Thursday 31 December 2020

I Sure Nailed My 2020 Calendar Cover

    Every year I make a calendar for my family and for selling locally.  Way back in October of 2019 when I was creating the 2020 calendar, I had to come up with a cover for the thing.  You can see in the photo what I came up with. 

    For my 2021 Calendar I chose a less dire theme.

    Now, looking back at how awful 2020 turned out, makes me realize that I sure got the calendar cover correct.

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Wednesday 30 December 2020

2020: Also the Year of Water

    While 2020 will always be remembered for COVID-19, for us there will also be the memories of all of the tremendous amounts of rain that fell on the Robson Valley.  In July there was flooding and destructive mudflows that changed people’s lives forever.  Even now at the year’s end, evidence of all of that water remain in the form of forever changed landscapes and standing water, now frozen, in puddles and ice from underground water flows where we have never experienced them before.  

    Our garden was a waste of time, as a lot of our vegetables failed to mature due to all of the rain and cool weather.


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Tuesday 29 December 2020

Smart Dogs

    Yesterday I happened upon an article about a really smart dog named Bunny, and how her master was teaching her to communicate by pressing buttons, each of which mean’t something:  

    It said that bunny was a poodle-cross, and I started thinking; our dog Kona is also a poodle-cross and she seems pretty smart, I wonder if I could teach her something.   I was amazed at how quickly she learned.

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Monday 28 December 2020

Mosses and Lichen

    Normally this time of year this clump of moss and lichen would be covered with a blanket of snow, but winter thus far, has been pretty stingy with the white stuff.  I love coming upon these little green jungles of growth.  This one has taken claim on the top of an old stump.

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Sunday 27 December 2020

Song for 2020

    There is something about presenting a list that makes people curious.  That’s is why they are so often used as “Click Bait” on the internet.   Yesterday I noticed a list of “The Best Unrecognized Songs of the Year,” or something to that effect.  Of course my curiosity kicked in and I immediately clicked to see if I recognized any of the listed songs. 

    As I scanned the list, there was nothing that I knew, but I noticed that one song, “EachOther” by Grace Potter also featured Jackson Browne, as well as a couple of other artists.   I wasn’t familiar with Grace Potter, but I had always liked Jackson Browne and figured that he wouldn’t be on a song that wasn’t good, so I listened to the song and watched the video which showed the lyrics. 

    I did really like the song and the lyrics captured the mood and refers to a lot of things that have made 2020  unique.  If you are now curious, the click on the link below to hear “Eachother”:

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Saturday 26 December 2020

Boxing Day, 1997

     December 26th is the Boxing Day holiday in Canada.    Growing up in the U.S. as I did, December 26th, was just December 26th; I had never heard of Boxing Day, and it took me a while to find out about it even after we moved to Canada, because we were usually gone over the Christmas break.  It is a holiday in Britain and a lot of the Commonwealth countries.   When I first heard about it, I thought it had something to do with two guys pounding on each other in a ring, but then learned that it was a day when the rich people used to box up gifts for their servants.

    Because we weren’t rich, and didn’t have any servants, we normally didn’t have any regularly scheduled things to do for the day, but we were very happy to have the day off.

    On Christmas Eve of 1997, we hosted a small get together of friends at our place.  Among the people that attended were John Bird and Margaret.  John had been a close friend since he and his wife Linda, had moved to an old log home just down the road from us.  Later, he and Linda split up.  John was a creative woodworker, and great outdoorsman.  I always considered him the healthiest person I knew.  He was very careful about what he ate and he always made me feel guilty, because he was always jogging up the road or hiking in the mountains.

    There was nothing unusual that happened on that Christmas Eve get together.  We ate and we talked.  It was a nice event.  The following day on Christmas, we all got together again.  This time, we joined John and Margaret for a meal up at Margaret’s place.  Again, it was just a friendly  gathering and nothing extraordinary occurred.  

