So many things have been happening lately that it is hard to stop and get my bearings. Our move to Halifax has been approved and will happen in the spring in late April or May. The sheer amount of things to do before then is …
People come and go. Eagles come and go. Water is always moving. On Saturday we rafted part of the Squamish River, which is the largest home in the world for bald eagle populations. It wasn’t a wild fast paddle but a slow one, which went from Squamish to the brackish waters of the tidal area, where we also saw numerous seals coming up from the ocean to feed on salmon. It is journeys like this, where I don’t want to leave the place and could stay all day, despite the cold water chilling my feet, gently puddling around my gumboots. I thought of life, of people I loved, and knew I had to give Mom a call that night because we were due for a call–hadn’t talked significantly for about a month. Rivers remind me of life, of time. Call me a nostalgic person, and I don’t care. But when I see the beauty of the world I remember what has gone before me, the love I felt growing up, and there are few people I can share these memories with outside of my mother. We aren’t stuck in the past, and we are also excited about the present and still dream of things to do tomorrow. But sometimes I do get a little sentimental, and though she was busy that night, this morning we finally talked–for almost four hours. We solved a few mysteries. Find out below.
It’s been a strange year in a few ways. Late last year I posted how my dad’s first cousin Linda didn’t look like she’d make it. She didn’t. I learned early this year of her death. She fought her entire life against racism and for equality for all and taking care of our natural world. And she was a sweet second cousin to me–making it to our southern road trip back in 2012 and joining us at Jerry’s restaurant, which was like a running tradition in our family. This was how January 2018 came in for me. You know, when people die we know it could be us next time…and life doesn’t seem so fair sometimes. Like when my husband’s cousin died suddenly during the early morning of November 1 this year of a heart attack and left behind a young wife and three children. Sometimes people are expected to die. Sometimes not.
My mother and I talk about people we’ve known, places we’ve been. Some memories are a little foggy. Like I remember a place we camped once when we were kids, and I recall one of my brothers and I finding wild grapevines out in the forest and swinging on them, pretending to be Tarzan. Back then if we camped, we usually did tent-camping, but at this place it was a cabin and had actual cots. We’d never been there before or gone after it. We were happy about the cabin shelters because there was a great thunderstorm that night. Because I was so much younger, I never remembered the name of the place, but after talking about it this morning, Mom had me convinced it was near Shades State Park, and I didn’t really believe her because we went to Shades and Turkey Run often–but only hiking, never camping. But I looked around the area nearby, and there is actually a place called Clements Canoes Outdoor Center that rents primitive cabins that are kind of in the middle of the forest, not around other cabins, and I think that might be it. One mystery solved.
As we talked, she asked me once again to look on the internet or Facebook to find one of her best friends, Susan, from the Chicago area. I had tried researching before, but not for several months. Sure enough, it turns out that she died in April this year. We moved to the Chicago area when I was 13 and stayed there for nearly a decade. Mom and Dad had met some very good friends–but she called Susan her best friend. Eventually they lost touch, but around that time Susan’s husband died, and as it turned out then so did she a couple years later. I hated reading the obituary over the phone, but that mystery was solved too, and I felt sorry for Mom. She lost her parents at a fairly young age, she lost her husband, my dad, and each year we learn of more deaths from the people she knew back then. This year another of her friends from the Chicago area died too. Mom is still kicking it though. Susan was the mother of one of the members of the band Umphrey’s McGee–who one of my brothers also grew up with–who I will feature in my next song of the week soon. They were one of the bands, along with Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt and Jon Cleary, Maroon 5, Philip Glass, Zac Brown Band, moe., the Bad Plus, Blitzen Trapper, Mason Jennings, John Scofield, Piers Faccini, Switchfoot, Brett Dennen, Ky-Mani Marley, Sun Kil Moon, Ben Solee, Ra Ra Riot, Spoek Mathambo, Taj Mahal, Toad the Wet Sprocket, the Drive-By Truckers, Bobby Long, The String Cheese Incident, Ki: Theory, Moondoggies, Vusi Mahlesela, Disco Biscuits, O.A.R., Ziggy Marley, Los Lobos, Dawes, Abigail Washburn, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Brandi Carlile and many more, who donated to the Patagonia Music Collective, which raises money for the environment. Umphrey’s McGee donated proceeds from “Hajimemashite” to Climate Cycle.
