A Dreamer and Pink Clouds

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A dreamer, they say,

Not a screamer, okay,

But she’d better work harder

To fill up the larder.

Her writing’s just play

And it never will pay

Her head’s in a cloud

And she’s thinking out loud.

Someday she’ll go crazy

From being so lazy.

***

But I know what’s real

And so what’s the big deal?

My mind loves to think

About why clouds are pink.

I’ll come back to Earth

But the pink clouds are worth

All the stares, and heads shaking

Because I am making

A scene in my head

For my novel’s next thread.

 

 

 

 

All Up in the Hills

With apologies to my oldest followers, I’m reblogging this post from four years ago.

Pictures were taken with my tiny Olympus camera before the days of my Nikon. Only this first photo is different, taken by my friend, Ken Johnston.

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A few years ago, the Captain and I went on a camping trip west of Williams Lake in BC with another couple to fish the highly esteemed Chilko River.

Chilko River

I knew it was grizzly country but in spite of my ursaphobia I didn’t want to miss out on this adventure.

Choelquoit Lake with the Chilko River Valley at the base of the mountains.

Chilko Lake ahead with Chilko River flowing out of it.

The Chilcotin Plateau on our way to Chilko Lake and the Tatlayoko Lake area was scenic and spectacular. Real cowboy country. Near the horse corrals of Chilko Lake Lodge we parked our trailers side by side in a designated camping area.

 

Perfect camping spot

Anonymous checks out “A Room With a View”

I kicked aside hoof trimmings with sharp tacks still sticking out of them. Didn’t want to step on them later.

Horses live here.

We fished some of the many smaller lakes in the area, as well as the Chilko River, for which we needed a special licence (and a promise that we wouldn’t sue if we got frostbite on the river). It was June, and sunny, but the temperature was cool at this altitude.  Chilly and cold.

“Hey! Maybe that’s why it’s called Chilko Lake—‘chilly cold lake.’” I thought I was being witty, but all I got was eye rolls from my shivering companions.

I’m not petite, but with many layers of coats, sweaters, and life jacket on, I’ve doubled in size.

All those layers of clothes and still chilly and cold on the Chilko.

“We should try to find a better spot to launch the skiff,” the Captain said. “There’s a good place right around here.  Saw it last year. The main road runs parallel to the river. Somewhere, there’s a trail between the two.” Moments later he spotted it. A narrow road had been pushed through the dense woods. It might have been passable with our four-wheel-drive truck except that large boulders had been strategically placed to prevent vehicle access. We got out and walked through the woods.

Hiking time

“I don’t mind a hike, but what about grizzlies?”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about them. They’re all up in the hills this time of year.”

Why didn’t that reassure me? “And you know this, how?”

“I just know.”

I shrugged my shoulders and strapped on my bear spray. “Okay, let’s go.”

“The river’s got to be just around the bend,” the Captain said. In the next twenty minutes he would repeat this phrase many times.

My neck felt rubbery from swiveling to check behind me. “Are you sure about the grizzlies?”

“No grizzlies this time of year. I told you, they’re all up in the hills.”

This sounded very familiar. It was the same thing he had said when we were stranded in grizzly country on the coast the day we got cut off by the tide.  “You always say that.”

“No really, they are,” he said.  “It’s too early for grizzlies.”

The launching spot we eventually found was nowhere near where we hiked that day through “non-grizzly country.” We fished the river and were amazed at the huge fish that remained, for the most part, elusive. Three things stood out for me on those days on the river:

1. The scenery was spectacular.

2. It was cold enough to freeze your goosebumps.

3. Blessedly, there were no grizzlies on the river (which is why I liked being in the boat).

Pretty cool trip

After several days at the horse ranch, the forecast of heavy rain marked the end of our stay.

We packed up and started for home. Outfitted with walkie-talkies in each truck, we led the way, chatting occasionally to our friends who followed behind in their rig.

Time to leave

The roads were turning ugly in places as the downpour dampened the clay gumbo under the gravel topping. We were getting out just in time.

For sure it was time to leave!

That’s when it happened.

“Did you see that?” I pointed to the road in front of us, then turned to see where the two grizzlies disappeared into the trees. We pulled over to the side to peer through the woods. The trees were so close together I wondered how a grizzly could fit between them, especially at a gallop.

“Two grizzlies just ran across the road in front of us,” the Captain said into the walkie-talkie.

“Oh yeah? Well, you’ve got a flat tire,” our friend said.

“Ha, ha! Very funny,” we answered into the mike.