    The following day was Boxing Day.  We just had a quiet day to ourselves.  It was a Friday, so in the evening we fixed our traditional Friday night pizza.  I remember how cozy and comfortable it was in our living room.  The Christmas tree lights were glowing and the fire in the wood stove was warm.  Then there was a phone call.

    I got up and answered the phone.  It was the hospital.  They said that John Bird had died, and Margaret was there and could we come in to give her some support.  We were struck numb with disbelief.

    We rushed down to the hospital, and walked quickly down the empty hall to the nurses desk.  I happened to glance over down one of the hallways and notice a smallish girl hunched over on a bench.  When we got to the nurse’s desk, she pointed us over to Margaret, and then I realized that the “smallish girl” I had seen on the bench was Margaret.  It was like she had shrunken.

    We hugged and cried.  I don’t see how we could have offered any comfort to her, we were so distraught and broken up ourselves.  It seem that John had gone cross country skiing during the day, then returned home and was taking a bath, when he started having chest pains.  He managed to call Margaret, who rushed over, and got him in the car and drove him to the hospital, but John suffered a massive cardiac event and died on the way.  He was 51 years old, the same age as his father when he died the same way.

    John had a huge circle of friends, and the news of his death struck everyone the same: shock and disbelief.  It fell to me to make one of the most difficult phone calls I have ever had to make.  I had to call Linda, John’s ex-wife, who had moved to another small BC town, to tell her of John’s death.  I hadn’t spoken to Linda for a long time, and when she answered her phone, and I told her who it was, she said, “David”, her voice filled with delight and excitement, upon receiving an unexpected phone call from an old friend.  

    I felt it was best just to be direct, so I said as gently as I could, “Linda, listen.   John is dead.”

    It felt like I was crushing someone with a hammer.  There was silence at the other end of the phone.  I gave her a brief explanation of what happened, but the silence remained.  

    “I can’t talk now, David.  I will call you back later”

    Those events are the ones that always come flooding into my mind every time I hear a reference to Boxing Day.  In a normal year, Boxing Day becomes the big shopping blowout day of the year, a chance for big bargains.  The news is always full of people lined up for hours waiting for the stores to open their doors then rushing to the counters.

    But I always think about 1997, and our friend John, who seemed so healthy and vibrant.  I think about how precious and fleeting life and friendship are, and how we really should be more cognizant of them and celebrate them more than we do.

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Friday 25 December 2020

Oh, Christmas Tree

    The Jade Tree that sits in our bay window had to assume the role of Christmas Tree this year.    I think the sparseness and pared-down effect nicely reflects the feeling of this Covid Christmas.

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Thursday 24 December 2020

On The Trail

    We used to walk the loop trail on our neighbor’s property daily, sometimes twice daily.  It meandered through the bush to a couple of fields by the river, then circled back through the woods to my pond, and our house.  We hiked it all year round.  Then the people who rented the house on the property got two aggressive pit bulls, and our trail walking stopped.

    This year that renter (and the pit bulls) moved away, leaving the property empty, so I spent a couple of days brushing out the trail, looking forward to using it again. 

    Well we are using it again, but as you can see from the photo, it is not in prime condition.  All the over abundance of rain we received through the year has been seeping up through the ground and flooding several sections of the trail.  It made hiking it a real muddy mess.  At least now after a week of some colder weather the mud has frozen and solidified, making our trail walking a bit more easy.  

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Wednesday 23 December 2020

There's Got to be a Mouse in Here Somewhere

    The photo pretty much says it all.  Kona gives her all; seeking out prey, even though she never catches anything.  When there are no squirrels around, she dedicates herself to sniffing out mice.

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Tuesday 22 December 2020

The Perfect Christmas Tree Ornament

    Yesterday we broke out laughing when we discovered, along with a Christmas card from our friends Jim and Abbie, that they had enclosed the perfect Christmas Tree ornament--a miniature COVID mask.  It will certainly be a keeper; something to remind us of this chaotic year we have just survived.

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Monday 21 December 2020

A Burst of Christmas Energy

    I admit that I have been less than enthusiastic about Christmas this year.  However, yesterday after prompting from my wife, I did at least turn on the Christmas lights on the shop.  What a job it was:  Since the lights are permanently attached to the building, I had to walk up to the shop, open the door, hike over to the electric plug, and plug the lights in.  Whew.

