Friday 31 August 2018

After the Storm

    A furious storm of heavy rain and some hail prevented Joan and I from doing a walk yesterday evening at our regular time.  Fortunately for us the storm died about as quickly as it had come up, and so after the delay, we headed out to Jervis Road.  The light was really good for photos and I took this one of the abandoned farm.  The dark clouds and rain in the background was nicely accented by the strong light on the bright green field and the red building.

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Thursday 30 August 2018

The Paris Wife by Paula McLean

       This novel written in the first person tells the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.  It reads like an autobiography.  Most of the feelings it reveals about their marriage are not uncommon, except for the fact that her husband was the struggling writer, Ernest Hemingway, and that fact created some unique situations and interesting locations to the story. 
       They meet at a party in Chicago, where 29 year old Hadley had gone to visit a friend and to forget, after the death of her sick mother.  There was an immediate attraction between Hadley upon meeting the 21 year old Hemingway, which continued weeks later in letters, after Hadley returned to her home in St. Louis.
      Hadley soon returns to Chicago and marries Ernest. Ernest works for a small newspaper and they have very little money, just getting by, but when Hadley gets $6,000 from her uncle’s will, they decide to move to Paris, where they can be a part of the artist community and Ernest can try his hand at writing. 
       They find Montparnasse, the artist area, too expensive and so rent an apartment in a poorer section of Paris.  Ernest rents an additional tiny space where he writes daily, which leaves Hadley on her own.  In Paris they meet Picasso, become friends with Ezra Pound the poet and Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald the writers.   Ernest writes, but doesn’t sell.
       When he accepts a short term job as a war correspondent in Istanbul, an argument occurs because Hadley doesn’t want to be left alone.  This is the first crack in their marriage.  Another occurs when Hadley travels to visit Ernest while he was on another job in Switzerland and she loses all of his writing manuscripts on the train. 
      Then Hadley discovers she is pregnant, something which they had carefully tried to avoid.  Ernest then feels pressure for finding steady income which perhaps might kill his dreams of becoming a writer.  There is plenty of love in the relationship, but things are not sailing as smoothly as they did. 
       Luckily selling a short story brightens the couple’s optimism and an offer of a book of Hemingway’s written sketches strengthens the relationship.  They move back to Toronto for the baby’s birth and to spend a year before returning to Paris.  The baby boy was successfully delivered, but the move didn’t turn out to be a good one for Hemingway, because he was saddled with an intolerable reporting job at the Toronto Star.   
         They couldn’t last the year in Toronto and rushed back to Paris, where they try to reconnect with their previous lives.  Hemingway sells some more stories and a first novel, but Hadley is not happy being back in Paris, and Ernest begins to hang around another woman, which increases Hadley’s unhappiness.
        After they attend the bull fights in Pamplona, Hemingway writes another novel using the conversations of friends present and incidents that happened there, and in reading the manuscript, Hadley discovers she is nowhere in the story.  You start to get a sense of where their marriage is headed. 
         I found this story of their marriage convincing and interesting, but I didn’t gain any new respect for Hemingway.  It was not written to denigrate him, it was written in a matter of fact style, but Hemingway just had a lot of characteristics I  never did like, and they were re-confirmed in the novel. 

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Tuesday 28 August 2018

Young Deer

    Yesterday when Joan and I were walking around the pond, I noticed when we crossed the plank bridge that something had eaten the leaves off of the bog arum that were adjacent the bridge, growing in the water.  When we climbed up to the dam, there the culprits stood, wondering what to do.  They were young deer, still sporting the spots from their fawnhood.  
    We continued our walk toward them, and finally they decided they should get out of there, and they bounced on down the slope and into the woods.

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Monday 27 August 2018

The Sky is Blue Again

    After a month or so of smoke-filled skies that blotted out the sun and mountains,  today we have a beautiful blue sky.  I suspect that we might get the smoke back again in the future, but this morning we can revel in fact that our Valley is back to normal, at least for today.

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Sunday 26 August 2018

Unexpected Moss

    Up at the start of our driveway we have a name sign and our house number.  I have the post to the sign covered with a lot of reflectors so it can be seen at night.  I was up there the other day and saw that two clumps of moss that have take up residency on one of the reflectors.  Surprisingly, I guess they have found all that they need to live in this unexpected location.

