Sunday, July 31, 2011

Could be.

I'm hoping for a brand new day today.

Not a day like yesterday. Or the day before. A new day.

I really am.

So I asked my wife if I could put the pot of purple flowers on the front step. She shrugged yes.

And today, looking outside, gazing at the clouds, and staring at the hills at the end of our street and letting the wind wind its fingers in my hair, my eyes sting like it could be.

Could be.

I hope against hope. And I wish I knew for sure.

A word or two my friend
There's no telling how the day might end
We'll never know until we see
That there's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills
So don't lose heart
Give the day a chance to start
There's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills.
~lyrics by Ron Sexsmith

Friday, July 29, 2011

Six-Minute Window

Avoid chugging this.
And another thing.

How is it possible to have a bad cold in the middle of summer? There should be some universal law against having a chest cold when it’s hot. Or sunny. Or camping. Or in a pool. Or when you’re on a holiday. Or in July. Or August. Or on the weekend. Or during the week. Or if you’re alive. Can’t Oprah do something? Or Tom Cruise? Somebody?

And another thing.

There’s no way one’s freezer should break down in the summer. Isn’t there some laws of physics this goes against? How can the most important time to keep something frozen be the time when “frozen” is a setting that is no longer available? Hey physicists: it’s not like we can put the ice cream outside like we usually can for eight months of the year. And oh the ice cream...we’re talking three boxes of ice-sandwiches and fudgsicles. That’s just wrong.

And another thing.

There’s no way a person should have to wake up early in the summer if he or she is not required to wake up early or chooses not to wake up early. And when one does wake early one should not have to count backwards thirty-eight times or meditate or basically weep in frustration to try to return to a restful sleep. A guy should just be able to snap his fingers and tah-dah: sleep. There should be an easy button for this sort of thing like say a snooze button behind our ears.

And another thing.

There should be like, let’s say something more-than-reasonable, like maybe a six-minute period each day when all human beings (not just Oprah and Tom Cruise) are granted three wishes. I’m not talking about wishes where you can wish for a million dollars or another million wishes. Pshaw. That’s just taking advantage. I’m talking about when you can wish your cold away or wish your constant coughing away or wish your freezer to work again and also wish back the ice cream you had to throw out (and since we’re on the topic let’s just wish away all calories in ice-cream forever) and maybe after that’s done just wish yourself back to sleep again so you don’t have to stare at the wall for an hour. Is this unreasonable? I don’t think so. I would highly doubt that this six minute window is capable of ruining the balance of the entire universe or anything.

And another thing....

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This is my hood.

See the white specks?
Those are wheat flowers. Who knew?
Sometimes the little things are actually the big things. Did you know that more foods are made with wheat than with any other grain?


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Hills & Mutant Trees Have Eyes?

The Crooked Bush creeped me out.
It's a perfect horror movie location if I ever saw one.
Imagine it at midnight. 

My family visited this genetically mutated grove of Aspen trees near Hafford, Saskatchewan while on our summer road trip. Science hasn't yet determined the cause of this oddity. Trees outside the grove are straight.

Inside the grove it feels somewhat enclosed. My pea-brain inner voice kept whispering, "behind you." Thus I wandered through the Crooked Bush like a rat in a maze. 

The really creepy part happened after we left. We found a geocache at the end of the road past these gnarled trees and then a pick-up truck came over the hill and down the road toward our vehicle. I swear the first thing that popped into my head was this (just the music, not the claymation so much.) 

Instant adrenaline. 

So I peeled on out of there. In my rear-view mirror I watched the pick-up follow us for a while then turn around and drive back up over the hill...what the hell? So I joked that the pick-up was most definitely filled with extras from The Hills Have Eyes. But we all knew it was true. So while I fishtailed down that gravel road out of there, we all began weeping/ screaming/ laughing like maniacs until we finally reached the highway again. What can I say? In my little family, barbaric yawps diffuse the tension caused by overactive imaginations.

And that folks is why I TOTALLY recommend this place.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mystery Solved?

I may have solved a mystery.

I spent a lot of time with my fabulous Grandmother recently and I just have to admit it: she's aged a lot in the past two years since I last saw her.

But I don't want to admit it.

