Friday, February 1, 2019

February, the month of Love by Nancy M Bell

Find out more about Landmark Roses and my other books by clicking on the cover.

February is the depths of winter here on the Canadian prairies. One of my friends in Cornwall, across the pond, recently posted a photo of the snowdrops currently blooming in her garden. My world is full of frost encrusted trees, building, fences and long grasses bent under the weight of the hoar frost left by the ice fog of the past couple of days.

Valentines Day is the bright spot of February. It's lovely to receive cards and messages of love and good will at this time of year. It breaks up the cold dark days of winter. Although the hours of daylight have been slowly increasing since the Winter Solstice we still have a long way to go before Spring Equinox when the hours of light and dark are equal and we embark on the long joyful ride toward the Summer Solstice and longest day. When I was in grade school back in the 1960's it was a tradition that on Valentine's Day every student in the class brought Valentines for the other students. The day before we would create big paper pouches which we decorated and taped to the front of our desks. Then on Valentine's Day after lunch everyone would move around the room and deposit their cards into the pouches. Some would write who it was from while others would leave it as a secret. Even in those younger days it was always exciting to try and guess if one of the secret Valentines was from the boy I currently had a crush on. Of course, I never found out for sure, but I did keep certain Valentines for a number of years, in fact I probably still have a few tucked away in my grade school keepsake book. Those were all the rage in the 1960's and early '70s. My mom bought ours from the Regal catalogue. There was a pouch for each school year where you wrote down the year, the school, teacher, friends etc and then into the pouch went things from that year, birthday cards, pictures, report cards etc.

These days Valentine's Day is pretty low key. Earlier in our marriage, it was an occasion to go out for a fancy dinner, this slowly wound down as the time went on. Now, maybe I might get a card- this would be a highlight LOL- or he might remember to wish me Happy Valentine's Day without me nudging him. After this many years I guess it doesn't really matter. The romance is in the everyday living now not in the expensive celebration of traditional holidays.

I wish you a Happy February, Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Life!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Barkerville and Beyond by A.M.Westerling

Those of you who have been following this blog know that I am an avid camper and that one of my favorite camping vacation destinations is northern British Columbia. Words cannot begin to describe the beauty of this area. Imagine towering, thick forests, tumbling white water rivers and soaring mountain peaks and you get the idea. If you like the wilderness and outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and camping, this is the destination for you.

We usually set up a base camp just outside of Terrace on Lakelse Lake. One thing we've really noticed is how different the rain is. When it rains in Calgary, it's usually cold and pelting rain. Our experience in northern B.C. is that although it rains a lot (forests like that need a lot of water!) it's generally a misty, warm rain.

From there, we’ll take day trips and for today’s post, I’ll share one of our more interesting tours and that was up the Nass Valley. As you drive north of Terrace, you follow the Nisga’a Highway which borders Kitsumkalum Lake. You can drive for miles in pristine wilderness, with the lake on one side and forests and mountains on the other and you’ll rarely see another vehicle or any signs of habitation. Eventually you’ll reach Nisga’s Mem’l Lava Beds Provincial Park. The Nass Valley is the site of Canada’s most recent volcanic eruption, around 1750 and lava flows cover a large area.

From there, it’s up to New Ayiansh, which replaces the original town that was destroyed in the volcano. No one knows for sure but it’s estimated about 2000 people died during the eruption. Here are the totem poles in front of the town hall in New Ayiansh and below that, the river that runs through the provincial park. The picture doesn't do justice to the colour of the water.

After this, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can head over to Kincolith, which until recently was only accessible by boat or plane.

 If you'd like more information on the Nass Valley volcano, here are a couple of links for you:

On this particular trip, we stopped in at Barkerville on our way home. And it's a good thing we did because that definitely helped as far as research for Barkerville Beginnings! Although I didn't know at the time I would be writing a book about it...

Find it at your favourite online store here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Dream Trip North

Ah Canada! I learned so much about NWT and even a bit about neighbors like B.C. and Alberta in the process of writing Fly Away Snow Goose. The land, so important in the story, got into my head until I began to have a fantasy about traveling to see it.