“No, I’m serious. Your back right trailer tire is flat. I’m parked right behind you and believe me, it’s flat.”

“Is he messing with our heads?” I asked. “Right where the grizzlies went into the woods?”

Only flat on the bottom

“I’ll check it out.” The expression on his face when he came back to the cab told me it was bad news. “We must have driven over one of those hoof clippings with the tacks. You take the shotgun and stand right there while I change the tire.”

My neck felt prickly but I couldn’t wimp out and leave the Captain to be grizzly bait all alone, so I stood there with the shotgun. Our friend stood guard with his rifle — brave soul –, and his wife stayed in their truck — smart woman.

After a while, I got bored. The gravel on the roadside looked soft, and the grizzlies—a mother and a teenage cub I would guess—were really moving, so they should have left some tracks. I wandered a bit, looking up and down the ditch for the tracks.

“Here!” the Captain called. “Just stand there with that shotgun. I don’t trust those buggers.” No more pooh-poohing my ursaphobia now. I should have felt some “I-told-you-so” satisfaction but all I felt was jumpy nerves.

At last the spare tire was on and tools put away. I did a quick check for overlooked tire irons and such. And that’s when I found it—the grizzly track I’d been looking for—right behind the newly changed tire.

Either a grizzly or Bigfoot

“Oh my God! It’s exactly right here that they went into the woods!”

As we drove away, the Captain scrunched his face up. “Ahem … I didn’t want to tell you earlier,” he said, “but a rancher near Tatlayoko Lake lost some livestock to grizzlies last week.”

“All up in the hills. Hah!”

Mystery Bird

We have several birds from the woodpecker family around here, but I have never seen this one. My first thought was a redheaded woodpecker (for obvious reasons) but they have a definite white wing patch, solid black back, and solid white front..

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This fellow had a mottled front and specks of white on the black back. It could be an immature bird, but still….

Also note the light patch at the base of the beak by his eye. I would love to know what this bird is, so if anyone has any ideas, please enlighten me. It was quite happy to stay put for a long while and peck at this maple tree. Judging by the holes in the tree, he has been busy. He was about the size of a robin – maybe a tiny bit bigger.

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Fruit to Nuts

In our case, the saying has to be reversed – from nuts to fruit.

We have a few fruit trees in the backyard, and this year the apple trees are loaded. Branches are hanging low to the ground, easy pickings for us and even easier for the dogs. You’d think I didn’t feed them.

In previous years, Ruby used to pick up the hazelnuts that fell. I could clean up under the nut trees, but every time the wind blew, the problem (in the shape of a springer spaniel) reappeared. She cracked the nuts with her teeth and ate the inside, sometimes with bits of shell still on them. I was constantly chasing her away from the nut trees and trying to get the nuts picked up before she got them. Not only was she swallowing sharp bits of shell, but she was cracking her teeth.

When we got Emma, our English field cocker spaniel, Ruby taught her all her bad habits. That’s when we decided to cut the nut trees down. We had two more big nut trees in the front yard (enough for us) so we thought this would solve the problem.

But now without the nut trees in the backyard, Ruby has been harvesting apples and teaching Emma to do the same. I figure an apple a day for two months, times two dogs, equals about 120 apples. Why do I even bother to water the trees? Sometimes, I’d rather turn the hose on the dogs.

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Sometimes you just need a man

In many households, mine included, barbecuing is the man’s job. But with the Captain away, what’s a girl to do? Although I’d had little practice with the barbecue, I thought I would grill some burgers for myself. I knew that if I made them too thin they might fall between the grate, so into the hamburger, I mixed some chopped onion, some finely cubed bits of bread, and an egg. I made nice fat patties, four of them, so I could reheat a couple tomorrow, and I put them on the grill with a bit of barbecue sauce on top.

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After a while I tried to turn them. That was a bit messy. The first one broke up. You can see that a lot of the burger components fell through the grate. I would have to bring the patties in and fry them in the pan after all. I brought the first broken one in and set it in the pan.

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Kind of a mess but at least I could finish cooking it. I decided that I might as well bring in the other three burgers and give up on the barbecue idea.

But when I tried to take the burgers off the grill, they broke up badly. I gathered up the barbecue sauce and the brush and the plate of burger meat – oh, and the portable phone I had out on the deck in case the Captain called. With all these things in my arms I tried to maneuver the sliding screen door open.

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A lot more of the burger meat fell on the floor than what you see here, but I slapped as much as I could back onto the plate.

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This gave new meaning to the term, “a dog’s breakfast.”