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Saturday 25 August 2018

Yes, Internet !

    Joan and I have been going through a real period of funk lately, watching the failing health of Skye, daily seeing and breathing the thick smoke that blankets the Valley, and trying to get some use out of our internet service with speeds that were often so slow, they were unusable.  It was hard to generate any kind of hope for any of these problems; Skye is now dead, the smoke remains, but yesterday, at least, we got some relief with our internet situation.  
    I ranted about our internet problems before, ( and there seemed to be no solution.  Out of frustration I fired off some emails to our Federal representative, our Provincial representative, our Regional District Representative, and the Village Planner in McBride.  It was more of a venting exercise rather than one where I thought I would get some kind of positive result, but I was wrong.
    Shirley Bond, our Provincial Member of the Legislature, emailed me back, said she was impressed by my email and asked if she could use it to pursue the problem.  I signed a release, and wondered if anything would happen-- and something did.  She contacted Telus, our local phone company, and after a couple of weeks, I was contacted by one of their representatives.
    I was told that she too was struck by my email, didn’t feel I was treated properly, and she wanted to try to help me.  She said although she could not supply me with the Smart Hub I was looking for, she did have one different Smart Hub that Telus was experimenting with, and asked I if I would be willing to try that as a “Beta” experiment to see how it would work.
    I jumped at the chance, figuring just about anything would work better than the service I had, and yesterday a technician came to the house and set it up.  The internet speeds it gave us were between 6 and 15 times faster than I had been getting with my previous service.  (The photo shows my speeds, below the pink line are the previous speeds, and above the line are speeds with our new router.)
    Its hard to express how happy this has made us.  It opens up all kind of things we can do on the internet that we previously had not been able to do.
    It sure feels good to have some kind of positive thing happen to help lift our spirits a bit.

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Friday 24 August 2018

Laid Low

    Joan and I are heartbroken.  Yesterday, we buried Skye, our gentle dog, beside our path around the pond.  Skye wasn’t that old, but her rear end was failing to the point she could no longer walk, and caused her a great amount of pain, despite all of the drugs we were giving her, so yesterday we had her put down to stop her suffering.
    Even though she spent an inordinate amount of time sleeping in the bedroom, her absence has left a tremendous hole in our lives.  It was hard for us to watch her stoically deal with her pain over the last month, but it is even harder now for us to deal with her death.  It’s going to take us time for us to get over this.
    I would normally post a photo of her on this blog as I write about her, but at this point I am not strong enough to even face looking at a picture of her.
    Our cat Lucifer is going to have to do double duty from now on.

