Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beware the Blind Spot!

Admittedly these pictures don't go with the post. I've taken many photos of the flowers in my garden, and my neighbour's garden, over the last week and I wanted to share them. But you can witter on about how beautiful the flowers are just so long and almost the first thing I heard this morning was the unmistakable honking scream of two heavy metal bodies colliding at high speed. I looked out the back window to the highway and saw a mid-size red car doing what might be called ballet of a sort; spinning like an out-of-control dancer across the four lanes of pavement. It came to a stop with its nose pointed toward the cliff, about 20 feet off the shoulder.

There appeared to be a crumpled red parachute lying on the hood. No one moved inside for what seemed to be a long time, but at least there were no bodies on the highway that I could see, nor anyone hanging through the windshield. I recoiled as I thought of the dozens of cyclists who pedal past here every day, only a foot or two from passing traffic. It was unclear if the red thing on the hood was a cyclist, but no one seemed to pay it any attention, so I assumed it wasn't.

I could not see another vehicle, but there is a line of cedars along the road, so the view is occluded. My next thought was that a dog from the campground, or maybe a deer, had run in front of the car. God forbid that one of the dozens of little kids who are here now had gotten up on the road. By now several men from the campground were jigging impatiently at the edge of the highway, waiting for a break in the traffic, so they could get to the wrecked car. I couldn't believe that no one had stopped, no one even slowed down. Cars and trucks continued to hurtle past at 100 klicks or more.

By now the car's occupants were crawling out the passenger side. No one appeared to be badly hurt, though a girl of 11 or 12 appeared to have a broken arm or shoulder. Otherwise everyone was alternately moving and clinging to each other.

There was still no sign that another vehicle had been involved, nothing that I could see which might have caused the accident. An ambulance arrived and took the injured child away. The driver sat against the trunk with his face in his hands. One of the women started taking pictures of the car.

Some 15 minutes later man arrived carrying a zipper case, and a cell phone. Papers were spread out on the hood. He took pictures. Then the RCMP arrived, and just like that traffic slowed dramatically.

My neighbour had been at the office, which is just below the highway and the site of the accident, when it happened. I called out and asked what had happened, if they'd hit something?

He answered, "No, he went to pass a loaded logging truck, he got into the truck's blind spot and the truck driver changed lanes and hit him. Lucky they weren't all killed. It took the driver all the way to Peach Orchard Road to stop his rig. Took him all that time to walk back here."

Peach Orchard Road is a very long way away. But the weight behind a logging truck loaded with 50 ft. poles is enormous. That much weight doesn't stop on a dime. I can only imagine what that poor guy was thinking as he made his way back to the car he'd hit. He must have wondered what he would find as the ambulance and RCMP screamed past him.

They turned the car around. The crumpled parachute was the hood on the driver's side. The driver's side doors were in a similar state. Six inches from death. Thankfully there had been no oncoming traffic as he spiraled like a top across the road. Traffic is heavy this time of year. We waited almost five minutes for a break in traffic yesterday, so we could turn onto the highway. Next time I'll drive down the much longer back route and catch the light. Less taxing on the heart.

Passing a huge truck is a crap shoot at the best of times, but unless the driver of the red car was asleep at the wheel the accident was clearly the truck driver's fault. You never change lanes without monitoring the traffic behind you for some time before you make the swing. And no motorist in their right mind stays in a truck's blind spot for any longer than it takes to get out of it. It's a two second zone-of-death that may very well be your last if you aren't careful.

There were five - no six - lucky people on the road this morning. They all lived to talk about it and that is not always the case when logging trucks and passenger vehicles compete for the same space on the road.

And to finish with a flourish, a photo of our big red boy, enjoying himself in the garden on a sunny afternoon. You can tell by his expression how happy and relaxed he is. He doesn't drive.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fruit Fruit Wonderful Fruit!

Ringing in a full month behind schedule because of our extended cold wet spring, the cherries are finally ripe!!! Does anyone want to join me in a rousing version of the Hallelujah Chorus?

We stopped at a nearby produce stand on our way into town yesterday and came out loaded with local bounty. Cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, nectarines, bananas, tomatoes, corn on the cob, new potatoes... it seems that everything has arrived at once. And last night, a neighbouring farmer brought boxes of yellow cherries around in the back of a truck. I rushed out and bought two boxes to put in the dryer.

I'd bought a box of dead ripe tomatoes cheap yesterday and made tomato sauce with them last night. Today I pitted and cut up cherries until I'd filled the dehydrator. They are drying as I type.

But first, because they were so beautiful, I piled a couple of big handfuls on a platter and took a picture. A pile of jewels couldn't be prettier.

