Friday 31 January 2020

1985: A Memorable New Year's Eve

My Most Memorable New Year's Eve

I recently came upon a letter I had written to my family telling about the adventurous New Year's Eve we had in 1985.  The letter wasn't dated but I was able to pin down the year using clues from the letter.  It was blowing and snowing on the night of December 31st, but we were primed for a party so we off we drove..
The New Year's celebration was being held at Jim and Abbie's, friends of ours whose house was located at the end of a kilometer long driveway which was flanked on both sides by flat open fields.  We drove through horizontal snow blitzing across the highway to get to their driveway and once there, we were confronted with a big piece of plywood with a warning hastily painted on it.  It said:  “4-WHEEL DRIVE ONLY, OTHERS FLASH THIER LIGHTS” 
We had wondered about the condition of their drift-prone driveway when we left our house, but figured it wouldn't be too bad.  The sign made us reconsider, and when we peered through the darkness and sideways blowing snow we could see that snow drifts were beginning to build across the driveway, but as far as I could tell the drive looked doable.  Besides, our Subaru was a four wheel drive so I put it into gear and we proceeded into blizzard.
Those first drifts we came to didn't present any problems, but the further we drove, the bigger the drifts got.  We were the first party to attempt the drive, so we were breaking trail, which slowed our progress.  About a third of the way down the drive we hit a drift that stopped us.  I opened the car door to check out our situation and discovered that the snow was up to the bottom of the door.  The snow was still blowing furiously.  My wife decided to proceed on foot to the house.
Fortunately soon after our sudden stop, John, another party-goer along with Jim, our host (I don't know why he was with John), arrived behind me in John's SUV.  They got out and manually pushed me through the drift, then followed me to the house.  Once there it was decided that maybe no one should be attempting the drive, because the chances were good they would be trapped by the snow and wouldn't be able to get back out after the party.   I decided to drive my car back to park it on the road, I turned around, as did John with his vehicle, and following him was Jim in his Land Rover, who had both four wheel drive plus chains on the tires.
Going back down the driveway didn’t present much of a problem since there were now tracks through the snow.  John and I parked our vehicles down by the road, and then climbed into Jim's Land Rover to be chauffeured back to the house.  During the first part of the party, everyone just stayed crowded around the big window eating snacks and watching four wheel drive vehicles fight their way up the driveway, only to get to the house, turn around and drive back to the road, to park. 
Two of the party goers did decide to keep their big 4x4 pickups at the house.  Jim, our host was kept busy for the first two hours of the party ferrying people back and forth from the road to the house in his Land Rover.
When most everyone had arrived, and there was no longer anything to see out of the window, the party began in earnest.  The music that was being played didn't inspire any dancing until finally the guy that was playing at being a DJ put on Dire Strait's “Money For Nothing”.  That drew everyone onto the dance floor.  A couple of other good songs kept them there, but the music again deteriorated back to uninspiring songs, and the dancing momentum started to deflate, so once again the DJ put on “Money For Nothing,” and the energy in the room again began to peak.  This sequence of music happened about three times during the evening, but everyone had lots of fun.
After we had ushered in 1986 and people began to tire, they put on their coats and boots, took a big breathe, and opened the door to face the weather, which had deteriorated to the point where Jim no longer used his Land Rover, but instead fired his snowmobile that towed a sled behind it. 
    The blizzard was really screaming across the field and driveway as Peter climbed on the snowmobile behind Jim, while Kathy and Harold huddled into positions on the sled.  Jim really had to really throttle up the snowmobile to move of all the weight of the passengers. He blasted through one drift after another, gunning his way through the blizzard to the road.
When he arrived at the cars, he turned around and discovered that Kathy and Harold had vanished from the sled.  He headed back to find them.  They had been thrown off when they hit a drift about half way back the driveway.  Even though Harold was just wearing regular shoes instead of boots, both he and Kathy opted for walking back to the cars rather than getting on the sled again.  Later another couple who had also taken the sled said that they could hardly breathe with all of the cold air and blowing snow in their faces.
We stayed at the party until 3:30 AM.  Then left the house with the final group.   We were able to hitch a ride in one of the big 4x4 pickups.  My wife got to ride in the cab, while I and two other tired partiers huddled back of the pickup.  By this time the drifting snow had again totally filled up the vehicle tracks on the driveway, and before we had gotten out of Jim and Abbie's yard, the truck was stopped dead by a drift.
With the help of us guys pushing the front of the truck, Tim, the driver, was able to back out of the drift, then we again took our positions in the bed of the truck.  Tim stomped on the gas pedal, and with the engine roaring we blasted through the drift, with those of us in the back hanging on for our lives.  Tim's truck exploded through several other drifts that stood in his way, until we again got bogged down several more times and had get out and push, but eventually we got out to the road and our cars.  We looked back through the darkness, amazed by the fury of the wind and snow that continued to scream across the fields and Jim and Abbie's driveway.
Our drive back home was peaceful and uneventful.  Ten minutes later when we finally arrived home we were surprised to  discover that there wasn't any blowing or drifting snow at our house.
    It had been a very memorable New Year's Eve.

