Friday 23 February 2024

    Unlike most book clubs, at the McBride & District Public Library, instead of everyone reading the same book, we are given a theme, and members can choose whatever book they want that relates to that theme.  February’s theme was “Banned Books” and I chose the novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, which often shows up on lists of banned books.  Here is my review of the book:

This National Book Award winning novel, is written in the first person through the eyes of a fourteen year old Native American boy, who lives on a reservation in Washington State.  Because it is written as the uncensored words and thoughts of an adolescent male, it may come off as being crude and sometimes vulgar to people who see themselves as “proper” and above the riff-raff of society.  I found the style of writing reminiscent to that of Demon Copperhead, which was also written as a first person narrative from the viewpoint of a teenager, who also grew up in poverty.

Arnold, the protagonist, was born with hydrocephalus, so he is small for his age, and suffered from seizures, poor eyesight, and stuttering, which make him the target of a lot of bullying on the “Rez”.  He had one friend and playmate; Rowdy, who protected him from bullying.  His parents, have problems with alcohol, so Arnold’s future doesn’t seem all that bright.  

        He is a smart kid, but in frustration at the ancient text book he is given in school, he throws the book, accidentally hitting his teacher in the head.  That night the teacher, who holds no malice and recognizes Arnold’s intellect, visits Arnold at home and urges him to get away from the Rez and transfer out of the reservation school, so he can get a good education and not be dragged down by the reservation culture of dead ends.

Surprisingly, Arnold takes the advice to heart, and decides to transfer to Reardan, a white high school 20 miles away, located just outside the reservation.  When they could, his parents drive him, at other times, Arnold has to hitch a ride to the school, but he is determined attend, and he begins his rather lonely schooling in the richer and whiter school.  At first, he is basically ignored by all of his class mates, but as the year progresses, he begins to have a few friends, which include a tough football player, an attractive girl, and the outcast intelligent classmate. 

Through sheer toughness and determination, Arnold, despite his small stature and a freshman, makes the high school varsity basketball team and starts to become popular with his classmates.   While his transfer to the white school gradually becomes very beneficial to Arnold, his transfer creates problems for him back at the reservation, where everyone, even Rowdy, his former best friend, see him as a turncoat to the tribe and refuse to have anything to do with him.

One thing I really liked about the novel was Arnold’s recognition that alcohol was the cause of most of the problems on the Reserve.  He says something like, “at his age of 14, most white kids have had to go to maybe, one or two funerals, probably for a grandparent, but at that age, Arnold had already gone to 42 funerals on the Reservation, and most of those deaths were caused by alcohol.

Because Arnold is a teen and faces teenage problems, this novel is often used in high school classes.  The novel has sometimes been banned due to content and language, (I found two references to masturbation, and one reference to the slur “Nigger” which was used in a racial joke aimed at Arnold on his first day in the white school).

The other reason some pious person wanted it banned was because after the multitude of unnecessary deaths Arnold witnesses on the Rez, in his frustration, Arnold furiously takes aim at “God”. 

With all of the things now available and accessible to teens on the Internet and in teen culture, trying to to ban this uplifting and enlightened novel is laughable, and seems beyond ridiculous to me.  I am sure most of those who want to ban it have never read it. 

I originally thought that there may be some kickback because the “White” education and mixing with White society, really improved the projection of Arnold’s life, but I didn’t read of any comments about that.

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Thursday 22 February 2024

A Little Green

    This time of year I often find myself starved of color.  Usually in February, everything is covered with snow, providing only whites, shades of gray, and the very subdued charcoal-hued greens of the conifer trees to view.  This year, what little snow we had gotten on the Valley bottom has disappeared, leaving tan grasses, that are not very spirit-lifting.  

    Yesterday on my walk around the pond, I noticed this small stump sticking out of the ice.  It was  covered with vibrant green moss.  The Sun which is getting more powerful as Spring approaches, was blasting down, highlighting one side of the moss, making it a photo-worthy image. 

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Wednesday 21 February 2024

A Big Red "F": A Bad Start To High School

    After my mother’s death, my sisters and brothers cleaned out the house where she had lived and sent me some of the things that related to me.  Among those things were some of my old report cards from both elementary and high school that my mother had saved.  While looking through them this morning, I came across the one above from my first year of high school.  It was a reminder of the the difficult time I had in my Freshman year.

    In elementary school, my grades had always been okay, average or above.  I was not a “straight A” student, but I did okay.  When I was about to enter high school, I was put in the “university lane” which determined which classes I should take.  Among those classes was Latin.  I had never taken any language classes before, and I was interested in Roman history, and knew that a lot of English words were based on Latin words, so I was somewhat eager to learn Latin.

    That eagerness didn’t last very long, once I had gotten into class.  I was almost immediately over my head.  The problem was the grammar.  I must not have gotten much specific grammar in my elementary classes, because suddenly Mr. Blandford, the Latin teacher, was talking about predicate nominatives and how to deal with them in Latin, and I had never even ever heard of a predicate nominative before.  

    I was further hampered in Latin class because I was always so tired.  The year I entered high school, the school suffered from a huge student population, and to deal with it, they began starting having some classes start at 7:00.  Unfortunately for me, that was when my Latin class was.  I was just not very wide awake and ready for scholarly pursuits at that time of day.  Studies have shown that growing teens just don’t function well early in the morning.

    So, I flunked Latin, receiving a big red “F”.  It was humiliating to me to be a failure, but fortunately, Latin was the only class I took in high school that gave me such problems.

    Flunking Latin was such a huge deal when it happened, and seemed at the time, that my whole life would be ruined by it, but looking back, I see it was just a insignificant bump on the road, and it really mean’t nothing to my life.