Speaking of "jewels", Sal is always fascinated by reflections so when I saw a little cut crystal "rainbow-maker" pendant at the bulk food store yesterday I grabbed it. I hung it in the window where the morning sun hits it. The room is full of inch-long rainbows which shimmer any time the pendant moves. Sal didn't know which way to turn, or which rainbow to grab.

I mentioned to my brother that I was drying cherries, and that last year I'd dried a lot of nectarines and peaches and he told me that our mother dried a lot of fruit when he was a boy. She'd soak them overnight and use them to make fried pies. By the time I came along the food shortages that went with WWII were over. The fried pies she made for me were filled with apple butter or jam. My mouth is watering.

Have you ever had a fried pie? You roll a four inch circle of pie crust, put a fruit mixture in the middle then fold the dough to form a half circle. Moisten the edges with milk and pinch them together, slash the top surface of the dough in three or four spots to allow the steam to escape and fry in an inch of hot fat until it's browned on both sides, turning it very carefully to avoid splashing yourself with hot fat. Once the pie is brown you use a pancake turner to ease it onto a plate and dust it liberally with berry sugar. Don't weigh yourself after a treat like this. It's not worth the heartbreak. This is food that sighs, "Mother..."

I didn't make these for my kids that I remember. I was a health food nut from when the eldest one was a toddler, and almost anything they ate was disgustingly healthy and vegetarian to boot. I wonder if they will have have fond memories of mother's soy-nut patties or lentil loaf? Probably not, though Zak admits to the occasional yearning for tofu hot dogs and what we used to call sweet and sour monkey meat.

Which reminds me, best go check on the progress of the cherries and make sure I'm not getting them too dry - making cherry chips and flakes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Into the Here, the Heretofore and the Hereafter

I haven't fallen in a well, I've just mostly been indulging in my occasionally obsessive pursuit of dead ancestors. Sometimes they reach out from the Great Beyond and rattle my cage, reminding me that though I am entirely their production, I know little or nothing about too many of them.

If anyone recognizes the brevity of life and its significance it must be the genealogist. I have in the past 30 years accumulated an enormous amount of information, documents and stories. Some of the stories are generations old, handed on to me for safekeeping, for recording and remembering. For example, this photo was taken 105 years ago, and my father, who was three years old at the time, and indeed, everyone in it, is gone.

My family happens to be an oddity because in almost every line the generational span is far longer than the average. These are one of my sets of great-grandparents, Wm Cavel and Susan Shave Cavel. Both were born in Southern England in the 1840s. Their parents were born in 1810-1820. I look at my brother, who is 79 years old and has four living generations of descendants. If I could speak to my great-great-grandparents I'd be speaking to people born 180 years ago!

The world has changed beyond recognition in those 180 years. They travelled by horse and buggy, read six-month-old newspapers, lived in log cabins with no plumbing and no electricity, had no automobiles, radios, TVs, telephone or internet, and no ice cream. Much of what surrounds me would be totally foreign to them, as unfathomable as magic.

They were not all saints, though I understand that in some family trees all the ancestors are candidates for sainthood. But mine are a very mixed lot. One great-great grandmother of Mohawk and German parentage was killed and scalped by her own brother during the American Revolution. That guy has to be the worst of the lot. War does that. One day he's your brother, the next he's your enemy.

So now that you know not to get into any serious political arguments with me, lest I revert to type - I also have ancestors who were explorers, farmers, shipbuilders, governors of states, a great-grandfather who was a shepherd, and a couple of guys who got run out of North Carolina for acts of piracy in the time of Blackbeard.

One of my English great-great grandfathers was jailed for smuggling a keg of brandy into Hampshire back in 1826. Unlike the afore-mentioned pirates he went on to become a law-abiding citizen. The pirates moved to Maryland where they continued to get hauled into court for petty theft, hog-baiting and trespass. They may not have been very pleasant fellows to deal with but they certainly make for a colorful family tree.

Except that my Grandfather died before I was born these folks I remember well, and loved dearly. My grandparents Fred and Josie (Smith) Cavel, and my Dad's eldest two sisters Susie and Annie. Josie was the only grandparent I knew.

You can hardly say you love your distant ancestors, though you do develop a certain affinity for them, especially when you recognize your own personality in them. You cringe when you read what they went through. You see them at their best, in the words of love, advice and comfort found in their wills. You see them at their worst, standing before a judge, hat in hand, owning up to stealing pigs or diddling the neighbour's daughter, and you see them trying desperately to defend home and family from forces beyond their control.

One thing seems never to change. There is always "The War". There is never a generation without its war. If anyone recognizes that war brings out the worst in human beings, it is the genealogist. Mutilated, dying, dead, our predecessors drip blood across the field of history.

I haven't fallen in a well, I have fallen into introspection. I have moved back and forth between the now and the forever. I wonder what they would have to say to me, if we could speak. Would they ask, "Will we never learn?"