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Thursday 23 August 2018

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

 “Books That Feature Writers”
      Several years ago I saw the movie based on this book. I remembered the title, but it must have been a disappointment, because I kept running into the novel at the library and purposely passed it by because the movie hadn’t left much of an impression.  
       Last month when the library put out a selection of books which featured a character who was a writer (this month’s Book Club theme) I saw the novel again. I hadn’t even remembered that there was a writer in the movie, but none of the other selections thrilled me, so I decided I would try it.  
        The story takes place in 1962 in Mississippi, written like the first person narrative of the three main characters, Aibileen and Minnie are black maids, who do housecleaning and cooking for two different spoiled white women, while Skeeter, the third protagonist is a rebellious young white woman, daughter of a big local cotton farmer.  Skeeter dreams of becoming a writer.  
      The two black maids, living during the era of intense segregation in the South have to daily, bury their feelings and politely cow-tow, to the whims and racial prejudices that surround them.  Aibileen, the older woman, works for Miss Leefolt, a lazy, prejudiced, status-seeking, young white mother, who ignores her toddler daughter, leaving Aibileen to love and care for for her in addition to doing all the cooking and housecleaning chores. 
       Aibileen becomes quietly pissed off upon overhearing one of the other white ladies at their weekly card game, complain to Miss Leefort that she shouldn’t allow her “Nigra” housekeeper to use the guest bathroom in her house. This comment leads Miss Leefort to have a bathroom built in the garage for her colored help, as so not to contaminate the guest bathroom, which is used by her white friends . 
        Minnie’s situation was different, Miss Celia a beautiful young white newlywed, secretly hires Minnie without telling her husband.  Miss Celia grew up poor and although she wants to be a part of the social life of the other white women, she is looked upon as being “white trash”by the other wives and can’t understand why she is never allowed to be a part of any of their committees or social functions. 
       Miss Celia doesn’t know anything about cooking or maintaining a house, so she quietly hired Minnie to teach her to cook and clean, while her husband is away at work, but Miss Celia is a real klutz at cooking and she spends most of her time looking at movie magazines in bed.  Minnie doesn’t like working secretly, but she is well paid, and Miss Celia is congenial, and unlike Minnie’s previous employers, is not racially prejudiced against her.
         Skeeter, the novel’s white protagonist, has just returned home from graduating from university.  Her mother would have much preferred her returning with a husband rather than a degree in literature.  Skeeter is very thin, tall, and frizzy-haired, not exactly the stereotype of a southern beauty.  
       The warmest relationship Skeeter has had in her life has been with the Black housekeeper the family had all during Skeeter’s life, but who mysteriously left their household while Skeeter was at university. Skeeter has aspirations of becoming a writer, and was advised by a New York publisher that she should write about something she cares deeply about. That turns out to be the racial discrimination and bigotry in her town and the way the Black maids are treated. 
        This topic is a dangerous choice, that could lead to violence and even death in the severely segregated South, not only to her, but any of the black “help” she might talk too, so the whole project has to be done secretly.   It is very difficult for Skeeter to find any black house cleaners, who are willing to risk even being seen casually talking to a White woman .
      Skeeter secretly approaches Aibileen who works for her high school friend Miss Leefort, and tells Aibileen of her book idea and begs her to tell of her experiences and help her recruit other maids.   Out of the fear of what might result if the word gets out to white society, Aibileen initially refuses, but she eventually consents, out of frustration at the way she is treated, and soon Minnie and other maids also secretly join in.   All those involved in the project experience both fear of discovery and a pride at being able to air their frustrations.
       This novel had everything I look for:  a sense of the time, place and history, interesting characters and situations, humor, tension and drama, and a storyline that kept me reading.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Help.

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Tuesday 21 August 2018

Seeing the Sunset

    I was shocked and dismayed yesterday evening when I saw the sun set behind the mountains.  It means that summer is on the way out.  During mid-summer the sun sets way to the right of this photo and we can’t see it.  Then as we approach Fall we can watch it slide behind the mountains.  During the winter, it sets way to the left of this photo, and again we can’t see it set.  
    Of course we can still looking forward to more warm days (hopefully without smoke) and a beautiful Fall, but the season is definitely moving along, it was just a shock to see it so soon.

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Monday 20 August 2018

Mountain Ash


    The photo shows our Mountain Ash tree heavily leaden with berries.  This is a good sight to see, because four years ago, the last time the tree produced produced berries, a bear snuck in during the dead of night and thoroughly smashed the tree.  I didn’t mind the bear eating the berries, but I wished that it wouldn’t have torn up the tree so much.  
    After the attack I had to do some heavy pruning on the tree, then we had to go through several years of recovery, and so it is good to see that it is again producing.  This seems to be a good year for the Mountain Ash, because I have noticed a lot of the berries on most of the trees I have seen.
    I am hoping that this year, if the bear comes back it will be a little more polite when it eats.

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Sunday 19 August 2018

Cedar Waxwings

    I noticed a lot of bird activity in our big honeysuckle bush which is now covered with red berries--it was a group of Cedar Waxwings, that had come to devour the bounty on the bush.  These waxwings eat the berries every year and this year there seem to be more Cedar Waxwings than usual, so I guess they have had a very successful breeding season.  
    It’s always pretty amazing how quickly they can strip all the thousands of berries from the honeysuckle.  They are beautiful birds, with a subtle grayish yellow on their chest and belly and, a small red accent patch on their wing and tail feathers that are tipped with bright yellow.