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Tuesday 20 February 2024

The Upper Fraser River

    The Fraser is BC’s most prominent river.  McBride is located in its upper reaches and Vancouver, 800 or so miles down stream is where it empties into the Pacific Ocean.  Up here where we live it is usually iced over throughout the winter, but this year, due to our very mild temperatures, the Fraser couldn’t really make up its mind whether to stay frozen, or thaw.

    I took these photos of the Fraser the other day, showing its in between state between frozen and open.  

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Monday 19 February 2024

January 30, 1989, The Wildest Weather I Had Ever Experienced

    According to my diary, January 30th was “one of the wildest days I have ever experienced.”  When I woke up in the morning, the temperature was just at freezing, 0°C.  Our driveway was covered with 8 inches of new snow which sat on 3 inches of slush. I had to take several runs with our All Wheel Drive Subaru, trying to weave up our driveway, so I could go to work.  Eventually the car did make it up the drive onto the road.  

    During the morning the wind direction changed and began to strongly blow in from the north.  The temperature started dropping, and a fierce blizzard of horizontal snow began.   It didn’t take long for a power outage to darken the whole McBride area.  The buses were summoned to the local schools which closed early because of the the power outage and quickly deteriorating weather.

    Not much work could be done in our dark Forestry Office either, so we also were allowed to leave early.  After I had slowly and carefully white-knuckled my way down the highway and up our road through the whiteout, I didn’t even attempt to drive down our deeply, snow-drifted driveway, choosing instead to just park the car up along the road, and slog my way through the snow, down to the house.

    With the power off at our house, we reverted into a pioneer mode.  We still had water, thanks to our gravity feed waterline and heat, thanks to our wood stove.  Our electric stove of course was rendered useless, but we were able to some cook soup on top of our wood stove.  We then spent the long evening hours, without any radio or television, trying to read our books by dim candlelight.  

    The power suddenly came back on at 9:00, but the storm wasn’t done with us.  By bedtime the outside temperature had dropped to -20°C (-4°F).   I began becoming concerned that the deep ruts I had made that morning trying to get up the driveway, would freeze in place and cause us difficulties until Spring.  One of my co-workers at Forestry, had her car frozen to the pavement, when the slush around her tires froze.

    When we woke up the next morning the skies were clear and the temperature had dropped further to a very frigid -28°C (-18°F).  It was beautiful though.  It seemed like a white marshmallowy world outside.  The trees had never been so overloaded with ice and snow, and were all bent over with the weight.

    I hitched a ride to work with a co-worker who lived further up the road.  At noon, I borrowed a Forestry truck, bought a 100 foot extension cord at the hardware store and drove home to plug in the block heater of our car to warm its engine, so I could start it (the Subaru was still, sitting up on the road).  I strung the long extension cord from the car down the driveway to the garage, I was then able to connect the block heater into the power in our garage.  I couldn’t jump start the car using the Forestry truck, because the hood release on the Subaru was frozen shut.  I then returned to work.

    After work, I hitched a ride home and when I arrived, I was happily surprised to find that in my absence, our driveway had been plowed by one of the Mennonite farmers who lived up the road.  The block heater had done its job and the Subaru started right up, so with a clean driveway and a warm engine, I was able to drive down our driveway and park the car by the house.

    The cold snap that had blown in by the winter storm, was just beginning.  The next morning it was -38°C (-36°F), followed by a -35°C (-31°F) day, which was followed by four consecutive days of -30°C (-22°F) temperatures, before finally warming to a balmy -28°C (-18°F) day.  While our gravity feed waterline continued to work, the plumbing underneath the house in our crawl space, froze, so I had spend hours under the house thawing out our pipes.

    When we got a morning of -25°C, I was very relieved with the direction the temperatures were taking, but unfortunately that was followed with days of morning temperatures around -30°C  to -25°C (-22°F to -13°F) which lasted for a week.

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Sunday 18 February 2024

Beautiful Water

    I am pretty sure that one of the reasons our waterline froze weeks ago, was because we just didn’t have a strong enough flow going through it.  Now that we have the water flowing through it again, I have made sure that the flow is strong.  Some of that flow drains into my pond, and it was good to see that water is again flowing out of the far side of the pond, reassuring me that the waterline flow is working.

    Open water can be quite beautiful, and the other day as Kona and I walked around the pond, there at the outflow, the water was reflecting the sky and clouds like a mirror.  I was struck by its crisp beauty.  Here are two photos that I took of the outflow. 

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Saturday 17 February 2024

Dream House

    This blog is not about “the house of my dreams”, but rather, the house that often pops up, and reoccurs in the dreams I have.  That house appeared in a dream I had last night, and don’t really know why.  Here is how the dreams often go:

    While in my present house, I remember that there is a house not far away in our neighborhood, that I had started to build, but then for some reason stopped, leaving it to just sit there, unfinished.  I walk behind several neighbor’s houses, to get to that house.  The rooms inside are massive, framed up, but for some reason I had just abandoned it, mid-construction, and there it sits, empty and almost forgotten.  I am always surprised when, in my dreams, I go to it, and see just how far along I had been when I was building it.  

    Last night’s dream did have a new twist.  In it, I began to wonder what its ownership status was.  Did I still own it?  I wondered because in my dream, I realized that I had never paid any property tax on the place, even though I had begun building it many years ago.

    Dreams are so strange.  Sometimes they kind of relate to reality, but only in a fleeting way, as they go zooming off on their unexpected tangents.  Scientists say that dreams are the way that brain cells unload all of thier built up wastes that they have accumulated during the day.  

    I have never believed that dreams mean anything or predict anything, but nevertheless, the human mind does seek out meaning in everything, even confusing dreams. 

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