I listened to the song this morning after talking with Mom. I barely recognize Joel (founding member and keyboardist), as he was also young when I knew him, but I really like what he is doing and am always inspired when people like those in his band care about the planet. Hajimemashite is a greeting in Japanese but translates literally to “it’s a beginning.” A quip that also ties with “all things must pass.” Listening to the song made me think of Joel’s parents and the great friendship and love they had for our family, and how, even though they are both gone, there’s this beauty that lives on in the music their son makes. It reminded me of a moving river and the continuity of eagles and seals and salmon and all the other life that exists in that ecosystem and may continue to if we don’t ruin it.
Speaking of musicians, the first guy I ever dated was in high school, and his name was Tom. I found out quite by accident this year that he is dead. I don’t know when he died, but I guess after high school he must have gone into the army. Eventually he got married and had a son. I lost touch with him, for even though we didn’t date long, we remained great friends, but I also moved away from the Chicago area after high school. And I went on to kind of drift after college–ending up falling in love with California, the ocean, the mountains, and so on–it was never my style to stay in one place for too long, though I guess now I have found the place that is more me than any place before–the temperate rainforest of British Columbia–and having also found my soul mate and true love here, I guess it makes sense to not feel like a drifter anymore, though together my husband and I love to see new places. However, we know for sure now, having explored so many areas in the province, that there is no place like home. And as we learned over the weekend on the raft trip, the temperate rainforest of British Columbia has the largest biomass areas in the world. Yeah, give me that. Give me the biomass, and that’s my forever home.
Anyway, Tom was a guitarist in a band that I think I’ve forgotten the name of–another mystery to solve some day–and we met at our job, where a few long-lasting friends at my high school worked back then. Tom and I kind of hooked up at a party, and our dating consisted of me going to listen to his band play on the weekends. No movies. No dinners. But I liked it. We did this for a couple months before he just kind of drifted away and eventually dated another girl for about the same amount of time. I think we didn’t work out because we were like brother and sister to begin with. We talked and hung out all the time, and it was finally clear to me when I experienced my first heartbreak ever that I felt more strongly for him than he did me, but of course it was okay because we were young and stayed friends, and I also started dating others. But he was a kind and gentle soul, super skinny as we all were back then, with big blue eyes. His band played a lot of Led Zeppelin–they seemed to really like the song “Dazed and Confused” and some songs I’d never heard of before like James Gang’s “Funk 49”. I occasionally still hear that song on the radio, and always point it out to my husband as being a cool song that never seemed very mainstream. I think it actually came out on Rock Band or Guitar Hero at one point in time, and I’m like “Yes! I know this song,” while the rest of our friends had no clue about how cool it is, nor had ever heard it.
I’m rambling like the river. I think of my mother’s sweet southern voice and her love of remembering old things with me as we walk down memory lane or dream of seeing each other in the future. Time is not linear. There’s always the present moment, which like a drop of rain dissipates into a puddle and expands the water. There’s the past that never dies because it lives on in us. There’s the future that is part of today’s planning. The current just keeps moving. And sometimes we move with it; sometimes stand like sentinels at the bank, watching it.
Oh how the days drag on. We were beginning to experience a hint of spring, and one day last week I hiked home without a jacket, marveling at the rushing waters of Hoy-Scott Creek, and the tall pines and cedars along its bank, and felt that urge to run (in fact, on non-icy days I like to run home from the train). Still recovering from a brutal cold, I have realized that when I do start running regularly (I have only been able to run irregularly this winter), I still need to finish the 5K training program before getting back to where I was before. And then over the weekend it began snowing again. On Sunday night I was up at midnight and glanced outside to see a heavy snow pouring over the soft orange light of the street lamp out front. Now, once again, we’re dealing with black ice in the morning and snow or very cold rain each day.
However, I do not want to complain about weather. It’s a trope, a trite past-time in one way; in another way, I know that I need to appreciate the utter beauty of the elements in our natural world. Yesterday, as I was getting off the train after work, my eyes went north to the mountains like usual. It was snowing again in big, fast flakes. Mist shrouded the city center and buildings faded into the beyond. Behind them, the coastal mountains rose white and unseen. I just know that they are there, having hiked and ran their trails often.