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Wednesday 29 January 2020

After Thirty-five Years of Storage

    About 35 years ago we took a shopping trip to Edmonton.   One of our main shopping destinations there was the Ikea store.  I don’t remember most of what we bought at the time, but I do remember two of our purchases:  a flat piece of stainless steel that could be used for a backsplash in the kitchen, and a stainless steel shelf. 
    The only reason I remember these two things was because we never did use them--instead we put  them aside, for the last 35 years.
    We just purchased a new stove.  Unlike our previous ranges which all had the upright back with all the displays, our new one, which I think is called a “slide-in” range, is completely flat across the top.  When we put the new stove in its place yesterday, and were dismayed to see that it left an extremely boring kitchen wall behind it.  Luckily, we still had that old piece of stainless steel backsplash and the shelf we had purchased in Edmonton all those many years ago. They were safely stored in the barn gathering dust.
    I took them out of their packaging and I rigged them up, then slid in our new stove into place.  What a difference it made.  All together they look pretty fancy.  
    During all those years of storage, those several times when I came across the backsplash and shelf in the barn, I was tempted to add them to our yard sale items, but fortunately never did.  Sometimes it pays to be a packrat.

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Tuesday 28 January 2020

A "Touching" Photo

    Please excuse the pun in the title and my indulgence with my pets, but I was so taken the other day when both Lexi and Lucifer were on my bed and actually touching.  This is really a pretty amazing occurrence in our household.  Our previous dogs were pretty terrified of Lucifer, and for good reason.  She was pretty bossy and they kept their distance.
    Even though the two are touching in this photo, Lexi still seems to be a bit unsure.

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Monday 27 January 2020

Hovering Ice

    Before our cold snap I washed the car.  When I was finished the hydrant continued to drip.  During all that below freezing weather, it continued to drip, creating a stalactite that spread over the snow at the base.  When the temperatures warmed up, the snow started to melt and shrink, leaving the ice stalactite appearing to hover above the snow.

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Sunday 26 January 2020

Losing Naomi

    Our community is about to suffer a huge loss; Naomi our amazingly energetic and dynamic librarian is leaving McBride to take a job in a library close to her hometown in Ontario.  She came to McBride straight after getting her degree in Library Science, and from the get-go she fit right in to our community and became a pivotal force for improving it.
    Her most important achievement was enabling our library to move from its small old building to a beautiful and modern facility on Main Street and expanding the number of library activities that have made it the social hub of the Village.  Getting this new library building had been a very contentious idea which took several years to get done.  A great deal of credit goes to Naomi and her friendly personality.
    I am personally appreciative and indebted to Naomi for allowing us to start up our weekly jam session in the library.  I was very reluctant to ask her about doing it because of the old stereotype of libraries being silent places, so I asked her if we could use the old library annex (a separate building), but then when that sold, Naomi encouraged us to play inside the old library itself, and when we got the new building, we now play in it.  I don’t think there are many libraries that allow musicians to play in their buildings every week.
    Naomi was very active in so many of our local organizations, like the community garden, and you could always see her helping out at community events.  Not only will we personally miss her, but so many of our community organizations will feel her loss.
    Good luck Naomi, in the next chapter of your life.  We will sure miss you.