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Saturday 18 August 2018

Like Driving into Hell

    I had an extraordinary experience yesterday.  When I woke up the smoke around our house was a little worse than it had been; the sky was a slight an orangish grey, the mountains had disappeared, but I could still see the trees at the far end of the pond.  I had a dental appointment in Prince George and I started off on my two hour and a half hour drive at 7:30.  
    Smoke obscured the scenery the whole way, but about 9:30 in the morning, as I was nearing Prince George I noticed that the daylight was slowly starting to disappear.  The sky began to take a more orangish hue and became darker and darker.  I was shocked when the GPS unit in my car suddenly switched to “Night Mode” and the dashboard did too.
    The further I drove the darker it became.  I was gobsmacked.  I kept shaking my head in disbelief.  What was happening?  What was I heading into?  I had never experienced such an eerie experience.  When I got to the first traffic light, up by the airport turnoff, it was totally like night driving.  All of the streetlights were on.  It seemed unreal to me that it was just 10:00 in the morning.  
    I dreaded entering the bowl in which Prince George sits, because it is generally more polluted than the surrounding area, but yesterday, as I descended, it got a bit lighter, and I began to see more and more light in the sky.  By the time I got to the dentist’s office, the sky was getting back to what has been normal for the last two weeks:  a very smoky haze that obscures everything in the distance, but the sky was lighter with a slight orangish hue.
    I was still a bit shaken from what I had driven through, and had a great urge to tell everyone I talked too, but everyone had experience the same thing, which had been caused by extremely thick smoke (thick enough to block out daylight) from the hundreds of forest fires which are burning throughout BC.  The smoke from all of those those fires has now traveled across Canada.  (See satellite photo at the bottom.)

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Thursday 16 August 2018

Tired of Smoke

    It’s pretty petty of me to complain about the unrelenting smoke that is filling the Robson Valley, when other people in BC have lost homes and have had their property destroyed by, the now, 600 wildfires burning in our province, but while our smoke-filled skies are minor, relative to those other things, I am finding it increasingly hard to deal with.  It drags me down, just like day after day of grey skies.  I find it depressing.
    I feel sorry for all those tourists, who have saved their money for a big vacation in the mountains, and now can’t even see them due to the smoke.  Their motorhomes crowd the highways, and I wonder where they are going, because just about all of BC and Alberta are presently thickly blanketed with the grey haze.  I wish I could say that the end is in sight, but so far there is no relief on the horizon.

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Wednesday 15 August 2018

Pincushion Dog

    Our dog Skye has been going through some hard times lately.  She is in a lot of pain in her hip/knee/leg.  Its hard to pinpoint exactly what is causing it.  The vet has been giving us medicine, but Skye still has days when she whimpers when she moves.  We took her to the vet again yesterday and the vet wondered if we wanted to try acupuncture on her.
    We are ready to try anything at this point (no pun intended), so the vet got out her needles and started putting them into Skye.  I was surprised Skye didn’t react to getting punctured, but I guess the needles are so thin and sharp, Skye didn’t feel them. 
    I wish I could tell you that there was a miracle cure, but there wasn’t.  Maybe Skye was a little better, it was hard to tell.  Afterward, she didn’t yelp when she walked.  It was an interesting experience watching the procedure.  

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Sunday 12 August 2018

I've Looked at Rain From Both Sides Now

    When I was younger, I thought of rain as a negative thing, something that prevented me from being outside and doing the things I wanted to do.  When I moved to British Columbia and started growing a garden I started to look at rain differently, and now, after spending those 23 years working for the Forest Service, I have really started to be happy to see rainy days.
    Living surrounded by forests, can get pretty worrying when we get long stretches of hot, sunny, dry weather.  That anxiety increases when day after day you watch reports of all the terrible forests fires on the news, and experience the smoke from those fires in our valley.  Fortunately our area has been getting periodic showers and rain, whenever things start to dry up.
    I was happy last night when I heard raindrops begin to pound on our metal roof.  It was such a relief.  I took the photo above this morning showing the raindrops on some cherries. 
    At present there are just under 500 forest fires burning in BC.  The map below shows some of them.  We live near the orange dot, just south of where the straight border with Alberta starts to curve.cur


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Saturday 11 August 2018

Smoky Sunset

    Smoke from forest fires continue to saturate our skies.  This was the sunset we witnessed on Thursday night while visiting with friends.  The smoke does give a nice softness to the scene, but every breath we take we are sucking it into our lungs.

