I Like That

I Like That
See, hear, taste, touch and inhale the wonders of the world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Along with our suitcases, we were ready to jet off to China. At the airport in Port Hardy, on the north end of Vancouver Island, my husband and I stood anxiously at the door to the tarmac. We climbed up the metal stairs and bent slightly to fit into the belly of the aircraft. We strapped ourselves into our chosen seats and in a few minutes we blazed off into the sky. Once we had landed safely at the Vancouver International airport, we trudged our way through security and boarded a large aircraft. We flew non-stop to Shanghai, China.

Our excursion of a lifetime began in August 2005 with a confirmation phone call from our recruiter in Vancouver who told us that we’d been hired as English teachers with an organization stationed in Beijing.

Frank leaned over and kissed me on the lips. I hugged him as though I would never let him go.

“What a great gift to end up in China,” he said.

"I'd never thought in a million years that I'd be leaving on a jet plane to China," I said.

We spent two days in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, a community located 181 kilometres west of Shanghai, with eighty other English teachers. Together, we learnt what it would take to teach as many as sixty foreign students at a time. The company leader rang a bell and we all turned to face her. She announced that our transports were ready and that we were to gather up our personal things and head to our assigned destinations. Frank and I, and two other teachers would be teaching at the Yichang Number One Middle School in Yichang, Hubei Province.

Mrs. Long, the Head Teacher, and her entourage, met us at the airport with two cars. Perhaps they knew that we had all over packed. They drove us to our apartment where workers hauled our possessions to our assigned second floor apartment and another crew carried our colleagues’ suitcases to their sixth floor apartment. Afterward, we walked around the corner from the teacher’s housing complex to the front doors of the school. In Mrs. Long’s small office, she explained, through an interpreter, the rules and regulations we were expected to follow during our time with the students. We were handed a list of ten rules titled, “Directive Rules For Foreign Teachers Of Yichang No.1 Middle School.” My personal favourite was rule number ten: Love and care for students, never beat up students.

When we returned to our apartment, we unpacked most of our belongings and spread what didn’t fit into the drawers and closets onto the bed in the second bedroom. We had inherited a cozy kitchen, a shower stall and toilet combined, a living room, two bedrooms and a very large entry way. We were giddy with excitement.

“Let’s go explore our neighbourhood,” Frank said.

“Sure, let me get the camera,” I said.

We would explore as many streets and alleyways as time would allow. There seemed to be as many roads as there were people. Each day offered up a unique experience. The city was filled with over four million people and in very short order we met a wonderful pair of beautiful young girls who would end up being friends with us for the duration of our six-month stay in Yichang.

Street scenes of Yichang, Hubei province 2005

School property scenes Yichang 2005

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yoga at Fifty-Seven

I LIKE THAT our yoga instructor is my age, however, that’s where our similarities end. She has long hair, virtually no bust line, a rib cage that you can see behind her T-shirt, a slim waist, trim hips, firm buttocks and legs that actually come straight down from her hips with that special gape at her pelvic bone that men love so much.

I’ve attended four classes so far and have enjoyed each session tremendously. While Ms. Robin contorts her body like a Cirque du Soliel performer, I do my best to achieve even half of the pose. My wrists and toes, at this point, cannot hold up my body as long as is required with the Downward  Dog pose, for example. I’m working on it at home.

The Tree is another funky stance that requires balance and concentration. At this point, I’m still using my big toe on the bent-knee side to stabilize me. We’ve been assigned the position as homework. Great fun!

My favourite place is the Corpse pose at the end of the session. We cover our eyes, drape our body with a blanket and lay quiet for a while just breathing. Ahhhhh.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

4th Place winner

Bonnie The Birch

Submitted by Susan Black

I walk south on Dogwood Street several times a week and pass by a tree that seems to be calling out for help. I’ve named her Bonnie The Birch.
During the summer, her little leaves flutter in the wind, calling attention to herself, but no one seems to notice her. Instinctively, when the season changes, she releases her accessories and they fall to the ground around her. In the winter months she stands naked but brave, ready for the spring sun to rebirth her foliage.
She stands a meager four feet tall, stunted I suspect, from lack of water. She stands wedged between two huge logs and is strangled by tall grass and the encroaching bully known as the yellow broom plant.
At her roots, there is discarded debris and one of her branches has a plastic cup dangling on the end of it. That day I stepped up to her and removed the unwanted ornament from her outstretched limb.
The sweet thing is located on the northwest corner of the neighbouring property and it is obvious from her appearance that she is need of water. I’m not an arborist, but if this tree is a birch, as I suspect, then she has shallow roots, which need watering during dry periods. I look at her closely and decide that I will try to find her owner and ask if I can adopt her. So far, however, the property owner has not returned my calls. Patiently, Bonnie remains steadfast.

My story was accepted into the Story Tree category in a competition hosted by Greenways Land Trust in Campbell River. They let me know that I had won a tree book. I'm so excited!

