Sunday 10 December 2023

A Treasured Inheritance

    After my mother died in July, my sisters and brothers gathered to clean out her house.  They contacted us to see if there was anything amongst her belongings, that we might want.  My wife immediately knew what she wanted:  Mom’s plastic gravy shaker.

    My wife always loved Mom’s gravy, and when making it, Mom would put water and flour into the plastic gravy shaker, secure its lid, and mixed the two ingredients by shaking the container.

    While insignificant in itself, Mom’s gravy shaker is filled with wonderful memories of both her and the delicious meals she always made for everyone.  Now every time it is used making gravy for the meals my wife makes, we will remember Mom and she will still play a part in the meals we enjoy.

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Saturday 9 December 2023

Where Are All Of The Birds

    Every morning I go outside to fill the bird feeders.  One is a piece of a log with holes drilled in it that I hang from a tree.  Each day I fill the holes with peanut butter.  Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Chickadees, all love the peanut butter (not to mention the squirrels and the occasional deer).  

    A month ago when I went out to smear the peanut butter in the holes, I was surrounded by so many hungry Chickadees eager for the snack, that I felt like St. Francis of Assisi, with the birds all flying around my head, but not anymore, now there are just a few of them waiting.  They would clean out the peanut butter every day, but now sometimes, there is peanut butter left.

    The same thing has happened at my sunflower seed feeder (below).  Everyday I would pour a large coffee can full of sunflower seeds into the feeder, and by the next morning, it would be completely empty, but now it remains still half full the next morning.  I don’t understand why.   I wondered if maybe I got a batch of bad sunflower seeds, so I emptied those that remained in the feeder onto the ground, but even with the new sunflower seeds, the birds still don’t empty the feeder.

    I am always worrying about the wildlife around here, and certainly I am finding this very concerning.  Glen my neighbor, told me that he has also noticed a drop in the number of birds around his house.  Elsie, the Valley’s bird expert said that a decline has also been reported by some birders in Prince George.

    Next weekend, Robson Valley birders will participate in the annual North American Christmas Bird Count.  It will be interesting to see how the number of birds this year compares to what has been reported in previous years.  I hope what I am seeing is a fluke, and is not indicative of what is happening everywhere else.

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Friday 8 December 2023

Last Song on the 12-String

    This afternoon I give up my 12-String guitar, to the woman who bought it from me.  Before I put it in the case I sat down and played the Byrd version of “Mr. Tamborine Man” one last time. 

    I first really got into music in 1963, during what has been called the “Folk Revival.”   There was a TV show on every Saturday night called “Hootenanny”, which I watched religiously.  It featured Folk Musicians performing at universities.  It was then that I first started to recognize the unique sound of the 12-string guitar with its 4 octave-tuned strings, amidst the sounds of the 6-strings, banjos, and fiddles that were being played.  I was eager to play folk songs, and bought myself a banjo from the Sears catalogue.

    I played the banjo with a folk singing group we formed in high school.  After playing banjo for a while I realized that banjos really weren’t much of a solo instrument, and started thinking about getting a guitar which are much more versatile.  I always wanted to play something a little bit out of the ordinary since it seemed like everyone played a 6-string, so I bought myself a 12-string.  

    Once The Byrds appeared on the scene with their Folk Rock sound, heavy with the electric 12-string guitar, I was smitten.  I bought myself a pickup to electrify my acoustic 12-string, joined a rock and roll band that played mostly Byrd, Beatle, and Buffalo Springfield songs, then later bought myself an electric 12-string guitar.  After the group broke up, I sold the electric 12-string, and mostly playing on my own, ended up just playing 6-strings, both acoustic and electric.

    About 10 years ago, I started missing the 12-string sound and bought myself the 12-string I am playing in the photo, but I still mostly played 6-string electric and acoustic.  A couple of years ago, when I lost the ring finger of my left hand, I had to relearn how to play chords on a guitar.  I then, quite often chording the 6-string, had to “barre” (hold down more than one string) with my pinkie, because I no longer had the ring finger.  That has been difficult, but it became really difficult trying to hold down twice as many strings playing the 12-string, so I ended up not playing it much.