    After all that exertion of energy, at least I was awarded with the eye-dazzling display of color that you see in the photo above.  The lights are so impressive perhaps I will be inspired to find some other Christmas Season task to do.

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Sunday 20 December 2020


    I have always been fascinated by the unusual appearance of Lungwort, (Lobaria pulmonaria).  It grows on trees in our moist northern forests.  It got its name because of all its surface depressions that  look like lungs, and like so many folk medicines; if it looks like something, it must be a medicine for that thing.  In lungwort’s case that meant being used for tuberculosis and lung diseases.  

    BC’s First Nations people called the lichen “Toad’s Blanket” because its texture reminded them of the skin of a toad.

    Lungwort likes it moist and is always looking its best during damp weather.  Yesterday when I saw it highlighted by the sun, I had to take the photo.

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Saturday 19 December 2020

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

         The November theme for our McBride Library Book Club was “Feel Good Books.”   Honestly, I really wasn’t in the mood for light reading, but being a good sport I relented, and did an internet search for “Feel Good Novels”.  

    The Flatshare was one of the titles that came up.  The description of the book really didn’t knock me out, but it seemed okay, and it was immediately available on OverDrive, so I down-loaded it to my iPad.  The Flatshare is not the kind of book I generally read and I was expecting it to be more like an assignment rather than an enjoyment, but I did enjoy it.

         The plot line revolves around two characters:  Leon, a mixed-race, introverted, male, palliative care nurse, and Tiffy, a tall, quirky, red-headed, poorly-paid, female editor of a publishing house specializing in books for crafters and do it yourselfers.    These two different personalities, both living in London, don’t know each other, but they have a common problem:  They are both short on money and seek a solution.

       Leon, the male nurse has an apartment, but he needs money for a lawyer, because his innocent brother has been incarcerated in prison.  Taffy, the editor has been living in her ex-boyfriend’s apartment, while he lives with his new girlfriend.  She desperately needs to find a new place to live, but can’t afford the very high London rents. 

         Since Leon only works at night, he decides to find someone who wants to live in his apartment that works days and will only need it at night and weekends (on weekends Leon lives with Kay, his girlfriend).   He and the flat-sharer could split the rent for the apartment.  He assumes the flatsharer will be another male, but Tiffy applies.

        Kay, Leon’s girlfriend, isn’t keen on this arrangement, but will allow it only if Tiffy and Leon never meet, and Kay will always be the go-between for the two.  When Kay meets outlandish Tiffy, she realizes Tiffy is not at all Leon’s type, so she okays the apartment sharing scheme. 

        So Leon and Tiffy don’t meet, but share the same apartment and use the same bed.   I’m sure you have already figured out where this storyline is headed.   

        They never see each other, but live amongst the other’s clothes, furniture, food, and other things.  They communicate with each other with Post-it notes left on household items and text messages over the phones.

         As you guessed, they soon really begin to like each other just by the brief notes they leave or send. 

        The novel is made up of short chapters written in the first person, that alternate between Leon and Tiffy.   These short alternating chapters which are largely made up of the terse messages on the post-it notes and text messages that the two characters exchange do build the novel’s plot and round out the personalities of the characters.  They also generate curiosity that makes the reader keep on reading.

        The book does rise above merely being a “fluff piece” by dealing with subjects like bullying and emotional abuse in sub-plots. 

       As it happens, our scheduled November book club meeting disappeared with the tougher restrictions due to Covid, but at least I can put my review out there on my blog.

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Friday 18 December 2020

Christmas Bird Count

    Sunday is the official day for the Robson Valley Christmas Bird count, but fortunately we are allowed to register birds that we see three days before and three days after the official day.  I am happy because yesterday I saw a couple of birds that are normally not on my tally of seen birds and I will be able to include them this year.