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Friday 10 August 2018

Smoky Mountains

    These photos show you what our local mountains look like, when you can actually see them.  Often they are completely obscured from all of the forest fire smoke that is choking the Robson Valley.  In the morning when I walk outside, I smell smoke and the skies have a grayish orange tint.  My eyes run throughout the day.  
    On the Canadian internet weather site I go to, they normally feature a symbol of the sun, or rain falling from a cloud to give the viewer a quick indication of what the weather is going to be.   Over the last couple of days, they have adopted a new symbol--smoke.  They don’t always get the weather right, but they sure nailed this one.

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Thursday 9 August 2018

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

    Our theme for last month’s McBride Library Book Club was “A book with the word ‘Summer’ in it’s title.  This was a tough theme for me because I had a hard time finding a theme book that I wanted to read.  Finally however, I came upon this John Muir book and and knowing that he was one of the early environmental pioneers, I  downloaded it (it was free from iBooks) and began reading it.
    Here is my review:

     In 1869, at the age of 31, John Muir had an opportunity to spend a summer in the Sierra Mountains, watching over a flock of sheep and their herder.  He was extremely interested in all of the natural world to be found in the spectacular mountain environment of what was to later become Yosemite National Park, and so this was a dream job for him.  
      Since his only responsibility to the sheep’s owner was to keep an eye on the hired shepherd and the operation, he had ample time to explore the natural mountain landscape, sketch, and keep a diary.  This book is basically the diary he kept.  He writes like a poet, full of awe at this mountain wonderland he finds himself in. He describes all he sees, all the plants and wildlife he runs into, giving the reader their description and scientific name.   
       Having only the scientific name meant I had often go to the internet to see what plant he was talking about. That wasn’t too onerous because I read the book on my iPad so all I had to do was to click on the name and then click on “Look Up” and it took me to a photo of the plant.
      I, like John Muir, am very interested in the natural environment and probably pay more attention to the natural things around me than most people, but I don’t even come close to the detailed observations that Muir makes, everything from species of ants, the kinds of rocks, to the types of clouds building above the mountains.  
        By July 4, most of the “grub” that was meant to feed the shepherd and John was gone and all they had to live on was mutton, sugar, and tea, until the herd’s owner came to resupply them.  This diet caused stomach problems, but with disgust, Muir forced it down.  He missed bread tremendously.  The severely restricted diet subdued Muir’s astonishment with the environment until they were resupplied with food once again, then John Muir’s descriptions of the mountains and plants once again began to flourish. 
       In one entry,   Muir tells of hiking up to the top edge of Yosemite Falls, to carefully peer over the 2,400 foot drop.  Although Muir said he wasn’t afraid peering over the edge, that night he had a very restless sleep as a result, with frightening dreams which kept waking him with a start. 
I enjoyed reading Muir’s description of the shepherds pants.  Every day for his lunch, the shepherd hung a cloth bag of cooked mutton on his belt, and the fat and gravy from the meat slowly dripped onto his pants as he worked and sat around.  This created a slimy film on his pants which picked up everything from small twigs, leaves, insect parts, mica and everything else they came into contact with.  The shepherd worked all day and slept in the pants at night, never changing or cleaning them.  Muir writes that instead of getting thinner with time, the pants just got thicker and thicker.
    I enjoyed not only Muir’s description of his time with the herd of sheep up in the Sierras, but also just the things he mentions about what life was like in 1869, like running into a small band of Indians living rough.

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Wednesday 8 August 2018

Hollyhock Bloom

    I have blogged a couple of times now about my first attempt at growing Hollyhocks, here is a shot of one of the blooms on the plant.  A lot of flowers are designed to direct bees and other insects to the nectar so they will pollinate the plant.  All the white lines on this bloom certainly aren’t shy about pointing  to where they want the bee to go.

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Tuesday 7 August 2018

Our New Normal Too

    In the photo above you are supposed to see the Cariboo Mountains on the horizon, sticking up beyond the trees, but they are obscured by smoke from faraway forest fires.  Last summer was terrible, with day after day of thick forest fire smoke masking our mountains, and even the far end of my pond.  Already this summer we have had many days of thick haze from smoke in the air, but today when we woke up the smoke was so thick we couldn’t see the mountains.
    We are extremely lucky that so far we haven’t had any really close forest fires.  Valemount, our neighboring village, about an hours drive away, has had one.  I assume that most of this smoke is from the many fires burning in the Okanagan, in the southern part of BC.  We are keeping our fingers crossed through these days of unusually hot temperatures (35C, 95F forecast for Thurs.) and hope that we will continue to be spared a forest fire.
    A couple of days ago, Jerry Brown Governor of California, while talking of the terrible fires they are experiencing in the state, said that was the “new normal”.  It is starting to feel like he is right.
    Below is a photo of our Scarlet Runner beans.  In the background you can see the haze of smoke up on the slope above our house.

