow

I'm going to take a break from researching and writing stuff that hurts the brain. I'm going to wager, tender reader, that as long as it doesn't affect you you don't give a flying flip that metabolic acidosis is defined as a primary decrease in serum HCO3- concentration and, in its pure form, manifests as acidemia (pH <7.40) and can be caused by a shift of hydrogen ions into the intracellular space during hypokalemia. No, I didn't think so.

So, I'll talk about everything in general. It's 3:30 in the afternoon and the sun has come out for the first time in many days. The warmth spills in the windows and makes it hard to see the computer screen, so I got Tony's ball cap and put it on. I look like a real home boy now.

On the 30th we celebrated Tony's 66th birthday by having lunch at the local Indian restaurant, called appropriately enough Best of India.

Here's a picture of the birthday boy, who always seems to take a good picture, but then he is awfully cute. It was taken at the Park's Christmas dinner by Mandy and Zak's friend Racheal Ashe who came to Oliver with them for Christmas week.

She took a picture of me too, but the camera doesn't like me as much as it does my husband. I always wince when I see pictures of myself. Oh, well. You should be battle-hardened, having seen the odd photo of me before.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, dreaming of eating chicken curry again! The Indian restaurant glows with the warm, vibrant (but not garish) colours of the Indian subcontinent, raspberry, lime, green and apricot. Gorgeous! There's a border of blue elephants which marches around the dining room. The owners are ever so nice. They are a handsome middle-aged couple who have been in Canada for 13 years. Their son has joined the RCMP and their daughter is a nurse, and like all parents everywhere they are proud as can be of their children.

We enjoyed their incredibly delicious food and the excellent conversation. We will go back. Next time I will take my camera. If you come to Oliver be sure to visit Best of India on Main Street (highway 97), across from the movie theatre.

I don't know why but I'm going through a phase where I wake up anywhere from 2:00 to 5:00 am and can't go back to sleep. Thankfully Tony sleeps as if he's been brought down with a tranquilizer dart, so I can turn on my light and read, watch a video (with the headphones in) or get the laptop, write, listen to music or surf without waking him.

I have looked up some old friends and acquaintances, read up on questions I've had for years and learned that Wikibooks has some great on-line material.

Macs have this great "thing", I don't know the name for it. You click the little icon while you are listening to music and a screen comes up which generates all kinds of colorful fractal-like images, generated by the music. It's rather like a digital kalediscope and soothingly mindless and hypnotic when you are too tired to think, write, read or surf.

Red Chief was shredding the place and being generally naughty, so I forced him outside for a walk in the early afternoon. It was not cold, but we had snow yesterday and he hates getting his paws wet. We stuck to the melted spots as much as possible, but there were places where I had to drag him across the snow. At one point he climbed a tree and growled at me when I suggested we move on.

I picked up some apricot tree trimmings, as James is pruning trees right now. This should have been done a month ago, as there is new growth and green, swelling buds on the trees, but poor James has been so busy shoveling snow I'm sure he hasn't had a minute left to trim the dozens of trees in the park. Anyway, I brought some little branches in and put them in water. They may bloom, what a treat that would be!

I am way past ready for winter to be over. Enough with the snow and freezing days! But surely it won't be long now, the Canada geese are passing overhead in great honking flocks, headed north.