Limited Vision?

On May 9, 2017, British Columbia will hold provincial elections to decide which party will govern the province for the next four years. 85 members of the Legislative Assembly will be elected. Currently, of the 85 seats, 48 are held by the Provincial Liberal Party, 35 by the New Democratic Party, 1 Green, and 1 Independent.

I was driving along one of our neighbourhood streets and I noticed that one of the parties had chosen an unfortunate place to put up a campaign sign. By the way, this party did the same thing four years ago. Ask any realtor and they’ll tell you what is important. Location, location, location!

To me, this sign makes a statement. Not only is it saying that its vision is limited, but anyone can see that its platform is garbage.

I’m sure the candidate whose name appears on the sign is not aware of this faux pas (for the second time in four years), but perhaps she should be? Or she should get someone else to work on her campaign. Right now, I’m feeling rather sorry for her.

Dogwood Time

Straight out from my bedroom window, in our dogwood tree, a little robin sang, “Winter’s over. We survived another one!”

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Did you know that the Pacific dogwood is the provincial flower for the province of British Columbia? Its flowers have four to six petals. That in itself is unusual, as probably the most common number of petals for flowers is five.

While researching the number of petals on a dogwood, I came across the term “Fibonacci Numbers.” The number of petals on most flowers is one of the Fibonacci numbers, but the dogwood only sometimes complies. The Fibonacci number sequence is named for Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci, for introducing the concept of these numbers to the western world in the early 1200s.

The Fibonacci sequence is 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 …

Can you guess what the next number is going to be?

I was amazed at how it works. The next number is always the sum of the previous two.

I think someone used this sequence to figure out the rate at which rabbits breed. I think, too, that Fibonacci must have done his research in my backyard.

Math and nature are so connected, it never ceases to amaze me.

Scorched Earth

On the way through southern BC a few weeks ago, we managed to avoid a lot of the areas where there had been wildfires this summer. The area between Princeton, BC, and the Okanagan was as lush as ever.

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But as we came to the Okanagan, especially near Osoyoos, BC, we saw signs of the recent wildfires that had raged across the land, fanned by high winds during the summer’s drought. In some cases, homes had barely escaped going up in flames.

Wikipedia gives the following definition of “scorched earth.” A scorched earth policy is a military strategy that involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area. In the Okanagan I saw a different, but just as terrible interpretation of “scorched earth.” Imagine whole hillsides aflame and the wind pushing those flames toward your home.

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These were the lucky ones, but it must have been a terrifying time for the residents.

Dog Days of Summer

We all know it is a hot and dry summer this year. My usually green backyard is yellow and brown. The grass breaks off as I walk on it and big patches of bare dirt are showing through. It will all come back in the fall with the first rains, but until then, there is no water to spare for an acre of grass. It’s more important to keep the trees, shrubs, and garden alive.

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Definitely the dogs days of summer.

This morning I looked out expecting yet another bluebird scorcher of a day to develop. Wow! I’ts foggy. Maybe we’ll get some rain at last! But then I saw the sun. It was blood red and easy to look at. I reminded myself not to do that, just as in an eclipse we shouldn’t look directly at the sun, lest we damage our vision. I tried to take a photo of the sun but the red colour wouldn’t come out right. Being an amateur photographer I still don’t know how to get the red  sky colours or the photos of eclipses to come out right. Here is the best I could do, but imagine the whole sun as red as the line around it.

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As it rose higher in the sky, it was just as red but that colour was even more difficult to capture with the camera.

005Then I realized that the last time I saw the sun looking like a red ball of fire was a few years ago when the smoke from a fire hundreds of miles north of us had covered our skies. Sure enough, I have learned that there are several large fires burning on Vancouver Island. Right now I feel as if I’m sitting on a bonfire ready to go up in flames at any time. I’m surrounded by tall trees that haven’t seen a drop of water for over two months and the dry grass around me is the best kindling you’ll ever find for starting a fire.

If I see a smoker walking through the nearby trails (and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen hikers going for a healthy walk while puffing on a cigarette),  I’m not sure how I’ll contain my fear and outrage.