    I saw a Brown Creeper, a small secretive bird that I only see a few times a year, and I also saw two Ruffed Grouse that happened to be in our yard  (photo above).  Every year my Christmas Bird Count just includes the usual suspects:  lots of Chickadees, a couple of Downy Woodpeckers, and Harry Woodpeckers, a pair of Red Breasted Nuthatches, and maybe some Ravens that have flown over the house.  I am happy to contribute the grouse and creeper to this year’s submission, and who knows maybe some other more exotic bird will show up before I turn in my list.

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Thursday 17 December 2020

That is Not Supposed to be There

    See the body of water in the photo above, that is not supposed to be there.  It does form in the Spring when all of the snow that covers the mountains melts and the water seeps underground then flows downslope and pops above ground in places creating pools, but it disappears in late Spring, after allowing the mosquitoes larvae to develop.   It shouldn’t be here this time of year.

    The same can be said for the body of water in the photo below.  I have only seen this valley fill up with water one other time and that was in the Spring, and it didn’t get as full as it is now.  It is caused by all of that huge rain that we got throughout the Spring, Summer, and Fall, that has flowed underground and is now creating these ponds.  

    I don’t know what to expect next Spring.  Will these waterholes slowly disappear over the winter, or will the water remain and then be added to when all of the Winter snow on the mountains melt in the Spring.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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Wednesday 16 December 2020

Trading Spruce Cones for Sunflower Seeds

    What you see is one of my bird feeders, where every morning I put some sunflower seeds for the birds.  Of course a lot of those sunflower seeds are eaten by squirrels, before the birds get to them.  Over the last few days, I have been noticing that spruce cones are starting to appear in the bird feeder. 

    I am not sure why, perhaps the squirrels are feeling guilty for their theft and are trying to compensate by leaving some cones behind to make up for what they have taken.  More likely, the cones are supposed to signal to everyone that all of the food there belongs to them.

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Tuesday 15 December 2020

"I Hope That God Strikes You Dead."

    That is what a devout Christian said to me as Christmas approached, fifty years ago.  I am terrible with names and have forgotten his, but I will just call him John.   John and I were both doing our alternative (to military) service as Conscientious Objectors, working in the Goodwill Industries plant in Indianapolis, but that was about the only thing we had in common.

    At the time, the only way to get the Conscientious Objector status from the Draft Board was to show that it was because of your religious beliefs and that you were a member of one of those pacifist denominations.  For John, that was probably not a problem; he was a True Believer and a Jehovah Witness, for me becoming a CO was a bit more complicated; I was an atheist, and my not wanting to be a part of killing people was a moral, not a religious belief.

    I kept the fact that I was an atheist away from my Draft Board, but I did show that I had connections to Salem Methodist Church, which had a bit of a history of pacifism, because of one of their ministers during World War Two.  In fact, my father was a non-combatant CO during the war and worked in a military medical facility.  My grandmother was a confirmed pacifist and continually lectured us kids about the evils of war, throughout our youth.

    After a local Draft Board rejection, my Selective Service file was sent to the State Selective Service Board and after reviewing it, they decided that I did have a sincerely held belief and a valid history of pacifism (and the fact that they didn’t see the length of my hair also helped)  and as a result, they gave me the CO designation and I was assigned to work 2 years for the Goodwill Industries in Indianapolis.

    At the Goodwill, I worked as a “Pricer,” where I determined and set the price of furniture and electrical goods, and in the afternoon I was the person that allocated all of the hundreds of pieces of clothing to the seven different Goodwill Stores in Indianapolis.  John was on the maintenance staff, so he walked around with a tool belt on his hips all day.

    We occasionally talked to each other; he was very straight-laced and conservative, while I was a free-thinking hippie.  I was open to John about my beliefs, so he knew I was an atheist.  

    One year as Christmas approached, I was approached by a member of Goodwill’s management staff and asked if I would play the part of one of the Three Wiseman in the upcoming Goodwill Christmas pageant.  This request had nothing to do with my religious beliefs, but was made because I sort of looked “biblical” with my beard and long hair.  

    “Sure,” I replied, “I’ll be a Wiseman.”