After visiting her for a few days, on the trek home I saw four old men sitting together in a Tim Horton's. One seemed animated, the others a little bored. They were wearing matching clothing. By "matching" I mean the typical old guy uniform: plaid shirts, baggy old man pants, socks and galoshes.

Old people fascinate me; I kinda love them. Always have. My Grandma is one of my absolute favourite people and she just celebrated 88. Well, celebrated might be a misnomer. It's more like she ate her cake, cracked a joke and that was enough of that fuss. She's just totally over herself. We also spent time with my wife's Grandmother who has early Alzheimer's. She scrutinized me like she might any "stranger," but then she stepped forward, made eye contact, smiled coquettishly, rubbed my face and offered me a cookie. Both these old ladies make me pay attention to what I have and what I haven't. And that's how I think I may have solved this mystery: at what point exactly does one become old?

Remember counting birthdays? Pining for adulthood. I couldn't wait to be a man. And then I was. And then I got married and had kids and suddenly I was 32. And I couldn't even remember how old I was. And then this happened at a cousin's wedding: I ventured outside with a drink where a group of young people had gathered to share stories and so I shared a story too and everyone laughed and then some drunk kid in his early twenties said, "Hey who's the old guy?" They all looked at me. Confused, I turned around to look for the old guy too and that made them laugh again. I'd like to say it was a minor epiphany but what that little prick said stung a bit. I was the old guy?! At 32?

Thirty is not old. Nor is 40. Ditto 50. Even 60. It's not just the number. I'm sure now it's something else.

After observing those old men interacting, drinking their tea, their legs crossed, socks pulled up, galoshes dangling, I think I might know the point, the juncture, the very minute when one becomes old: it's when you stop wearing flip flops.

Think about it.

My Grandma insisted she didn't want anything for her birthday. She says she has everything she'd ever want plus a cane and a walker and one leg shorter than the other. If wish I could see her face when she opens my birthday package and discovers pink flip flops. I'd say that's instant youth.

Friday, July 22, 2011


My sister-in-law's amazing and gooey cinnamon buns.
Only 8.42 million calories of deliciousness. 
See previous post.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wordfuse (Overeating Edition)

(noun): formerly referred to as my waistline; a side-effect of the immense number of snacks I've consumed on this little holiday. Bummer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

This is my hood.

Look who followed my brother home to have breakfast with us this morning.

Born very recently (perhaps yesterday) and apparently much too late in the season, it seems this tiny runt of a deer was abandoned. My brother found it standing on the road and when he reached out the fawn ran right over to him. He waited for the doe but she did not appear.

Starving and trembling but otherwise seemingly uninjured, it roused after a bottle of milk and took a tentative walk in his farmyard and then up onto his deck with its impossibly dainty legs. Suddenly it seemed to remember it was wild and attempted to bolt, so my brother returned it to the spot where he found it.

Yup. It's just another day on a farm in Saskatchewan.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yeah, no. Probably Not.

Does anyone else do this to cool off?

Yeah, no. Probably not.

What you are witnessing is motivated by several factors:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sometimes it's the little things.

It's hard to tell by the photo but it's even pink.
Every little girl needs accessories but if you're a little girl growing up in Saskatchewan, apparently you need this accessory too. Sweet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wordfuse (Saskatchewan Edition)

Care to hug a barbed-wire buffalo?
Just Saskatchewander right over to North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

Road trip! Visiting family, we are about to become Saskatchewanderers again. I can't take credit for this wordfuse; there really is a Saskatchewanderer. Now that's a sweet summer job.

You'd like Saskatchewan. It's totally Canada's backyard. Think barbeques. Family picnics. It's homey. It's happy. It's also lakes. And fishing. And really big gophers. (Some are flat on the highway, but still.) It's wide, wide open sky and all the space one could ever dream of. It's a geo-cacher's dream. And it's mostly NOT flat, but I must admit, aesthetically, I love a strong horizon line. It's also a blend of cultures and history. Bannock S'mores anyone? Perogie Pizza? Did I mention lakes?