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Saturday 25 January 2020

Difficult Walking and Driving

    As winter progresses and the snow gets deeper and deeper, you reach a point where you just have paths to get to the places you need to get to outside.  The paths I have made to get to the woodpile, the compost pile, the barn, and one I made around the house for walking Lexi, have been working well, up until now.   Since our big cold spell the temperatures have warmed up greatly, and have been above freezing during the day and some nights.
    That warm weather has softened the snow, and now when I walk down any of our snow paths, if I step anywhere except the exact middle of the path, my foot slips to the side into the deeper snow.  As a result, the walkable surface of the paths are getting narrower and narrower, which creates frustration when you are doing something like carrying an armful of firewood and you keep slipping into the deep snow at the edge of the path. 
    Usually this path deterioration happens as spring approaches, but we aren’t there yet, so I guess I will have difficult walking for a while.
    Yesterday I had to drive up to Prince George for an appointment with the periodontist, and it was a ordeal getting up there.  Since it had been so warm for the last few days, I assumed that Highway 16 would be clear and give me an easy drive so I didn’t bother to get on the internet to check.  When I got on the highway I quickly I discovered that the driving conditions were horrendous.
    A freezing rain had fallen creating layer of black ice.  I saw a couple of semi’s jackknifed and in the ditch, many more were just parked along the side of the road or driving extremely slow (my speed for a while was 22 kph (13 mph) for a while when I was behind one truck.  There were numerous other vehicles in the ditch.
    It was a long slow drive to PG.  Fortunately I made it there in time for my appointment.
    Everything is certainly a whole lot easier in the summer time.

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Thursday 23 January 2020

Oat Milk

    This morning I had oat milk on my oats.  I have had oat milk a few times before, but the difference this morning was that I made the oat milk.  
    I generally have soy milk with my oats, but have been interested in trying oat milk since I discovered that such a thing existed.  I have been troubled that a lot of soy comes from recently cleared jungles in Brazil, while oats are grown in long existing fields, a lot of which are in Canada.
    I had read about oat milk and was eager to try it, but it wasn’t readily available any place around where I live.  Costco did have some not too long ago, and I bought some, but they haven’t had it since.  
    Whenever I first try one of these plant based “milk” products (soy, almond, or coconut)  on my cereal, that initial taste usually doesn’t impress me, but after a few meals I get used to it and like them.  That was my reaction this morning to the oat milk I made.  Hopefully I will get used to its taste too.
    To make it I put 3/4 of a cup of rolled oats into a bowl with water to soak for a few hours, then I put it on a sieve and ran cold water over it to prevent it from being slimey.  When the exit water was clear, I put it in our Vitamix machine with a quart of water, set it on “High” to really grind it up, first for a minute, then a minute rest, followed by another minute on “High”.   I added a pinch of salt, a bit of sugar, and vanilla, then put it in the fridge overnight, so it would be cold this morning for my cereal.  
    My “cereal” is just rolled oats.   I don’t cook it, just add some fruit and “milk” and I eat it cold.

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Wednesday 22 January 2020

A Needed Barrier

    One of our concerns when we adopted our dog Lexi, was how she would get along with Lucifer our cat.  Lucifer is a bit haywire and our previous dog was afraid of her, something she liked to exploit.  Luckily Lexi and Lucifer are getting along pretty good.  There seems to be a lot of tolerance on both sides of the relationship, however, I am sure they were both happy to share the couch with a barrier, no matter how flimsy it was, between them.