Years ago, I read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air about his experience on Mt. Everest in the 1996 disaster (and later his book Into the Wild). I was drawn to each of these books, and was as well similarly to a documentary on Netflix, which I watched over the weekend, called “The Summit,” about a 2008 disaster on K2, when 11 mountain climbers died. When I read or watch these memoirs, I am not drawn to the disaster but to the determination of mountain climbers and to the courage it must take to go to the big white beyond. To that fog in the mountains and in elements that aren’t comfortable at all. To put all your strength and willpower into a brief summit panorama must be exciting.
I thought yesterday about big white mountains as I looked north after work as Canadian geese flew northeast and honked. These are the same mountains we’ve been to in the summer, spring, and fall. The mountains are like bookends–the coastal mountains to the north and the Northern Cascades to the south. Hopefully soon we can plan a winter hike. One last hike before the cherry trees begin to blossom.
At the same time, though we have had a weird winter here, we have to wonder just how long these glacial mountains will remain in the world. And though I don’t have any crazy ideas about climbing huge mountains, I’d love to climb smaller ones and reach the glaciers and be up close to them.
It gives me great pleasure to see mountains nearby, and even to sense them when I cannot see them, when the sky is shrouded by a white veil of fog. Even though I know what lies beyond, the mountains still seem mystical and mysterious. You could let your imagination run wild and create fictional stories about all kinds of possibilities existing into the great beyond.
Featured image. By Mount_Everest_as_seen_from_Drukair2.jpg: shrimpo1967derivative work: Papa Lima Whiskey 2 (talk) – This file was derived from Mount Everest as seen from Drukair2.jpg:, CC BY-SA 2.0
Note that we are porting this server to another, so this post might be lost, but in case it is I will have backed it up and will repost it later.
Our winter wonderland is here, starting last Monday and continuing, with snow all week, through the weekend. My return to running is on the treadmill. While my toe seems mostly healed, I fell on black ice Tuesday morning and have a fudged-up hip. It only bothers me when I’m running, so am just going easy, starting again with the C25K program–which has been pretty easy compared to where I was at before the toe issue. The big bummer is needing to run on a treadmill, and only twice a week so far, since it is hard to even walk outside, much less run!
However, we are now commuting to work on the new skytrain, which finally made its way to our neck of the woods, which means we use way fewer fossil fuels and get outside more. It’s about a half mile walk each way, including to and from the bus stops, so that’s an extra mile every day–my Google fit has been very active lately!
Friday we had the most beautiful of snowfalls, and I only had to work at home three hours that morning. I had some banked overtime and time off for the rest of the day. It snowed all day, with large flakes still coming down when Morgan got home. So after dinner, we decided to dig out the snowshoes and went on a neighborhood “ski”. I was already wearing my super baggy flannel pajama pants and didn’t even change.
Our neighborhood is quite hilly and full of side roads. We were surprised at the number of neighbors out that night–all the kids were making snowballs and snowmen or just sledding around. Some folks on the street behind us were snowboarding down the steep road leading from their street to past ours. And people were trying to keep up with the shoveling as the snow was falling fast and hard. We had so much fun and were out for a while. I liked how there was a feeling of community spirit, even more so than being out in summer. The nice thing is that it was just around freezing, so wasn’t too cold.
So, the new train commute is nice in that I walk more, and this time of year, as we head into the winter solstice, I hike up the cold, snowy path to the train before sunrise and hike home after sunset. I can watch the turning of the sky from the train, and right now the dark skies are clear and with a big moon smiling down.
I listen to music both ways, and often thoughts of the world pace through my mind. This morning, the deep snow of our yard greeted me with diamonds flickering beneath a waning gibbous moon and dim streetlights. It is hard to walk in the snow and on the icy paths, but I figure it’s good balance training for trail running when it gets warm again.
I enjoy being out in the elements in the winter, and love the dawns and dusks in the snow. I do have many more thoughts I’d like to share–about the state of the world right now, particularly–but I’ll write more in the new year. For now you can see my special holiday announcement at Eco-fiction.com.
The featured image is a pastel sketch of me snowshoeing Friday night.
Over the weekend it seemed I bumped my toe several times, even before dipping into the mulled wine on Saturday. My father-in-law suggested putting something over my feet, so I did–slippers. After a very busy but great weekend full of family and friends visiting, and …