Prize winners

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bonnie The Birch Gets A Makeover

At first a stranger, now a friend, Bonnie the Birch was surrounded on September 26, 2012 by companions of like mind who care about the condition of this once abandoned tree. Her recovery started with my plucking a pop can from one of her outstretched branches. Afterward, I felt a cool sensation come over me, as though she was saying thanks.

Since then, my husband and I, along with a few Adopt-A-block volunteers, have cleared away rubbish, weeds and grasses that were encroaching on her, obscuring her beauty. To prepare her setting, first, we gathered various size boulders and placed them in a sturdy circle around her base. Next, we poured two bags of soil on her exposed roots. A generous neighbourhood garden centre owner donated the topsoil.

My excitement was peaked when others came to observe our project.
“It looks great! Look, there are little evergreens exposed now that the weeds have been cleared,” one man said.

The sun beamed brilliantly, illuminating Bonnie’s small green leaves, her crisp white bark and us. We stood for a while, silent, staring at her exquisiteness. I was left with the impression that she was grateful.

If you happen to be travelling on Dogwood Street in Campbell River, give her a glance or stop at the northeast corner of the Campbell River Curling Club to have a closer look. Her leaves will be waving at you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fell To My Knees - Twice

The first time I fell that day was from a wooden bridge. Frank and I were hiking the Quinsam River Trail located a short drive from our home. I was feeling invigorated surrounded by the massive tall trees, some with canopies that blocked the warm sun, others slim, some covered in green moss. We heard the gurgling river beside us and stopped to watch the fish jumping and splashing. They seemed excited to be engulfed in the clear, fast moving stream.
I stomped over a wooden bridge, came to its end and jumped off. The distance proved too much for me. I crashed to my knees; pushed out my arms to keep from falling flat and felt rocks sting my hands.
“Are you okay?” Frank said. He rushed to my side and helped me stand.
I was embarrassed, hurt and angry at not being as agile as I used to be.
I lifted my trousers and saw blood on both knees. I let the fabric fall and pressed forward along the path.
The chirping birds, acrobatic fish and pleasant forest fragrances calmed my nerves as I strolled cautiously along the trail. I drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. I didn’t want the tingling sensation in my knees to detract from adventures on the second trail. We turned off the Quinsam Nature Trail onto Beaver Pond Trail. It took us away from the river, deep into the forest and onto Elk Falls Provincial Park road. A massive log on its side that had trees growing from it attracted me. I stepped closer, my left foot twisted on its side and I fell to my knees. I landed hard on both hands.
Frank lifted me to my feet, put his hand on my back and a guided me to a nearby concrete barrier. He sat me down and prepared what he called a field dressing. He tenderly applied tissue held down with duct tape on my aching knees. We laughed and hugged.
“Third time’s the charm,” he said. We laughed louder and left for home.

Quinsam River Trail Head

Bridges, Obstacles and Precious Views

Trees with curious features

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Plot Gets Adopted

I LIKE THAT Doug A., one of our Adopt-A-Block volunteers, devotes his time to managing a plot of land at the intersection of South Alder and South Murphy in Campbell River. The property belongs legally to the City but in our hearts as citizens of this fine metropolis we would rather see the little junction kept free of weeds, long grasses, rubbish and rodents that love to hide in the mix.
As you walk, bike, hike, skateboard or drive by the connection, stop to have a look at the improvements Doug has made. He’s exposed the two proud evergreens that stand side-by-side and has rescued two precious clusters of yet-to-be-identified yellow flowers. He regularly cuts the grass which, much to its dismay, doesn't receive the water treatment it needs to look as spectacular as it should.
Doug A., is an Adopt-A-Block volunteer who walks over 1400 metres on a regular basis to remove trash from the sidewalks and boulevards in his neighbourhood. He’s a humble man who cares deeply for the environment.
Anyone can take up the challenge of cleaning the sidewalks and boulevards or small territories of Campbell River. If you are interested, contact Susan Black at cleanlivingcr@gmail.com to receive an Adopt-A-Block volunteer package.

Corner of South Alder and South Murphy

Doug A.'s masterpiece

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bonnie the Birch Has a Guardian

I LIKE THAT for the first time in a long time, I awoke with an absolute mission in mind. Today, I would be clearing the weeds and debris around my newly adopted Birch tree. I’ve claimed her as my responsibility and have named her Bonnie.
Initially, when I spoke to the property owners on which she stands, they took no ownership of her and suggested that I speak to the City of Campbell River authorities. Their representative told me that the tree didn't belong to them and that I should speak to the property owners. I smiled and knew that she was mine.
This morning, Frank and I piled a rake, clippers, a shovel, a garden claw, work gloves, a bucket and my garbage tongs into our wheelbarrow. We strutted our way down the alley and across a parking lot to where Bonnie stands.
Frank cut back the tall grass and wild weeds while I raked the clippings away from her base. We worked diligently until we felt she had some breathing room. Bonnie looked spectacular. Her white bark sparkled in the morning sunlight and her leaves seemed to be flickering with pride. “Look at me!” I felt her say.
I stepped back to admire her resilience. Still, her roots are exposed in the sandy soil and she could certainly use a fresh heap of nutritious soil. I will do my best to provide for her.