    The other day I made the decision to sell it, I hated seeing it just sit around unused.  I was surprise at how great the response was to my ad, 6 people in our tiny community were very interested in it.  It sold and in a few hours I will deliver it to the woman who sent the first email (at 6:30 AM).  My 12-string will have to get used to being played again.

    I am a little saddened, not so much that I am losing the instrument, but that I just can’t really play it very well anymore.

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Thursday 7 December 2023

A Free Christmas Dinner

    One of the things I really love about living in our little village is the sense of community that we have.  That was reinforced yesterday when we attended the free Christmas dinner for all of us old folks, which was organized and put on by the OAPO (Old Age Pensioners Association).  The OAPO is an old provincial organization that I think has greatly diminished in most towns, but despite McBride’s tiny size, we have one of the largest memberships in BC.  I really appreciate it’s existence and how its volunteers work to provide services and social events for the seniors in our community.

    Not only does the OAPO provide our community’s older residents with the delicious Christmas feast, but membership also allows free admission to all of the exercise equipment at the “Fit Pit” in the McBride arena, organized carpet bowling, monthly potluck “Birthday Dinners” as well as monthly potluck dinners, with live music.   Although we don’t make use of all of those activities, we are members and support the activities that they create for those retirees in our community that do take part and look forward to them.

    The Christmas Dinner not only is an opportunity to eat a good meal, but also gives us a chance to visit and catch up with friends, neighbors, and acquaintances in the community that we don’t always see.

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Wednesday 6 December 2023

Losing Our Only Bank

    Weekly, we hear of big corporations cutting hundreds or thousands of their workers from there jobs, but that generally doesn’t effect our little village.  However, we were all stunned upon learning that Scotiabank, the only bank in town, was closing down the Village’s only financial institution, and moving out.   That will cause a tremendous of hardships for both residents and business in the Robson Valley.  Beside all of the other financial services, the Scotiabank has the only cash machine in our isolated village.

    Now, what do we do?  There is still a bank in Valemount, BC our nearest neighboring village, but that  is an hour’s drive away, or if we choose to stick with Scotiabank (fat chance!), we can drive two and a half hours up the dangerous mountainous highway to Prince George.  

    McBride have survived devastating business closures before.  For a while we were down to one gas station (previously we had 4), but fortunately, we now have two.  For years, we were down to only one grocery store, and now we are back to having two, however, losing our bank, which all of our local residents and businesses depend on, will be devastating for our community.  I can only hope a credit union or some other sort of financial institution buys the bank building.

    Below is a brief history of our bank.

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Tuesday 5 December 2023

My Name is David Marchant, and I am a Packrat

    Just like those members of Alcoholic Anonymous, I have an addiction, and need to accept and admit it:  I have a terribly hard time getting rid of things I don’t need.  The photo above shows one example:  My ‘Junk’ drawer.  It is full of things I once needed, but haven’t touched for years, but for some reason, can’t make myself throw them away.  

    Up at the very top is a tiny handheld Sony television, that I loved.  However, now with the change from analogue to digital TV signals, it really no longer is of any use.  I also see some wired earphones and an old watch.  There is a walkie-talkie that probably would still be of some use, but I never use it because I now have a cell phone.    There are numerous name tags from when I worked for the Forest Service, and a couple of buttons from my high school reunions.  I know I should just dump the contents of my junk drawer in the trash, but somehow, I just can’t.

    Below is a photo of a couple of 2 inch speakers.  Back in 1971, when I was working as a Conscientious Objector in the Indianapolis Goodwill Store, the Goodwill took a contract to do some work for some company that involved these tiny speakers.  After the contract work was completed, there were some of these speakers still lying around.  I am not sure if they were rejects or what, but at the time, speakers were valuable to me, because I figured that if they worked, maybe I could use them as “Tweeters” for my sound system, so I took a couple.  I still don’t know if they work or not, but they are still with me, unused, and taking up space.

    I vow to you right now, that I will make the break, and throw them into the trash, as soon as I get done with this blog.  

    At this stage of my life I realize that I must down-size, but I have so much stuff, and the task seems overwhelming.  

    I did make a start yesterday, I put an ad on Pete’s List (a local site for buying and selling) and I offered up my 12-string guitar for sale.  Ever since I lost my finger, I now have to sometimes hold two strings of my 6-sting guitar down at the same time using my little finger, holding down 4 strings on a 12-string guitar with my pinkie, is just a bit too difficult.   I was surprised at how quickly the 12-string  sold.  The ad just came out today and I got an offer at 6:30AM, with two more offers later.