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Monday 6 August 2018

Our Slackard Plum Tree Produces

    We have two plum trees.  One is heavily leaden with still green plums, and the other tree is a slackard that rarely produces anything.  This year, like every other year, I was hoping that the lazy tree would change it’s ways and produce some plums because the first year we had the tree, it produced a handful of really tasty sweet plums, but since then, every time I walked past the tree and looking  hopefully for the fruit, I saw none.
    However, yesterday as I walked past the tree,  I did see a plum, well, sort of a miniature plum, in fact the smallest plum I have ever seen.  There it is in the photo.  It was smaller than the cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse,  but at least the tree did produce something.

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Sunday 5 August 2018


    I came upon some Pinesap (Hypopitys monotropa) on our walk through the West Twin Old Growth area.  Pinesap is a saprophyte, and if you remember your biology, a sprophyte is a plant that doesn’t have chlorophyll, so can’t make its own food from the sunlight, but instead gets its food from growing on some dead plant.  So they are quite comfortable growing in the low light floor of a cedar forest.  “Hypopitys” in its scientific name is from the Greek hypo (beneath) and pitys (tree).
    It was given the name Pinesap because it is often found growing beneath pine trees.  As you can tell from the moss they are growing in, these examples are quite small, only about 3 inches (8 cm) in height.  The Pinesap above was unusually colorful compared to the other ones I saw, probably because it had just come out of the ground and was still compact, and hadn’t started stretching out yet.  

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Saturday 4 August 2018

Cat Nap

    It is part of my daily routine to spend a couple of hours every morning painting and then writing this blog.  Our cat Lucifer also has her morning routine.  When I am painting, she jumps up onto the desk, then steps into the cardboard box that I put beside the computer for her, and as I paint, she snoozes. 
    I enjoy observing the positions she assumes when she sleeps.  Here are some photos:

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Thursday 2 August 2018

Busy Place

    I am gratified and surprised every time we drive into town to see how many cars are parked outside of McBride’s new library.  It was such a struggle to get it, and it makes me happy to see how many more people are using it.  I took this photo yesterday, Wednesday afternoon, not really library prime time, and   you wouldn’t expect to find a lot of people visiting the library then, but as you can see there were quite a few vehicles parked in front of the new facility.
    A couple of Friday evenings ago, Joan and I went into the library to use the internet (our’s being practically unusable) and I was astounded at how many people were in the library.  We had visited the old library many times at the same hour and often found we were the only patrons there.  It was a totally different experience this Friday night.  People were working and playing on the computers, some relaxing in the comfortable chairs reading magazines and newspapers, while others were picking out a DVD or a book.  It looked like a big city library.
    We have our music jam every Tuesday night at the library, and since we play close to the front door, I can’t help but notice how many people (besides our musicians) come regularly on Tuesday to do computer work or do other library things, and there are many others there, that I had never seen at the old library, so can assume that it is our new building that has really generated a lot  new library users.
      Our attractive new library building is right on Main Street, is the first building people see when they come off of Highway 16, and I’m proud of what it says about our tiny, rural, BC, village.

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Wednesday 1 August 2018

Mossy Logs

    I have always loved lush green carpets of moss.  Living on the edge of an Interior Rainforest gives me plenty of opportunities to see moss.  Here are two photos I took at West Twin Provincial Park just west of McBride.  The area used to be a Forest Service Recreation Site, that featured a short loop trail through big cedar trees.  This area is different from the Ancient Forest because instead of a lot of that nasty Devil’s Club, it’s forest floor is covered with moss.
    It is one of my favorite forests to visit, but it’s trail, although still quite good is no longer maintained, and there is no signage along Highway 16 because it is on the curve and hill going down to the West Twin Bridge which is a dangerous turnoff into the parking area.  That means very few people visit it, which is probably okay for the plants and animals that live there.
    Anyway, here are the the mossy log photos.

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