A friend, Vera Martin, was so taken with Bonnie the Birch that she wrote a poem.

There was a little tree a forsaken little tree,
surrounded by garbage and weeds,
It stood there all alone not a thing had been done,
To tend to it's multitude of needs.

Then along came Sue who thought what can I do,
To help this little tree grow big and tall,
It seemed to her the best option was arboreal adoption,
So she went to see the folk at City Hall.

The City said it was okay then Sue departed on her way,
To clear up all the mess around her tree,
She gave it lots of TLC and pretty soon this little tree,
Flourished there for everyone to see.

Sue named her wee birch Bonnie a name that suits her well,
With her pure white bark and shiny leaves of green,
Because of her "friends" care soon people everywhere,
Will say "that's the prettiest tree I've ever seen".

The prettiest tree I've ever seen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Traveller And The Tree

'Ye are all the fruit of one tree and the leaves of one branch.'
 ~ (Abdu'l-Baha, A Traveller's Narrative)

IT TOOK ME TWO YEARS OF TRAVELLING by a small tree in my neighbourhood to notice her and  to realize how desperately she needed my help.
During the summer months the Birch would flick her little leaves at me in an attempt to get my attention. I was too busy making my way south on Dogwood Street in Campbell River, British Columbia, to pay proper attention. In October, she stopped calling out to me. All of her leaves had fallen to the ground and the only ornament on her during the winter months was a plastic cup stuck forcibly on one of her outstretched branches and the odd covering of snow. I glanced up at her a few times, but didn’t feel it was my business to remove the unflattering adornment.
My travels took me past her several times a week by foot and by vehicle. I glanced her way every once and a while but I felt no connection to her. My absent-minded attitude toward the Birch tree carried on through the spring while she did her best to blossom bright green leaves. Her absence of energy was a direct result of being bullied by yellow broom as it encroached upon her and the greedy water-guzzling short and long grasses at her roots.
Finally, after several seasons of doing her best to survive, I noticed that the Birch was also being chocked by discarded crumpled chip bags, sipping straws, cardboard pizza boxes and a notorious number of cigarette butts. It was the rubbish that caught my attention.
I moved closer to the tree, working diligently at removing the trash with my garbage tongs and noticed that she was more beautiful than I had imagined. Her bright white bark was as familiar as that of the Paper Birch, a native of North America and the official tree of Saskatchewan, or that of a European White Birch. The poor thing had obviously survived a life of adversity. Although I have never trained as an arborist, I knew she was in need of water because of her shallow roots. Most of all, she could certainly use a friend, a protector and some company.
I’ve been looking for the property manager, to ask if I can adopt her and tend to her needs. I am waiting patiently for a reply.
I’ve named her Bonnie The Birch.
8:14 p.m. update: The property manager has given me permission to adopt Bonnie. I'm blessed.

Bonnie the Birch

My Adopt-a-Tree Target

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Campbellton Walking Trip

OUR 3.6 KILOMETRE WALKING TREK started from the 300-block on Dogwood Street in Campbell River. We headed north and very soon our side-by-side handholding habit took a quick swing by my husband who slipped me behind him so that the low hanging tree branches wouldn’t whip my face. The sidewalk and boulevard along the 600-block have merged into a narrow footpath but widens as you near the corner of Dogwood and 7th Avenue. At the edge of the alley that runs east and west, is a cross with a stuffed animal nailed to it. It’s an inquisitive site and actually caused me to shudder. The house behind it is a relic meant to scare off the curious type. Signs on the residence say, “No Trespassing” and “Private Property.” The windows are blocked with cardboard and there is a small stuffed ghost hanging by its neck at the front door.
As we continued north toward 9th Avenue, I noticed graffiti splattered over a large advertisement banner and a pair of sneakers hanging from the hydro wires. According to the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police, these two messages are signs that there is a drug dealer in the area.
We crossed the street at 9th Avenue and headed down the road onto Homewood Road, which brought us to Campbellton.
Three emergency vehicles rushed by us; their sirens blaring. They turned into the nearby trailer park. We followed the action and found ourselves in a very quaint and clean neighbourhood. The homeowners have obvious pride in their property and the abundance of flowers shows off the gentleness of the place. We didn’t stay to watch the emergency medical attendants; instead we walked to Perk’s, a popular donut shop that serves the best chili in town.
After a satisfying meal, we toured Maple Street. On the north side of the road there was more evidence of how the boulevards and sidewalks are treated in our fair city. The long grass, weeds and bushes had been hacked down but they still lay there giving me the feeling that the area isn’t cared for by the City itself. Directly across are the manicured grounds of Kal-Tire.
Walking east along 16th Avenue, we arrived at Nunns Creek Park. I only know it as a large wooded area. We made our way to a bus stop on Ironwood Street and there we caught a ride home.