    When John heard that I had been chosen to be one of the Three Kings in the Christmas pageant, he was outraged that an atheist was going to be in such a holy story.  He confronted me and spoke those words:  “I hope that God strikes you dead,” and walked away.  I wondered if maybe he felt like he should have been asked to do the part.

    Although the pageant itself has totally disappeared from my memory, I do remember that I was in the play, as forgettable as it was, and I am happy to announce that God didn’t strike me dead, yet.

    For John however it was a different story.  

    Several months later, I was informed by the Goodwill grapevine that John lay in the hospital in serious condition.  I don’t remember what had happened to him, maybe it was an automobile accident.  He needed a blood transfusion, but because of his religious beliefs, he refused to allow that to happen.  A few days later he died; true to his beliefs to the very end.

    I was, of course, really sorry to hear about John, and very angry at his religion for its role in his avoidable young death.      

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Monday 14 December 2020

Bare Fields

    This was our view yesterday on our afternoon walk.  As you can see the fields are bare, what little snow we have gotten so far has disappeared, except for those leftover patches, shaded in the ditch.  It was nice to do a walk on the bare pavement of road in regular footwear, instead of having to clump along in winter boots.

    We did need our coats though; the temperature was -4C (25F) with a very brisk wind that almost stung your face with cold.

    I think we are due to get some snow this week, which will make things look a bit more like they should this time of year.

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Sunday 13 December 2020

Assessing the Firewood

    Even though winter is officially still a week away, I am constantly keeping an eye on how much firewood I have.  So far this season it has been rather mild, but nevertheless I have gone through about a quarter of the firewood I have.   Most of that was Cottonwood and Aspen, and they burn quickly without giving off a whole lot of heat.  The rest of the wood is Birch which burns slower and hotter, so I should be okay.

    What you see in the photo is only one of my stacks of wood, I have another whole untouched row of firewood, plus a smaller pile tucked under the eves of my carport.  If we get a really cold spell, the pile starts disappearing really rapidly, and I start to really worrying, but I’ve got probably as much wood this winter as I have ever had, so I should make it through until early March when we don’t use very much.

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Saturday 12 December 2020

Hey, I Know That Tail Light

    We have satellite TV so have access to 100’s of stations, but of course we only watch about five of them.  One of those I watch a lot is PBS.  One of their shows is Nova, which is all about science.  The other night they were running a commercial about the show. 

    It was all about a woman, who as a child had grown up in poverty.  She and her father spent a lot of time in their truck.  She was always happy whenever they got to stay in a motel room, because she sometimes got to watch Nova.  She was especially keen on their shows concerning Astronomy.  There was an inference that she grew up and became an astronomer, but it may be she just continues to love Astronomy.

    I was only half paying attention to the commercial, until suddenly up on the screen flashed a photo of a tail light of a truck.  It was a tail light I knew well, because I had featured it in two of my paintings.  The fact that someone else in the world was attracted to that same tail light, made me feel really good.

    Above is the pickup truck’s tail light as seen in the Nova ad, and below are two of my paintings that feature the tail light.  Mine are from my old 1977 GMC, but I think the one in the Nova commercial is a Chevrolet pickup.


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Friday 11 December 2020

The Lost Glove

    As I have previously mentioned, winter driving is not my favorite activity, but yesterday I had an appointment in Prince George so I had to do it.  I had to get up and begin the drive in the dark.  Fortunately, no deer or moose jumped out in front of me, and there were not many transport trucks on the road.  There was compact snow on the surface of the highway, it was tolerable, but nevertheless I had to be very attentive, which is stressful.

     As I drove westward, I noticed in the rear view mirror that a colorful sunrise was developing behind me, so I pulled over at the Dome Diner entrance and took the photo above.  I also stopped at the Slim Creek Rest Area, before arriving in PG.

    When I finally got to Prince George, I noticed that I could only find one of my gloves.  I had hastily taken them off to take the photo and hastily threw them aside.  Damn, I hate losing gloves.  It worried me the whole time I was up in PG, and decided that on my drive back to McBride I would swing through the Slim Creek Rest area to see if it was laying in the snow.  It wasn’t.