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Tuesday 21 January 2020

Typing Class

    The other day when I was typing on my computer, I suddenly realized how lucky I was to have taken a typing class in high school.  It was in my sophomore year that I had to choose an elective class to fill my schedule   I didn’t know what class to take and my mother suggested that I take typing, because “that would be something that would come in handy,” so that is what I did.
    Those first days in that typing classroom was a a bit daunting.  I had absolutely no experience with a typewriter and the layout of the letters on the keyboard seemed totally unreasonable.  The typing classroom was mostly filled with keen girls headed for secretarial careers, but the atmosphere was friendly and the typewriters were modern (this was before electric typewriters). 
    After a couple of weeks, I had become familiar with the layout of the letters on the keyboard and was typing out the phrase:  “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,”  a sentence has all of the letters of the alphabet.  Every day we were given speed tests, typing a paragraph to see how many words of it we could type out in a minute.  I was not very good.  I think my record was something like 35 words while most of the others were in the 60 word per minute range.
    I was at a big disadvantage compared with others in the class.  We had a typewriter at home, but it was an antique  (It looked like the one in the photo).  Typing on it was a brutal experience.  It took a lot of finger strength just to press down the keys, but it took Herculean determination to type out a capital letter.  To do that I had to press down on the big “Capital” key on either end of the bottom row with my pinkie finger.  Pressing down on that key lifted the whole heavy metal inner workings of the typewriter.  Doing so stretched the limits of strength in my little finger.  Naturally It was not something I could do with any speed.
    In those days when you typed to the right hand margin of the page, the words didn’t automatically flow to the next line, you had to manually set the typewriter to the next line.   On the school typewriters all you had to do was take your left hand and move the large paddle to the right.  On my home typewriter, I had to insert my index finger into the hook of the carriage return and move it to the right.
    There was so much difference between the school typewriters and the one I had at home that no matter how much I practiced typing at home, it didn’t help me very much at school.  I did however develop really strong fingers.
     I quickly fell behind the other students who had modern typewriters at home.  I was ashamed to bring home a “D” in Typing on that first grading period.  I think my teacher felt sorry for me because she generously gave me a “C” as my final grade on my report card.
    Back in those ancient days, typing, even on the “modern” machines was a chore.  If you mistyped something, there was no “Undo” or “Delete” button, instead you had to roll the paper up out of the way and use a hard heavy duty “typing” eraser to rub out the mistake (often wearing a near hole in the paper) then roll the paper back in hoping that you would be in the same spot, and retype.  
    In those days there were no paper copiers, so if you needed an extra copy of something you were typing, you had use two pieces of paper with a layer of a thin black “carbon paper” sandwiched in between.  The carbon paper imprinted what you typed onto the lower piece of paper.  If a mistake was made in typing while using carbon paper, you had to erase both the mistake on the original and also on the carbon paper copy.
    Anyway let’s just say that things are infinitely easier and quicker using a word processing program on the computer.
    I am glad Mom had me take typing in high school despite my frustration in having to use that ancient Underwood fossil.  Learning how to properly type has benefitted me throughout my life.

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Monday 20 January 2020

Storm Chips

    I take an interest in new terminology, and whenever I hear a new term my ears perk up.  That was the case last Saturday morning when I was lying in bed contemplating the new day, listening to CBC on the radio.  The host of the program, who was from the Maritimes, was discussing the huge snowstorm/blizzard that was just about to slam into Newfoundland, and she mentioned about how everyone there was busy stocking up on supplies to help them deal with the storm.
    She spoke of batteries, milk, and storm chips flying off of the shelves.
    “Storm chips?”  I had never heard that term before and wondered what it referred to.
    Luckily, the news guy, who was with the host didn’t know what she was talking about either, and asked her what storm chips were.
    She then explained that storm chips where just salty junk food like potato chips.  I guess whenever a big storm approaches there is a run on grocery stores for chips to give the victims a bit of comfort as they deal with the deep snow, and high winds.
    The photos showing the aftermath of the Newfoundland  blizzard were amazing:  15 foot (4.5m) high snow drifts, cars totally buried, and snow piled up to the top of front doors.  I also saw some photos showing the empty store shelves, completely denuded of storm chips.
    Luckily for today’s blog, we did have some storm chips in the house that I could use for the photo. (I too also like to be prepared for storms.)