Dogwood Street to Campbellton

Campbellton Sites

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Testosterone Driven Shaunavon

Shaunavon, Saskatchewan is a male testosterone scented town. Located south on Highway 37, west of Moose Jaw, the industrial looking municipality consists mainly of a truck-refueling centre, Quonset huts used as stores, wind gusts and a dry gulch feel.
We arrived early evening on August 13, 2012, and looked for a safe place to stay for the night. The best-looking building we found was the Stardust Motel, run by a very caring Korean couple. The free pen was a perk.
We chose Shaunavon Pizza & Chicken, located directly across from the motel, to purchase take-out food but were so disappointed with its greasy food that we could hardly manage it. We were hungry enough though to peel off the re-deep-fried chicken coating and munched on the meat around the bones.
The following morning we headed out of town and stopped at Manny’s Place to fill up on gas. I asked Manny what keeps the city going and he laughed and said, “Two shacks and an outhouse makes this a small town, Missy.” He revealed to us that agriculture and some oil and gas keeps the place going.
“I’ve been here eight years and I still don’t feel like I’ve landed,” he said.
Manny is the only independent gas station owner in Saskatchewan. In the thirteen or so minutes it took him to fill our gas tank and handle the transaction, he told us that he’d lived in Russia during Stalin’s time and that he’d left after the man died.
“I took my boiler-maker journeyman’s ticket after that and travelled to every country in the world except for Argentina and New Zealand,” he said. “My wife heard that there were earthquakes in New Zealand and told me she didn’t want to go. So, I never got there.”
His phone rang and interrupted his story telling. We left the building and climbed into our van thinking about our next destination – some place west.

Manny's Place

Avoid Pizza & Chicken

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Just When You Think You've Seen It All

I LIKE THAT my husband and I are both passionate about visiting museums. In every country we’ve ever lived in or visited over the past nine years, we have always made a point of discovering the history of the territory and visiting as many of the small towns as possible.
We left Cut Knife, Saskatchewan on August 8, 2012, headed east on Highway 40 and turned north on Highway 4. Crossing the North Saskatchewan River brings you to North Battleford and the Western Development Museum. Indoors, you can follow the timeline from 1905 to 2005 and outdoors you experience an agricultural support village by strolling down the boardwalks and slipping into the restored town buildings.
As we sauntered from building to building we caught the attention of folks who were preparing for the upcoming ‘Those Were The Days’ festival. It was Frank’s kilt that ignited Dan’s curiosity. He asked Frank if he was visiting from Scotland and was still satisfied to hear that we are both from Campbell River on the Vancouver Island.
“Is the elevator open?” Frank said.
“It sure is. I can give you a tour if you like,” Dan said.
The expert elevator operator touched on every aspect of the workings of the decommissioned wooden structure. Frank told the guide that he’d been around elevators most of his life but had never had the privilege of having a tour.
“What do you think of our museum?” asked Dan.
“Oh, just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s more history to Saskatchewan than a person recognizes,” Frank said.
The truth is that you could spend nearly a lifetime exploring the small towns and museums in Canada. For a relatively young country, we’ve got a splendid and colourful history.

Red tractors and Red River Cart
History of North Battleford

Largest Tomahawk in the World!

I LOVE EVERYTHING SASKATCHEWAN. Frank had the privilege of growing up in the Que’Appelle Valley and so we’ve driven two summers in a row from our home in Campbell River to various towns in this Big Sky province. I love his relatives, who represent the wholesome, kind-hearted mindset of the small-town citizens. You can simply pull up into a driveway, knock on the door and you are welcome to stay as long as you like – we were offered a week, for example, at Julia’s in Grenfell.
Once we left Paradise Valley, we travelled south on 897, turned east on Highway 14 which, when it crosses into Saskatchewan, turns into Route 40, also known as the Red River Trail. Our conversations included what we knew about the ox cart routes connecting the original Selkirk Settlement at Fort Garry in Winnipeg, Manitoba, all the way to Saskatchewan and beyond. The Americans had the chuck wagon and the early Canadian explorers had the Red River cart. It would have been a grueling expedition considering that the adventurers had to sometimes make their own trails. Now, as we move at 60 kilometers along this secondary highway, we are thrilled to know that we are travelling the same route.
We stopped for a late lunch at Cut Knife, Saskatchewan, and fell in love with its carefully restored outdoor museum and campground. To our great surprise, there stood the largest Tomahawk in the world. Here’s a quote from the plaque: Constructed in 1971 as a symbol of cooperation among local cultures. The tipi, a traditional First Nations shelter, symbolizes respect, humility, faith, and sharing. The Tomahawk or stone tool was used to build and create as well as for a weapon. It was recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Largest Tomahawk.
We had a long, informative conversation with Bob, the groundskeeper, who shared with us that he’s been very busy servicing the Centennial events of the incorporation of the town.
That evening, we showered in the facilities and enjoyed another thunderous night of rain and lightening. Ah, Saskatchewan.
Next stop: North Battleford and the Western Development Museum.