    My last hope was that, maybe it had dropped out at the Dome Diner where I had stopped to take the photo. When I got there, I drove slowly, carefully scanning the snow as I drove by, but again, saw no orphaned glove.  I sadly accepted the loss of my glove, and continued on home to McBride.

    I had another photo opportunity when Mt. Sir Alexander came into sight, all shining brightly in the sun.  I stopped and reached over to grab my camera in the passenger seat and on impulse reached down to the floor below the seat, and there I discovered my wayward glove.  I had done a search there before, but obviously, not a very thorough one.  Finding that glove, though a trivial thing, made my day..

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Wednesday 9 December 2020

Mud Dog

    Normally this time of year, if I make the dog go into the shower, it is to loosen all of the balls of snow that have built up on the dog’s legs, but 2020 continues to be the Year of Mud, it is the mud that has gotten Kona sitting in the shower waiting to be washed off.    As Kona goes sprinting from one side of the house to the other keeping all of the squirrels in line, she kicks up a lot of mud from our water-saturated yard, and her whole undercarriage turns brown with the stuff.

    At least Kona is willing victim about going into the shower, so I don’t have struggle to get the job done.  I will be happy to see some freezing weather though, I am sure tired of mud.

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Tuesday 8 December 2020

China Lily; We've Got Some

    There always seems to be some item that suddenly becomes much sought after.  In Europe in the 1400‘s everyone wanted Egyptian mummies, later in the 1600‘s, Holland went crazy over tulip bulbs, and years back I remember Beanie Babies, then half a year ago it was toilet paper.  

    I heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago that the sudden hot commodity in BC was China Lily Soya Sauce.  I didn’t realize it but it is an important mainstay in the diet of First Nation’s people in BC.  I suspect they were introduced to soya sauce when Chinese laborers were brought into the country to build the Canadian Railways, and China Lily seems to have established itself as the soya sauce of choice.

     It has suddenly disappeared from grocery shelves causing a desperate search for the condiment.   People who were able to find some bought it up in bulk, causing more shortages.  The run began after someone erroneously posted on social media that the factory that made it was closing.  It wasn’t, but the run and hoarding of the sauce reinforced the rumor.

    Hearing about the sudden rarity of China Lily caused me to rush to our pantry to check on our supply and I was gratified to discover that, as you can see, we still have a bottle.

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Monday 7 December 2020

Put The Camera Away And Come On

    We took Kona to the “beach” that during the winter, edges the Fraser River.  The wide-open level sand makes it hard for Kona to restrain herself, she wants  to run.   As she races down the sand flat, she periodically stops to check to make sure we are following. 

    Here she is waiting impatiently for me to get done taking the photo so she can once again sprint across the sand.

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Sunday 6 December 2020

A Candlelight Dinner

    You don’t need a special occasion for a candlelight dinner, all you need is for the power to go off just before you eat.  That is what happened last night.  The veggies had just begun cooking on the stove top and we had just put the chicken wings into the oven when everything suddenly went dark.  In unison a sigh of, “Oh, No” reverberated through the room, and we looked at each other wondering how long the electricity was going to be off.  We then scrambled for the flashlights, strings of battery-powered color lights, and candles.

    We were able to get some information from our cell phone; we saw that the whole Robson Valley; from Tete Jaune to Dome Creek was out.  That meant 1240 people were, like us, sitting in the dark wondering what do do.  There was no information about when we might expect the power to return.

    We put the frying pan with the half-cooked veggies on the top of our wood stove to finish cooking, and took the chicken wings out of the oven to cool outside; to be re-cooked whenever we got the power back.  Luckily I had enough battery charge in my iPad to do some reading as we waited. 

    After 2.5 hours the electricity came back as suddenly as it had disappeared.  We had already eaten our veggies in the candlelight by that time, but we pre-heated the oven again and finished cooking the chicken wings which we ate in the illumination of electric lights and the TV.

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