    I have made a bit of an early New Year’s Resolution, to get rid of a lot of the things I don’t need.  Wish me luck.


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Monday 4 December 2023

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

This novel takes place within the Islamic Culture of 17th Century Iran.  It was no surprise to me that Islamic Culture is male dominated and is no friend to women.  The main character in the story is a sixteen year old girl who lives in a small village with her father and mother.  The girl is approaching the time when she will be given a husband.  As the story begins, a comet is moving across the sky which forewarns of disasters to come and a disaster does occur shortly thereafter:  the girl’s father dies while working in his field and this death sends lives of the girl and her mother spiraling downward in a totally unexpected direction.

In Islamic Culture, all power and wealth are owned and controlled by the males in a household.  If he dies, the women in his family are set adrift without any power or income.  In this case, the two had to spend the meager savings that would have been used for the girl’s dowry, for food and staying alive.  The girl was a very talented weaver who had just completed a beautiful carpet, and that was sold to a trader for money.  As their lives deteriorated without further income, in desperation, the mother  sent a message to her husband’s brother asking for help.  He lived in the booming city of Isfahan, center of the carpet trade, and the uncle did offered to help them if they came.

The mother and 16 year old girl spent the last of their money to travel on a caravan to Isfahan.  The uncle was a skilled carpet maker, designer, and “colorist” who ran a workshop which was part of the Shah’s palace.  He was wealthy and welcomed his two village relatives into his home.  

         Unfortunately, his wife was a greedy and miserable woman, and the two poor relatives soon found themselves working as servants in the uncle’s household.  Unlike in their village, the two discovered that in the city, they must cover their heads and faces anytime they went into public. 

        Her uncle, was impressed by the young girl’s love of weaving, and her carpet making abilities and despite her sex, he took her under his wing and taught her more advanced carpet design and allowed her to make a carpet to sell, but the aunt ended up giving it away as an incentive to a wealthy buyer, leaving the daughter and mother without the much needed money. 

The daughter was introduced and became friends with a Naheed, a girl her age from wealthy friends of her aunt.  Naheed was smitten by a football player and secretly sent messages to him.  She later used the daughter, in an excuse to watch him play, something her family disallowed.

       When Naheed was caught, she blamed it on the daughter which got the daughter into trouble with her uncle.  Once while coming into the house, the daughter started removing the head gear from her face, just as a wealthy horse trader was leaving.  He saw her face as he left, then later approached the uncle seeking a “sigheh” with the girl.

A “Sigheh” is an islamic concept I had never heard of.  Basically it is temporary legalized prostitution, paying money to a woman or her family for a “temporary” marriage.  In this case, because the horse trader was a wealthy customer of her uncle, her aunt pressured the daughter to accept the three month “Sigheh” contract, even though it would ruin her future chances of a regular marriage because she would no longer be a virgin.  

         Under pressure not to antagonize her relatives, who provided shelter to her mother, the daughter accepted.  During the sigheh  she began to fall for the horse trader, but soon discovered that he was a real womanizer, and then what really killed the relationship, was when the horse trader took a “official” wife from a more “suitable” family.   And who was his new wife you might ask?  Surprise, surprise, it was Naheed, the girl’s her only real friend.

After her contracted time for the Sigheh was finished, it was offered again, but this time, the daughter refused, which resulted in a lot of lost carpet sales for the uncle from the horse trader, and the daughter and her mother were thrown out of her uncle’s house to live in abject poverty.   They were forced into begging on the street for money for food.  Things became extremely dire for their existence, but slowly toward the end of the novel, the uncle softened, and things did begin to improve to the point they were able to provide for themselves, due to the daughter’s carpet weaving abilities.

        I was never a big fan of Islamic Culture, and this novel did nothing to alter my impression.  I never believed that the forced covering of women’s faces was to protect and  honor women, and after learning about the practice of sigheh, which is attributed to Mohammed, I certainly haven’t changed my opinion of the religion or the culture it has spawned.

    I am not sure where the novel’s title came from because I can’t remember anything about either blood or flowers in it.

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