Word's Largest Tomahawk
Frank prepares for the Fiddle-Fest

Paradise Valley

WE HAD THE DISTINCT PLEASURE of turning south off the TransCanada Highway 16 onto 897 South, and driving through a district of ranches hosting various breeds of cattle and several herds of bison. We were on the hunt for the distinct ‘Climb Thru Time’ restored grain elevator in the town of Paradise Valley. On Tuesday, August 7, 2012, we found a local campsite at Three Cities within the confines of the village and settled in for the night. We prepared a small meal from the back of our van and relaxed to the rustle of leaves, howling coyotes and honking geese. Ominous clouds blackened the prairie sky and we packed ourselves into the back of the van. We fell asleep on the bunk, eventually. Even the bombardment of thunder, bright lightening and pounding rain couldn’t interfere with our need for a deep snooze.
The following morning, the pretty, young museum hostess opened the doors for us at 9:00 a.m. and we ventured for nearly two hours up to the very top of the grain elevator. Frank said that it was the first time he’d ever been to the annex and the view from the small windows presented a memorable image of the vast expanse of the district.
The artifacts in the museum were plentiful and the displays were presented in such a way that you felt part of the time gone by. Our journey up the easy ramp was rewarded by a stop at the gift shop where we enjoyed a beverage and a sample of homemade sweets. I purchased a few items that I will display proudly at home.
Our destination was the John Archand Fiddle Fest ♫ near Pike Lake, Saskatchewan, but first there were more small towns to visit and museums to explore.

Paradise Valley offers a fabulous museum.

Captured By Ukrainian Culture

I LIKE THAT Frank once had a girlfriend who was Ukrainian. He’s mentioned her quite often and so when we saw the road sign broadcasting the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, we turned off the eastbound Yellowhead Highway outside of Edmonton and wandered around the museum. The temperature on August 6, 2012, was hot and the sky a brilliant blue but it was worth every wipe of my brow.
At the village, you can either take a guided tour for one hour or just wander around the property at a leisurely pace. You are transported back to 1892 and travel, building-by-building and character-by-character through to 1930.
The employees are trained to remain in character no matter their conversation. For example, Frank recognized quite a number of the artifacts and mentioned the updates that have occurred since their creation – like the advancement of farm implements. The young man, who was acting as a farmer, did not give up his roll as an 1892 grower and gave Frank a quizzical look. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” he said in his broken English and Ukrainian accent.
The woman of the house shared her borsht recipe with me and her husband led us into the next room where I spotted a violin. The farmer claimed it and agreed to honour us with a Ukrainian tune. The young man asked Frank to play a song and afterward he removed his bones from his kilt pocket and tapped along to a few more renditions of fiddle music. The other tourists were quite smitten with the show.
We left the open-air museum destined for Paradise Valley, Saskatchewan.

Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
A buggy ride into the past
Ukrainian Fiddle-Fest

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Clear Water Plunge

On August 3rd, 2012 we left Kamloops at 8:30 a.m. and drove north on the Yellowhead Highway, also known as BC_5 N. Our destination was Clearwater to attend the annual Thompson-Nicola Baha’i Summer School.
On the way, we stopped at Country Store Antiques located on Highway 5 in Louis Creek. Frank recognized nearly every item on display, and he revealed his history with each artifact. He was most impressed with a chair much like the one we have in our living room. It was identical to his grandfather’s seat from his law office in Neudorf, Saskatchewan.
We drove north and took a dip in Clearwater’s public swimming hole. I was left with the impression that the beach was man-made with tons of soft sand poured over the weeds and rocks that appeared around the rest of the small pool of water. Frank and I waded in cautiously before we plunged our full body and head into the cool, refreshing water.
After a relaxing sit on the beach, we drove the short distance to the location of the school. We parked our van in the shade and prepared for the other campers to settle in. It wasn’t long before we met up with old friends and made new ones.
The theme of the school this year was Abdu’l-Baha. There were word portraits that brought tears to my eyes and those of others, discussion on Abdu’l-Baha and Race Unity, advice from Abdu’l-Baha and conversations on what Abdu’l-Baha’s example teaches us.
With our limited vacation time in the backs of our minds, we chose to leave our dear friends on Sunday, continue north on Route 5 and meet up with Highway 16 at Mount Robson. 