The town of Port Hardy to the north of us is threatened by a wildfire as I write, while another fire is burning to the west of us near Port Alberni. It seems the whole province of British Columbia has fires burning. Saskatchewan has plenty of fires as well, and of course, we’ve been hearing of the fires in the States for weeks. It’s just too dry!

Yesterday, the view below was of bright blue sky and brighter blue sea with a few white caps puffed up from the breeze that brought us relief from the heat while, elsewhere, it fanned wildfire flames. Today everything is gray from the smoke of many fires.

007My garden has been getting water, but everything else, as you can see, is tinder dry.

008I’ve learned that “tinder” is a frightening word.

Making Fire

When we were in our twenties, living in the Interior of BC, my husband and I considered ourselves very capable campers. The canoe was usually on top of the VW van, ready for action each weekend. It took very little for us to prepare for a camping trip because we never really unpacked. The basics were always ready. We threw in a few clothes and groceries and off we went.

We had discovered a good fishing spot way out in the boonies where it would be rare to meet another person. The plan was to go back there, but this time instead of bringing our trout home to cook, we would make a fire by the lakeside and fry the fish right there. I loaded our black cast iron frying pan, a bit of butter, salt and pepper into our mess kit of camp dishes and cutlery. All was set, and off we drove.

The lake and the surrounding meadow and forest would have made a perfect calendar photo. The weather co-operated; not too hot, but just warm enough to be comfortable. A beautiful day. We canoed the small lake and enjoyed the bird life around us. Trout begged to be allowed into the canoe. We had to force ourselves to stop fishing when we had enough to eat.

Back on land, glowing from the fresh air and healthy exercise of paddling, we stretched our legs.

“I’ll clean the fish.” My husband took the trout and walked some distance along the shore.

“I’ll get a fire ready.” I put a few big rocks together to build a firepit on the gravelly  beach. I gathered dry wood from the nearby woods and built a good teepee of sticks with very small bits of kindling in the middle. Then I brought out the frying pan, butter, salt and pepper.

“Do you have the matches?” I asked my husband when he came back with the cleaned trout.

“No, I thought you were packing all that stuff.” He slapped his pockets looking for matches or a lighter.

I rummaged in my purse. Small chance of finding anything in there. Not only was it a jumble of junk but neither of us smoked so we weren’t in the habit of carrying matches or lighters on our person. I looked in the glove compartment, in the mess kit, in the box of supplies from home.

We stood there looking from the fish to the pan to each other. The wheels were turning in my brain, and I thought, “We’re two outdoor types with lots of camping experience. Surely we can make a fire. How hard can it be? So think. What would a person lost in the woods do? ”

“I know,” I said. “We could use a piece of glass and let the sun heat up the kindling or a piece of paper.” I held a drinking glass over a piece of Kleenex and focused the sun’s rays on the paper. It wasn’t exactly a scorcher of a day and the rays were feeble. Nothing was happening, not even a hint of smoke. “Hmm … well … we could rub two sticks together?”

My husband shook his head. “It doesn’t work just like that.”

“What do you suggest?” I had already run out of ideas.

“I suggest we take the fish home and cook them on the stove.”

I wasn’t ready to give up yet. “How about like in the cowboy movies?  You know, where they pour gas on something and then shoot into it and it lights up?”

“Aw, that doesn’t work.” He waved me off and started to pack up the fish.

“Well, couldn’t we try it?” I so much wanted to fry those trout on the campfire. I had everything else ready right down to the napkins.

“Okay, I’ll do it just to show you.” He brought his .22 rifle out of the truck. From the spare gas caddy, he poured a bit of gasoline on the teepee of sticks I’d built. “Stand back then.” He fired into the gasoline.

I was all ready to unpack the trout and throw them into the pan. I was sure we’d have a roaring fire in the next few seconds. But what did we have?

“There!” he said. “Are you satisfied? It only works in the movies.”

I’m sorry to tell you that there’s no happy ending to this story. Two over-confident seasoned campers didn’t get to use their seasoning on the trout. Instead, they went home to a big helping of humble pie.

The fire that I wished we could have made.