The kind of travel I envision, is the kind that, ideally, a 30 year old should undertake, but heck, it doesn't stop me from imagining. So here it goes: my dream of a northern adventure, carried out by some athletic babe ideal of my physical self at 34. (Not that this powerful woman ever existed!) For some reason, the fantasy-prone being who inhabits this body always wants some sort of hardship to accompany her dream travel. In my real crone self, each of these travel destinations would be a tough slog, only available to a stateside person with bucks.

Nevertheless, dream on! How about starting this journey in Alberta with a trip to Jasper National Park Dark-Sky Preserve in the winter as part of a dark skies tour? Where the temperature falls to -22 routinely, it would be a good thing I'm not an astro-photographer, like the adventurers whose story inspired me: folks I read about in an issue of Earth-Sky* who have taken mind blowing starry images.*

Image via Jack Fusco for the Chasing Darkness project

To see the stars glowing like Tesla-fired blue globes, reflecting upon icy water would be an incredible experience. Even virtually, it's a gift to me, these images of a glorious, nearly pristine world. If I was actually there, I'd feel the searing cold in my lungs (it probably would turn them inside out) and feel frigid air demons gnawing at any bit of exposed skin. I'd hear the crunch of the snow under a pair of massively high-tech winter boots. Maybe, in the distance, perhaps I'd hear wolves howling.

Wood Buffalo Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is also in Alberta. Here, nature proceeds as it once did, before the incursion of strangers from the west. This is a place for summer travel, I'd come prepared for the onslaught of insects and prepared to see plants and animals I've never seen before.

"Wood Buffalo National Park is the most ecologically complete and largest example of the entire Great Plains-Boreal grassland ecosystem of North America, the only place where the predator-prey relationship between wolves and wood bison has continued, unbroken, over time."

I’ve always wanted to travel back in time, and this park would offer me a window into the way the land was before Europeans arrived. Wood Buffalo Park is the only breeding ground for the magnificent Whooping Crane, a species on the edge of extinction.  Perhaps I'll imagine myself there in spring, when they arrive, calling to one another with their beautiful whooper voices!

The Wood Buffalo which lives there is another species under extreme pressure, a marvelous relic from the Pleistocene. This buffalo's woodland life style is different from the plains animal with which we down from south are more familiar. 

And then, because this is an imaginary travelogue without budget or schedule, I'd fly to Yellow Knife in the Northwest Territories and see a modern frontier city perched on the edge of the Great Slave Lake. After a few days of people, I'd be ready to begin my voyage into the North Slave, the land of the Tlicho, the tribe from which Sascho and Yaotl come.

Here, in a land of stone, water, and ever-dwindling forests I'd follow the rivers, muscle my way across portages, while following the ancient trails, like Sascho and Yaotl, on their way to Great Bear Lake, to see a body of freshwater even larger than Great Slave, a veritable ocean. Of course, this would take a very long time, a lot of supplies and a lot of willpower--even on a fantasy journey. Perhaps I'll imagine I'm back in time, in another body in another world, making my way north with a family group, working my fanny off as women always do, carrying and cooking and minding kids.

An easier way to reach Great Bear would be to make the whole thing modern, to imagine floating the Mackenzie to Tulita, then, where  the Great Bear River empties, turning east and traveling along that tributary to Deline. Here I could make a pilgrimage to the home place of the famous Sahuto'ine Prophet, Eht'se Ayah.

In March of 2016, Great Bear Lake and the surrounding area became the largest UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in North America. The people of Deline are now self-governing, their charge to protect the lake and to preserve their ancient mystical connection with it. The old ones believed that beneath Great Bear's surface a massive heart beats. This is a great magic, one which "gives life not only to the surrounding area, but to all the natural world."

Standing on the edge of this astounding place, for the grand finale, I'll conjure up a display of the aurora borealis, those shimmering spirits of ancestors, who remind us of how astonishing it is to be conscious and to be able to view these incredible wonders of our earth.

Even, in this case, if it's only a Canadian journey of the mind.

~~Juliet Waldron