Explore - Fiddle - Sleep

Friday, August 17, 2012

Vacation Conversation

I LIKE THAT our August 2012 two-week vacation landed us first in a town called Yale. We left Campbell River on August 2nd at 2:30 a.m. with little conversation, boarded the ferry, sailed to the mainland, travelled east on the Trans Canada Highway and stopped to explore the Historic Yale Museum. Our travel conversation on this first leg of our journey to Saskatchewan consisted mostly of upbeat plans to explore as many small towns as time would allow.
Yale was quite a nice surprise. Their museum archives the way of life in the mid-1840s and praises the work of the thousands of Chinese immigrants who built the expansive Canadian Railway. The comical aspect of the museum was the amount of energy put into trying to explain the Sasquatch phenomenon.
Later, we took a lunch break at the Alexandra Bridge rest stop and shared our passion for the simplicity of dining out of the back of our vintage van. Frank calls it chuck wagon meals. A path through the forest took us to the decommissioned Alexandra Bridge. It’s a sturdy structure that still withstands the pushing power of the mighty Fraser River.
We carried on to Kamloops and spent the evening with Frank’s daughter. She kindly offered us a bed in her home, but we chose to spend the first night of our adventure on the bunk. Frank whispered to me that we would change our direction and travel on Yellowhead Highway 5 the next day.

Historic Yale

Alexandra Bridge

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stamp River Adventures

I LIKE THAT Frank asked our 5-year-old grandson an important question.

“Did you have fun camping?” Frank said.
“Not really,” he replied.

His response took me back to the adventures we had just experienced as a camping troop alongside Stamp River northwest of Port Alberni. We set up the tent, explored our neighbourhood and returned to roast turkey dogs on a spectacular bed of coals. We sang songs, played I Spy With My Little Eye and chatted by  the fire until collectively we were too tired to stay awake.

Grandpa Black and Grayson slept in the tent while I took on the comfort of lodgings in the van. Once I realized that the roar of the nearby river was endless I fell into a deep sleep.

At the break of dawn, I tumbled out of bed to watch Frank and Grayson stoke the morning fire. We enjoyed buns toasted on a stick, cold cereal with brown sugar and milk, campfire coffee and juice. Frank introduced our wee grandson to knife throwing and very shortly our little woodsman was cheering at his first strike.

We hiked a short distance to Stamp River Falls and thrilled at the rush of water that forced its way through the narrow pass spraying white water in all directions.

We hiked back through several trails and discovered the taste of Huckleberries. At our campsite, we clambered down a small hill and set up at the river’s edge for a plunge into the cool water. We watched Salmon jumping and listened to the glup, glup sound as the river slapped against the rocks at our feet.

That evening Frank helped Gray learn to play the spoons, bones and the violin.

The following morning, Peanut showed me several rashes he had developed. I slathered his delicate skin with a calming cream and promised him that his mother would provide him a bath that would make him feel better.

My impression is that his ‘not really’ response to Grandpa was a result of his uncomfortable condition that morning. Once we arrived at his home and I reported his state to his mom, instinctively she put him into a cool bath with a refreshing balm.

♫ Summertime and living is easy…♫

Knife throwing Adventure

Stamp Falls Adventure

River Adventure

Camping Music Adventure

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hats On To School Organizers

I LIKE THAT there were Junior Youth and Children Classes running concurrently with the adult sessions. It gave the adults a chance to enjoy the programs that the youngsters created for us. All the action took place at the Mid-Island Baha’i School, Nanoose Place Community Centre, Northwest Bay Road, Parksville, British Columbia.

Much to the delight of the audience, the young people made bedazzled 1900 type hats to commemorate Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to North America in 1912. They sported their creations and sang a beautiful song.

During the two-and-a-half-day event, we camped in our van just outside the facilities and enjoyed the various presentations and art sessions held in the large building. We met friends that we hadn’t seen for a long while and renewed our welcome like no time had passed.

1900 Hats

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hole In The Wall Hike

I LIKE THAT my sister-in-law, Rose, joined us for a short excursion on a rainy day in Port Alberni. Frank packed our grandson, Grayson, on his shoulders for part of the trek while Rose and I trudged down the well-packed trail sidestepping water puddles and hopping over slugs.

The most exciting thing about hiking with our five-year-old grandson is that he refreshes our sense of wonderment with nature. He opens up our fascination with sticks and stones and ignites our amazement with plants. Glistening water droplets on a spider web catch his attention and we all stop to gaze at the complexity and intricacy of its construction.

Further down the trail, a rusted-out vehicle draws our attention. Frank and Grayson stand as close as the surrounding prickly bushes will allow. Grandpa takes the time to identify the various car parts while Grayson listens with keen interest.

Rose pays special attention to the Scotch Broom close enough that we can admire their neon yellow flowers. I tell her that the invasive species seems to be taking over the Island. They are such bullies that other plants are taken over by them. I’ve also read that the leaves, buds and pods of broom contain toxic chemicals and substances that can affect the nervous system and the heart.

Our trek continues through the raindrops to the hole in the wall. What used to be a pipeline has since been disassembled but has left a gaping hole in the layers of sediment large enough to travel through. Grayson tosses rocks into the fast flowing stream while Rose takes cover under a large broad leaf tree and Frank attempts a river crossing. The slippery rocks discourage him and so we turn back toward the trail and make our way out of the forest.