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Sunday 19 January 2020

The Daily Cleaning Staff

    Here are two members of the daily cleaning staff.  I see them about every other time I go outside; they keep themselves very busy.  They clean out the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder, lick out the peanut butter I put in a hanging log for the woodpeckers, and make sure that everything I put in the compost pile disappears.  They are very efficient.
    I do get mad at them sometimes because I really put out the sunflower seeds and peanut butter for the birds, but at the same time I feel sorry for the deer because I know their life is hard over the winter.  I do have a bird feeder hanging high in a tree, out of reach of deer, and likewise, they can’t get to all of the peanut butter, so the birds don’t do without.   
    The deer are welcome to everything in the compost pile.

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Saturday 18 January 2020

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

''Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
       This novel is about the contracted friendship between two Chinese girls that begun when the two were six years old.   This special relationship was created because the girls had eight things in common, things like the date of their birthdays and the death of a sister.   They were however different in that Snow Flower came from a prominent, wealthy, and cultured family, while Lily, who is the narrator of the story, came from a poorer farm family.
      The two girls would meet several times a year and those visits resulted in an intense bond between them.   The most memorable and horrific part of the novel began when the girls were seven, that is when their feet were bound. I found this event very distasteful, due to the agony the young girls had to endure and the stupidity of the practice that could kill them, or if they were lucky, just semi-cripple them. 
       At the time, Chinese women with some wealth had to spend most of their lives in an upstairs room with other women.  Women had a secret written language called nu shu, and the two “sames” in this novel, would communicate by using the language written on a fan that was passed back and forth between them.   
      The novel follows the struggles of Lily and Snow Flower’s lives through girlhood, marriage, and all the way to death, through reversals of fortunes, good times, and a period of near starvation.
      While well written and interesting, I will always remember this book for describing the barbaric practice of foot binding.
    I found it curious that every time the word “cash” was used in the novel it was italicized. 

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Friday 17 January 2020

Cold Forest

    Here is a photo I took yesterday morning at -40 when the sun was shining through the trees.  You can see the cold haze defusing the light.
    Since yesterday it has warmed up quite a bit, but it was still -25C (-13) this morning and is supposed to stay cold today and tonight and then start to approach our normal temperature (-5C to -15C) by Sunday.  
    I expect you are probably as tired of this cold snap (having to read my harping about it every day) as I am.  The cold doesn’t inspire me to do much outside, although I will probably have to crank up the snow blower and clear my driveway today. 

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Thursday 16 January 2020


    Yesterday when we went for our walk with Lexi I was happy to notice a sundog (or sun dog) up in the sky.  It is that faint rainbow-like area just right of the peak.  It is caused by the light of the sun refracting off of ice crystals in the sky.  The reason I was happy to see it was because sundogs often are a precursor of a change in the weather, and after yesterdays -40C (-40F) temperatures, I was ready for a change.
    The weather did change: this morning our temperature was a balmy 21C ( 6F), and the trend is forecast to continue to warm.
    The sundog I saw was just to the right of the sun, but sometimes you can see two; one each side of the sun.  I don’t have a clue why they are called sundogs.