Anyway, I've traveled all over plenty of it and these are some of my favourite places about my long-ago but fondly remembered home province (in no particular order):  

1. Lloydminster's border. You can stand in two different provinces at the same time. Or even hop back and forth between the two. That's sort of the story of my life. Cool.
2. Batoche, especially the cemetery. A bit of time travel. Ever hear of Gabriel Dumont? Louis Riel?
3. Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon. Art. Food. Music. Improv. Awesome. No wonder Joni Mitchell grew up in this city.
4. Where modern mingles with dinosaurs: the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon. Inspiring.
5. I got engaged here: Mendel Art Gallery.
6. Tobin Lake has big fish. Seriously.
7. Have you ever seen the Canadian Shield? Think mountains after they've been stomped on. Or like Jenga right after the collapse. That's Creighton, Saskatchewan and nearby Flin Flon, Manitoba.
8. I was always jealous of my childhood friend Edwina because she got to go to Camp Easter Seal. One summer though, we went to visit her and swam in a nearby salt-water lake. Go bobbing, without the apples.
9. And here's one place I hope to see as we Saskatchewander this trip: The Crooked Bush.
10. And finally...
Grandma & Grandpa's backyard. Pure love.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Live by the Sword....

Patent pending.
You know that spot in the crook of your arm just below your bicep? it still called your elbow on the front side? Anyway, excuse me for dazzling you with my extensive medical jargon but you know that little divot? It's that spot where the nurse rubs alcohol before she inserts the needle to extract blood. Well, needles don't bother me but years ago a hornet stung me right in that very spot.

It took me to my knees.

I had been stung before. I'm not allergic. But I felt that venom bullet through my body like that scene in 127 Hours when Aron Ralston finally cuts through the nerves in his forearm. Okay. A tad too much hyperbole there but imagine someone crushing a lit cigar into your elbow divot.

Whoa. And it hurt for days.

So when I noticed a hornets' nest the size of a soccer ball attached to the corner of our fence behind the storage shed in the backyard, I had to go lie down for a while.

And then I forgot about it, plus I went away for a week.

Well. A week later the hornets had built a condo.

All but one of my neighbours have little kids. I had to do something. But I had to do something and remain very very far away from hornet ground zero. Here's the conversation I had in my head:
Me: Could I shoot at it?
Me2: a. You don't know how to use a gun. b. You don't even have a gun.
Me: Would I be able to flick it with an extension cord?
Me2: You're an idiot.
Me: What if I somehow rigged up a garbage bag underneath it, raised the bag up and around it then simply cinched the bag closed?
Me2: What? You think you're Doc Ock?
Me: Maybe I'll just huck a badminton racket at it?
Me2: Dude.

Me2 isn't so great for my ego. Nevertheless, as I'm sure it's completely obvious from the photo, I built a hornet sword. Yup. A hornet sword. (I bet you've never heard those two words used together before.)

Made from my son's home-made canoe paddle, some duct tape, and a long piece of plywood left over from some DIY failure, I constructed a hornet sword. There was only one more thing to do before the battle: don my Conan-the-Barbarian metal tunic. And then kick some hornet ass. For those who enjoy swashbuckling with hornets, here's the breakdown:

1. Carefully extend the 3 meter hornet sword between the shed and the fence. Aim it at those evil bastards hornets.
2. Take several deep breaths.
3. Stab hornet's nest.
4. Poop pants.
5. Drop the hornet sword and jump through the purposely left-open door of the shed.
6. Attempt to close the shed door just like Lucius does in that movie The Village when Those-we-don't-speak-of were about to invade the fair Ivy's house (aka shut it quickly in slow motion for dramatic effect) but in reality slam it shut as you stage-whisper MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY.
7. Wait in creepy darkness for 2 minutes.
8. See visual below.

9. Close door again. Wait in complete darkness for another 2 minutes. Peek outside again.
10. Run screaming to the house.

I'm much calmer now. But I have a question: what do I do about the swarm of hornets rebuilding their condo in my backyard?

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's not just about the cookies.

At my house, when these are involved,
it gets dicey.