Hikers on Hole in the Wall Trail

Hole in the Wall

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Campbell River Bait

I LIKE THAT the overcast weather these days in Campbell River doesn’t put a damper on our plans to walk around the Pier Street Farmer’s Market. We waded through the avenues of product sellers and settled down to enjoy the tunes from a free live band. We munched on fish and chips purchased earlier at the Fisherman’s Wharf.

The panoramic view from the wharf is glorious. Standing on the pier facing the Island Highway, I am greeted with an array of boats of all shapes, sizes and condition. Gazing northeast presents me with a royal blue ocean and the tree-covered south end of Quadra Island. As I face the southeast my mind follows the outgoing tide down the Strait of Georgia, south to the unobstructed Pacific Ocean.

I cast my eyes to the dock and experience the excitement of men, women and children fishing from its sturdy timbers. To add to the ambience, there is a large blue net, and lying next to it is a bright orange life ring. The fragrance of seawater fills my nostrils and the mist of the ocean showers me with a cool spray.

I invite you to join Frank and I next time. It’s a wonder.

Campbell River Fisherman's Wharf

Monday, June 4, 2012

At Your Service

I LIKE THAT a happy cluster of service providers gathered at Spirit Park in Campbell River on Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. My dear friends Pat J and Nancy C contributed happily and wholeheartedly to the weed picking task and the sweeping duties.

Jan T, a local businesswoman, service provider extraordinaire and member of Business Improvement Association, invited friends and family to join her on a four-block clean-up of Campbell River’s downtown core. Some started with a free coffee offered up by Nesbitt’s Island Coffee on Shopper’s Row, and Shot in the Dark Café on North Island Highway. The scrumptious muffins were supplied by On Line Gourmet. We split up into work groups, pulled weeds and removed the trash from the sidewalks and boulevards.

The upbeat mood that sprung from the volunteers was uplifting and humbling. Having a clean city is important to everyone on the team and you can thank the volunteer groundskeeper helpers as well as the City workers for that.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

URAL Patrol Crosses US Border

I LIKE THAT Bellingham, Washington, United States of America was our destination on May 9, 2012. It was the first time Frank and I crossed the border on our URAL bike. In order to get off the Vancouver Island, we ferried across at Nanaimo and rode south on Highway 99 to the Peace Arch Crossing. The crossing officer accepted our passports and waived us through. Our first stop was the Custer Rest Area where we shook our hair loose from under our helmets and relieved the pressure of coffee consumed on our first leg of the trip.

The purpose of our excursion was to have the bike maintained by a reputable shop, to meet up with Frank’s daughter, Misty, and her children, and for me to shop in Meridian Village where I purchased two beautiful dresses. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with family and had many opportunities to share stories and laughter.

Bellingham has an open-space, country feel to it. Frank was most impressed with the sharp edging of the grass as it met the sidewalk from the boulevards and business properties. The family decided unanimously that we would make Bellingham an annual destination.

Black family meets in Bellingham, USA

Border crossing view and Custer pit stop

Friday, May 4, 2012

Va Va Voom

Va is celebrated by the Samoans as a relationship that consistently defines and redefines itself in the space between two people, places and things. It is considered by the Samoan culture as a unique entity that contains unspoken expectations and obligations. Va is the inherent and changeable patterns of obligations and expectations between people and their environment.

A friend who has had direct experience with the people of Samoa brought Va to my attention. She explained that our North American sense of relationship has a great deal to do with how we feel about another person’s impact on you, while in the Samoan culture, the Va space is viewed as the stage upon which all patterns carry meaning. Each person is responsible for the condition of Va and so whatever meanings are held within Va are the responsibility of the person who put them there.

I love the way the word sounds and the tender vibration it produces on my lower lip. I’m learning to use it in my everyday conversations with people. I hope that Va can help me with my relationship with my son, reinforce my love for my husband, express gratitude toward my friends, and bring my passion for God to front of mind.

Vā is the space between, the between-ness, not empty space, not space that 
separates but space that relates, that holds separate entities and things together
in the Unity-that-is-All, the space that is context, giving meaning to things.  The 
meanings change as the relationships/contexts change.
Albert Wendt 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Alleyways are Appealing

I LIKE THAT there are so many back alleys in Campbell River. They run north and south and offer interesting passages from one avenue to another. Some are paved while most are covered with gravel and dirt. It’s the various views that are most engaging when Frank and I take our daily morning walk. Our journey south presents us with a variety of curiosities. A woman walks her dog on the paved path and the little thing leaves the cutest footprints. Further down the lane, where the terrain changes to dirt, it is clear that a heavy vehicle has travelled before us.

