Archive for August, 2012

August 28, 2012

An Apache blessing

This Apache blessing was on a card I received recently.  It’s beautiful.

May the sun bring you new energy every day.
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries.
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.


August 21, 2012

Observed on the street: Magic, and innocence, in the air

Written on a paint-splattered picnic table used by children attending summer day camp at my local community centre:

"I love unicorns" written on a picnic table


“I love unicorns.”

Life is magical at any age, but when you’re eight years old, and a girl, that magic is just a little more potent.

August 16, 2012

In this moment, what are you becoming?

An observation from a 55-year-old quoted in the book Live and Learn and Pass it On:  People Ages 5 to 95 Share What They’ve Discovered About Life, Love and Other Good Stuff:

I’ve learned that what you are thinking about, you are becoming.

What are you becoming right now?

August 16, 2012

Book Recommendation – “Wandering Home”

I just finished the book Wandering Home by Bill McKibben.  It’s a thoughtful account of McKibben’s three-week walk from Vermont’s Champlain Valley to New York’s Adirondacks, as well as a chronicle of the lifestyles and livelihoods of the people he visits along the way — people who are all living off the land in traditional or inventive ways.

McKibben is a known environmentalist (he wrote The End of Nature and Deep Economy), so the narrative is woven with his own reflections on the meaning and place of “wilderness” in a modern world.  An interesting read, and at 150 pages, not an onerous one, either.

Wandering Home book cover

“Wandering Home – A Long Walk Across America’s Most Hopeful Landscape: Vermont’s Champlain Valley and New York’s Adirondacks” by Bill McKibben

August 13, 2012

Observed on the street — Neighbourhood inspiration

Signs posted by (wonderful) persons unknown on random telephone poles and sign posts in my neighbourhood:

Inspiration in my neighbourhood


That bottom sign reads as follows:

Neighbourhood inspiration


This one is cute:

Neighbourhood signs


I particularly like this one:

Further inspiration in my neighbourhood


Thank you, (wonderful) persons unknown, for bringing smiles to your neighbours’ faces, and for reminding us all how little effort it takes to truly brighten someone’s day.  🙂

August 9, 2012

The skeleton in the piano bench is me!

In her short story “Three Girls,” Marisa Silver writes this passage describing a young girl wandering around her house looking for some distraction:

She opened up the piano bench and pulled out old sheet music whose pages were brittle and chipped.  Underneath the music for “Oranges and Lemons” lay a kindergarten drawing she’d made of a skeleton.  She felt the same kind of wonder an archaeologist might experience uncovering a thousand-year-old cup, awed by the evidence of a life so fully lived, and then forgotten.

This last sentence resonates with me very much, as I’ve been spending the last few weeks sorting through boxes of dusty childhood memories.  In every box, I’ve unearthed evidence of my own childhood life, of objects and events once vibrant and all-encompassing, now faded and forgotten with the passage of time.

I found a blue ribbon from the day I took my neighbour’s dog to the school pet show and she won for shortest tail, (according to the details I diligently inscribed across the fabric in bleeding felt marker).  I found a foolscap page of crooked letters describing what it would be like to be a snowflake — but “I’d rather be me,” thank you very much.  I found intricately folded notes from a high school friend, detailing, in code, our affections for a crush-of-the-moment.  I found photos of me dwarfed within a sports jersey once worn by my favourite player, my braces-filled smile struggling against the teenage “faux pas” of having your mother take your picture when you’re over the moon.

Was that me, so many years ago?  Did I create that, write that, think that, do that, laugh or swoon at that?  The memories float before me now, their ambiguity tempered only by the physical objects in front of me that prove they were real.  I am an archaeologist digging into my own historical ground, and the artefacts I uncover both amuse and astound me.

Yet within each of these forgotten  memories, I see the unmistakable essence of who I am now.  It takes me by surprise.  I may not remember writing that story back in Grade Two, but it ends with a message that I would very likely include in a story today.  And I hadn’t realized how crazy I was about that sports figure, but his approach to life and athletics is one that I’d certainly try to emulate today.

I’m there, in this forgotten historical residue.  Even though I don’t see myself at first, I’m there.  The realization brings a slow-spreading smile of wonder to my face.

August 8, 2012

The largest clear-cut in the world

British Columbia has the unenviable distinction of housing the largest clear-cut in the world — a 300-plus-square-kilometre block of forest land located in the Bowron River Valley, approximately 125 kilometres east of Prince George.  This area — dubbed the “Bowron Cut” — was harvested in the early- and mid-1980s in reaction to a spruce bark beetle epidemic that blanketed the region in the late 1970s.  Reasons aside, the cut is big.  So big that when it was fresh, it was visible from space.

In fact, cutting 300 square kilometres of forest is like razing an area equal to the footprint of any of the following:

  • the city of Prince George, B.C.
  • the city of Surrey, B.C.
  • Arches National Park in southeastern Utah
  • Great Basin National Park in east-central Nevada
  • one third the area of Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan
  • two times the area of Bruce Peninsula National park in southern Ontario
  • the entire Republic of the Maldives

I wonder how logging practices — and public perceptions — have changed since the days of the Bowron Cut?  The B.C. Interior is in the final stages of a decade-long mountain pine beetle infestation.  Over 180,000 square kilometres of forests and an estimated 710 million cubic metres of pine trees have been infected to date, according to a report by Wood Resource Quarterly, as published in The Working Forest newspaper on July 16, 2012.

The beetle infestation resulted in significant and widespread logging in the B.C. Interior, both to remove infected stands and as a control measure.  Surely large tracts of forest land were cut during the epidemic, but I haven’t heard so much about the scars on the land as about the methods of re-purposing beetle-damaged wood in commercially viable ways — from decorative woodworking to construction of Vancouver 2010 Olympics facilities to “Beetlecrete” (a building material made from Portland cement and beetle wood chips).

Have logging practices changed?  Have marketing tactics improved?  Or are people in B.C. just more accustomed to seeing clear-cuts these days?

To quote Charlotte Gill in her book Eating Dirt:  Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe:

In British Columbia we live among clear-cuts like people of the tropics live in the sugarcane.  When we fly over our province, we see shaved slopes.  When we drive, slash and stumps are a highway blur through our windshields.  Cut blocks they are called in the logging trade, like something you could snip at with scissors.



August 2, 2012

Observed on the street – August 2, 2012

A young man out for a ride on his brand new touring bike, in preparation for an upcoming two-month bicycle tour in Africa.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he told me.  “I’m really excited.”

Live your dreams, people.  Now is the time.