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Wednesday 15 January 2020

Minus 40

    When we got up this morning our thermometer was showing -40 degrees.  That is the same in both Celsius and Fahrenheit.  The weather station at the McBride Library had the same reading.  It has been decades since we had a -40, and I hope it will be more decades since it reappears. 
    Our weather forecast shows that we will slowly be warming up to the point where next week we get a day that is above freezing.  I hope it is correct.
    The photo shows all what I saw out of our double-glazed balcony window yesterday as all the moisture in the house condensed on the glass.   You can make out the spruce tree and the sunshine on the mountains across the valley.

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Tuesday 14 January 2020

Clear and COLD

    It was -36C (-33F) outside this morning.  Inside the house it was 13C (55F).  I should have put another log into the wood stove last night.  
    Yesterday when I took this shot of Beaver Mountain it was -26C (-15F).  We were doing out afternoon walk.  Luckily when it gets this cold it is very still outside without wind, and that was the case yesterday.  I liked the haze on the mountain, it seemed to help emphasis the cold temperature.  
    Below is a screen shot I took from the Living Earth app.  The ugly rusty-red tongue covering western Canada shows where the frigid temperatures lay.  The white dot is McBride.

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Monday 13 January 2020

Burning Birch

    The cold snap is upon us.  This morning it was -34C (-29F).  Brrrr.  For most of this winter, which has been fairly mild, I have been burning spruce, pine, aspen, and cottonwood firewood in our wood stove.  I have been saving my birch firewood for colder temperatures, and now that they have arrived I have started burning it.  
    Birch is our best firewood for cold weather.  It burns slow, hot, and long.  It is a whole lot heavier than the other woods I burn.  The white bark is really flammable and I often use it to start up my stove along with paper and kindling, when the stove is cold.  Now that I am burning birch I usually have hot coals left over in the morning, so don’t really have to start the fire from scratch.
    The photo shows the birch pieces in my firewood carrying cradle.

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Sunday 12 January 2020

Snow Silhouettes

    Yesterday was a day of weather transition as a very cold high system moved in, and so we had a wild day before it started settling down to the cold.  What a quick plunge in temperature it was.  When we left our house for our afternoon walk, the temperature was -4C (24F) and 30 minutes later when we returned home the temperature had plunged to -12C (10F) and a blizzard has blasting us.  
    The wind was making our walk very unpleasant when we started out and by the time we got back to our car the wind was carrying snow that was blowing sideways in our faces.  
    The cold is now upon us, with colder temperatures yet to come.  This morning the outside temperature was -19F (-2F)

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Saturday 11 January 2020

A Bleak Winter's Day

    We are experiencing some winter storms to shake us awake before a really cold (-38C, -36F) spell moves end starting tonight.  I have been dreading the coming cold snap ever since I heard it was on the horizon a few days ago.  It is supposed to be the coldest we have gotten since the turn of the century.
    Even though it was just -6C (21F) yesterday there was a really strong wind which stung our faces as we went for our afternoon walk yesterday.  The blowing snow sure made McBride look bleak.

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Friday 10 January 2020

Unforeseen Winter Problems

    We got Lexi this summer, so this is our first winter with her.  She loves the cold and rolling around in the snow, so we were happy to see that behavior, but there is one problem we didn’t see coming.  Whenever she does her business (both one and two) she insists they be done in or around organic matter, grass, or ground detritus.  The big problem that winter has caused is that all of those perfect places are covered with snow, so poor Lexi’s choices for location are severely limited.
    When she has to go, she sniffs “here” and “there”, and then back to “here” again, then still not satisfied, she moves on to sniff another place.  About the only spots with organic matter left are right beside the house where there isn’t much snow, or like in the photo beside the road where the grader has stirred up some grass that was under the snow.
    Back and forth she goes trying to find the right spot eventually she lowers her expectations and does her business, but I don’t think it’s entirely satisfactory to her.  Luckily she quickly forgets and scrambles on to explore the winter world.
    She also has a couple of other peculiar habits concerning pooping and peeing.  After she performs, she takes a couple of steps away then begins kicking backward furiously.  The other thing we find a bit strange is how she always turns her back to us when she poops.  I guess she is shy.