My wife is at it again. She recently informed me there’s this rule: ONE chocolate, ONE vanilla. In other words, I am not supposed to take three chocolate-flavoured Girl Guide cookies and leave the vanilla ones for some other poor sucker (aka one of my kids, or her) but
a.      Who declared these dubious Girl Guide cookie rules?
b.      My wife isn’t a Girl Guide leader and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a copy of their policy handbook so how could she possibly know?
c.      Everyone knows that the only difference between the Girl Guide chocolate and vanilla cookies is that one is brown and one isn’t so let someone else eat the vanilla because it’s a psychological thing okay?
d.      Er, all of the above (I lost my train of thought.)

My wife does this sometimes. Clearly, she’s never grown up. She declares rules that remind me of that bossy girl on the playground of my youth who would stomp and elbow her way to the top of the pile of the kids and yell “I’m the queen of the castle AND the king of the castle too.” That girl always made me laugh (and to be honest, she made my heart beat a little faster too).

Oh stupid, stupid me. I should have run the other way! Why? Because I want to be king of the castle. At least sometimes. Once a week maybe? By comparison, when I declare rules then pshaw, they never count. No one in my entire family ever follows my rules despite their much-more-sensible nature. See for yourself:

a.      Shut the light off when you leave the room.
b.      Return my tools to their exact location.
c.      If the phone rings and no one answers it then it really isn’t the apocalypse.
d.      Dibs on any sort of home-made baking that comes into the house and when that’s not available, I get all the brown coloured Girl-Guide cookies.

Wow. Is this so much to ask? 

Apparently so. I just checked the pantry and all the Girl Guide cookies ARE GONE.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wordfuse (Need Sleep Edition)

insomniaches (noun) insomnia + aches = the symptoms one experiences after a sustained period of poor sleep including tiredness, extended yawning, blurred vision, a desire to drink gravy and oh yeah, the unicorn I saw in a park today.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Head in the Clouds

Every cloud has a silver lining?

Yesterday, I experienced Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds exhibit at the Art Gallery of Alberta. It feels a little odd, a little off balance. Okay. Possibly a little drunk. More remarkable though was watching strangers interact with the clouds and with each other in the exhibit.

It's kind of impossible not to smile.

Why? Two reasons:
1. It's a little otherworldly.
2. Parents were yelling at their ever-increasingly hyperactive kids.

That Warhol. I think he had quite a sense of humour.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sometimes it's the little things.

When you're a guy and you have no choice but to live in a hotel for a week, it's kinda cool when you return to your room and the cleaning staff has left the toilet seat up for you.

Sometimes it's the little things.

Monday, July 4, 2011

This is my hood.

Where's yours?
This is my favourite theatre. It's old. Locally reknown for its popcorn, it brims with the soft residue of laughter and music and tears and holding hands and first kisses and spilled pop. Its first movie was shown on August 6, 1949. Its first wedding happened last year.

This is the view from above, through that hole in the wall where the projector's light spreads out and flickers. This is my son's view. He's a projectionist, a job soon extinct. He threads the film, repairs the blisters, maintains the machine. One of the perks of his job is free movies whether he's working or not. What a sweet bonus to a job that is already such a great community service to the many people here who couldn't live without this theatre.

My first movie at this theatre was Dances with Wolves. Appropriate considering that like Lt. John Dunbar, I had just moved to the middle of nowhere to start what turned out to be my life. Like Dunbar, I had no idea what approached beyond the unfamiliar horizon.

But everything I ever hoped for found me.

We all need a place like that. We really do. Where's yours?

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Sits. Stills. Stares. All verbs.
Settle: to calm, relieve, relax, quiet, soothe, still.

There's always so much life swirling around with work and family and projects and commitments and so on.

I wait for life to settle. And I love it when it does. Like these last few days.

And then I realized something. Settle is a verb. I keep waiting for things to settle but then I remember: it's me. I have to settle them. I have to settle myself.

"Creep in our ears soft stillness." ~Shakespeare

Friday, July 1, 2011

This is my hood.

Pay attention. Celebrate.
There's something about fireworks. Even from your balcony far away when you can't be at the celebration.

Where I live fireworks don't begin until almost midnight because at that time, the summer sun is finally setting. When I moved way, way north two decades ago, the remarkably late setting sun amazed me. It still makes me pay attention. In early July, I can be fishing at ten o'clock. I can be boating down the river at 11:00. I can read a book on my balcony until almost midnight.

Happy birthday Canada. Love you.
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