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My vest, full of barbecue sauce went straight into the washing machine, and while I was downstairs I let the dogs into the house. Darned if I was going to clean up that mess by myself. I let them help – and they did an excellent job. They left the onion pieces for the last, but they ended up eating those too. Very thorough, they were!

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Comic Relief

Comic relief, as I understand it, is when you crack a joke or laugh at something to take the intensity out of a serious or frightening situation. So maybe it doesn’t quite fit because I didn’t laugh until much later when I had stopped shaking. You may remember that we had a bear in the woods next door about a month ago. My knee still hurts from the sprawling tumble I took in a dash to get my camera. But I did get a shot of the bear that time as it slowly moved on through the neighbouring properties.

The Captain saw him again a day or two later, but since then, although there have been reported sightings by other neighbours, the bear hasn’t been back to ponder how a spaniel would taste for lunch. Until today! I was hanging up laundry wondering what 2-yr.-old Emma was doing in the backyard. (She gets into more mischief than 9-yr.-old Ruby.)

I heard her running around behind the workshop. Lots of squirrel and raccoon smells there. But then I heard twigs cracking in the bushes coming right from the area where the bear was last month. My imagination went into overdrive, but I rationalized, “It’s probably just the neighbours clearing some brush off their path. I’ll take look and say hello if that’s what the noise was.”

No neighbours in sight. Just the black shape you see in the center of the photo below. My heart was trying to leap out of my throat. What to do? Run for the camera and try to break the other knee? What if the bear leaves before I get back? What if it doesn’t!? Priorities!! Get the dogs into the house. I called for the dogs and tried not to sound scared in case the bear thought, “Aha! I’ve got her on the run. Good time to give chase.”  Luckily Emma came when she was called (this time), and Ruby was already waiting by the door.

I rushed into the house and got the camera. Now what? Do I just saunter up to the fence and say, “Smile! … Say Cheese?” At least it wasn’t rushing me. But it wasn’t running away either. I used the zoom. “Hmm…. The head seems to be up too high…. Oh …. Whew! It’s a deer! But it’s so dark!”  I tried to get a different angle but without going right up to the fence, I couldn’t get a clear look. “It sure is getting brazen. Doesn’t care that I’m here at all and it’s looking right at me.”

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I zoomed right in with the camera and got this picture of it. Then, feeling braver, I inched my way over to the fence and saw the stumps of two pin cherry trees.  I felt stupid, but very relieved as I went back into the house chuckling nervously. It took a while for my hands to stop shaking.

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Flower Power

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Barb Beacham’s hollyhocks growing in my garden on Vancouver Island.

I was lucky enough to become a friend of fellow blogger, Barbara Beacham, of California. Her blog, Life in the Foothills, was always interesting to visit. She wrote amazing flash fiction, took photographs of things that most people would miss, kept an incredible garden, and loved animals.

She battled cancer with such a positive attitude that when she died suddenly on November 22, 2015, I was shocked. She had me convinced she would beat it. She was a kind and lovely person and I wish I could have met her in person.

It would make sense to do a post for her on the anniversary of her leaving us, but the truth is, I’ve thought of her nearly every day for about two years. If you visit her blog at this link, you’ll see how this came about.

https://salmonfishingqueen.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/hollyhocks/

She loved her garden, especially the hollyhocks. In the comments, I asked her if she saved the seeds. From that comment on, we began emailing and we traded seeds. She sent me hollyhock seeds and I sent her poppy seeds (which unfortunately didn’t sprout for her). I planted her hollyhock seeds and babied them in my poor soil. They grew, but being biennials, they didn’t bloom that first year. Then the trick was to make sure the plants survived the winter. I piled leaves over them for protection against the cold, and hoped they’d continue to grow in the spring.

But then came a post on her blog that was written on her behalf, by her husband. I cried my eyes out when I read that Barb had died. I didn’t see how that was possible when she was so sure she would win that fight. All I had left of her, besides her blog to visit, were the sprouted hollyhocks in my garden.

I watched those plants and babied them to make sure they survived. When the captain built a new fence around my garden and put raised beds in this spring, I was constantly saying to him, “Careful of those hollyhocks,” and “Watch out for Barb’s flowers.”

I got so nervous about losing them that I moved them to a separate flower bed away from the construction. I thought of her as the plants grew, as the buds formed, and as they opened up to flower. They are a bit feeble compared to those in her own garden, but next year they’ll do better. Meanwhile, I’ve thought of her more than I could have imagined, and I still miss her so much.

But her memory lives on in my garden.