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Thursday 9 January 2020

Media Rich

    I decided to look up Jan. 9 on my 1976 diary to see if I could come up with a topic for this blog.  The thing that caught my eye on that entry was this:  “We could get a radio station at 4:00 for some reason.”  For three years when I was teaching in a remote one-room school up near Takla Lake, BC it was a rare thing to hear a radio station (a television station was an impossibility).  Living without the media was quite a shock to a news junkie like myself.
    Like I said there was no television, very rarely we could we pick up a radio station, and we had no telephone.   We did subscribe to several magazines in an attempt to stay somewhat current, but they usually arrived weeks after they hit the news stands.  We pretty much lived in a media void.
    Our lives today are so much different.  Even though we now still live in a really isolated rural place, we have access to a media glut.  We’ve got satellite television, radio any time we turn it on, and most of all we have the internet to instantly inform us about anything that’s happening in the world. 
    I read through the news daily on my iPad and usually tune in to a couple of news shows.  There are movies, and TV series that can be watched live or streamed at my convenience.   Our problem now is not that don’t have any media, today the problem is trying not to over load yourself with it.

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Tuesday 7 January 2020

The Mountains are Blue

    There isn’t much color around on these cloudy winter days, and this morning I was going to write about how everything seemed to be shades of gray.  I stepped out on my snow-covered balcony to snap a photo that would make that point, but when I looked at the photo I had taken I realized that I was wrong about everything being gray.  The mountains are blue.

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Monday 6 January 2020

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

    This novel follows the life of Li-yan, a girl born to a poor tea-picking Akha ethnic family in the mountainous region of China near the Thai border.  Springwell, their tiny hamlet is very isolated and the Akha superstitions and traditions remain very strong even in 1988, when the novel begins. 
       Li-Han’s mother, the village midwife and herbal medicine expert, decided that her daughter will follow her in that profession.   Li-han’s first trip to deliver a baby with her mother, turns into a disaster, when perfectly healthy twins are born and have to be immediately killed because of a Akha superstition  which deems twin births as being very unlucky. 
       Akha is horrified at the murders of the healthy infants and tries to prevent their murder after which  shefeels shame at her weakness and her defiance of tradition.  Her mother, while mad, is understanding.    She gives Li-han a secret plot of very ancient tea trees that have been passed down through the female line of the family for generations.  The land and trees are rumored to be useless, but her mother insists they are a treasure that should remain secret. 
      As Li-han grows older she becomes the first in her family to attend school, and there she is recognized by her teacher as being gifted.  The teacher enables her to continue her education by attending a high schools in a larger town.  She is scheduled to take the test for university, but her hormones and love for a schoolmate get in the way.
      Li-han soon discovers she is pregnant.   However the boy she loves (and her family hates) has already left to find work in Thailand, not realizing she is pregnant.   Her mother helps keep the pregnancy secret and with her heart breaking, Li-han leaves the infant girl who is born at an orphanage in a nearby city.
      When her boyfriend does finally return, they are married, and quickly head to the orphanage to retrieve their baby girl, only to discover she has been adopted by a couple from America.  Heartbroken they make the long trek to Thailand where her husband says he can get work. 
      It soon becomes evident that her family’s assessment of Li-han’s new husband was correct; he is lazy, and starts using drugs.  Li-han escapes to return home with her husband in pursuit, but he is killed by a tiger trying to save her life. 
      This is only the first part of Li-han’s story, there much more to come in the novel, including a sudden spike in tea prices, her lost daughter growing up in the US, and a new profession and life for Li-han.  
     The novel is broad; spanning years from the 1980’s to the present, and geography from rural mountainous China, to the wealthy urban centers of modern day China and America.   The storyline is dramatic and engaging and immerses the reader into a relatively unknown ethnic culture and the world of tea, its growing, its processing, and its place in the high-end world economy.  It is well worth a read.

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