What we view from the lanes is very telling. A sign indicates a bump somewhere along the path, graffiti by attention-seeking people tells that they’ve been there, a pile of rocks that looks like a cairn is more likely a stack of rocks, an abandoned bike camouflaged in the grass belongs to the person looking for it, and a precious red tulip determined to show itself among a cluster of weeds and branches is a runaway sprout from the flower garden on the other side of the fence.

Life is a pathway.

Appealing Passageway

Pathway Curiosities

Sunday, April 22, 2012

One Honk and a Wave

“Are you picking up garbage?” the young boy said. He and his father walked toward me sipping on drinks in large paper cups.

I lifted my trash picker and pink bucket into the air, smiled and said, “Yes, it’s Earth Day.”

They walked past me while I carried on retrieving trash from the sidewalk and boulevard. I hum a happy tune as I grip the plastic handle of the garbage tongs and kick the bucket on the flat surface of the walkway. I like the way it makes me feel to be of service to my neighbours along the 350-metre trek I’ve adopted in the City of Campbell River. I asked a few friends if they would consider adopting a block, and twelve volunteers have now taken stewardship of areas throughout the city.

My singing was interrupted with a car honk and I raised my head just in time to see a wave. I shook my bucket as a response. It’s kind of people to recognize the need to tidy up – especially on Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hiking is Happiness

I LIKE THAT Frank and I enjoy hiking together. Today, we set off down 4th Avenue to a path that eventually led us to our proper destination off 2nd Avenue and McPhedran. The first few metres offered us a fork in the path, and without hesitation, Frank veered to the right. The most predominant smell for a while was the Yellow Skunk Cabbage, a delightful looking green and yellow plant that thrives in our Central Vancouver Island wet woods. The sound of rushing water alongside the narrow path was music to my ears as were the chirp of birds likely compelling their companions to be wary of the strangers in their midst. The fresh air was palatable. The spring air pushed its way through our nostrils and open mouths as we caught our breath at the top of a steep hill. Our mud covered path revealed a large print of a bear and I asked Frank if he had his hiking knife – he did.

The magnificence of the forest and all the life within is a wholesome beauty like no other. We are blessed to have paths throughout Campbell River that take you from one backyard to another and beyond. Wonderful!

Hiking we will go.
Yellow Skunk Cabbage - whew!
Bears like hiking too.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Show Me Your Papers

I LIKE THAT Frank and I manage an apartment complex that is designated a Crime-Free building,  which means that the property has undergone three levels of security supervised by representatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and that they have certified us as solid citizens.

Today, as part of my daily duties, I was pulling out cleaning supplies to use for the job, and I could sense a person standing behind me. I turned and saw a large man wearing a black t-shirt with a small company logo on the left hand corner. He was grinning.

“Are you looking for someone?” I asked.

“I’m looking for the telephone room,” he said.

“Who are you?”

“I’m from Telus,” he said. “I’m here to work on a telephone for apartment 203.” He asked me to let him into the locked room.

“Suite 203 is empty. Who are you here to do work for?”

“I think it’s 204 or 304, I’m not sure,” he said.

“I’m not sure who you are. Please show me your ID and papers.”

“What? Are you kidding me? I don’t have it on me. But, here, I’ll show you my driver’s license.” And then he pointed to the name on his shirt. “Can’t you tell I’m from Telus?”

“I could be wearing a Hooters t-shirt and I’m not from there. You’ll have to leave.” I waived my arm toward the exit door.

“Let me go to my truck and get my ID and the work order. OK?”

“That would be great.”

He performed as promised and returned with the proper credentials and paperwork. I recognized our tenant’s name and suite number.

“Wow! I’ve never been challenged like that before. Never in my fourteen years of working as a repairman. I’m a big guy but you had me jumping to attention,” he said.

“We love our crime-free building and we protect the people in it – including ourselves.”

Stand our ground, ladies. Stand your ground.

Show me your papers

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Food, Frolic and Favour

I LIKE THAT our two friends, Dianna and Wendy, attended the Baha’i New Year celebration held on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. The quiz at the beginning of the celebration explained its purpose: to visit friends and relatives, celebrate with food and exchange gifts. Other facts about Naw-Ruz include its literal translation of new day, and that it’s an old Iranian celebration marking the start of the Zoroastrian new year.

Kindness permeated the celebration the moment we walked in. The hustle of putting the hall ready to receive friends and family was well underway with volunteers preparing the food tables, coffee and tea, placing live potted plants on tables draped in brightly coloured cloth. To add to the festive feel, there was a flying fish overhead being operated by a sweet young girl.

A good turn was captured by many of the attendees like when a friend asked another if they would like something to drink, or during the meal when plates were prepared for the children, and after we ate when volunteers unobtrusively slid utensils and dishes from the tables. Goodwill was celebrated in the kitchen also while hands dipped in and out of hot water, towels buffed dishes to a shine, and garbage was dealt with as a grateful errand.

Happy Naw-Ruz to everyone.

Fun and Frolic
Live entertainment