Loving Vincent and other surprises in store

Mid October already – fall has definitely arrived here in the interior of British Columbia. Outside, the air feels like the inside of a fridge set on the coldest setting. Not as cold as a freezer yet, although that is not far away. The other day I was downtown early and I saw cars with snow on their roofs. They must have come into Kamloops from slightly higher elevations.

However, I have my winter clothes all ready for the day when I spy the white stuff on the lawn. I tried the whole “ensemble” on the other day and I felt so constricted. So many layers!

As winter approaches, the city’s recreation & arts dept. has lined up a long roster of activities to keep the citizens happily occupied. The library and the university offer courses, lectures, and field trips. There are book clubs, writers’ groups, chess competitions, and lots more. For $60.00 CAD a month, I can take advantage of the YMCA’s recreation facilities – they have a 25 m. pool, exercise machine room, yoga, and just about any other health-related interest you can think of. Kamloops also has a small classical orchestra and a beautiful theater. Plays, recitals, concerts and film nights happen often.

On Thursday, I will have a pot-luck dinner at my apartment with three friends, and then we are going to see “Loving Vincent” a film about the life of Vincent van Gogh. It is the first full feature crafted entirely from hand-painted oils. Forty artists from all over the globe have participated in the project. I CAN’T WAIT to see the finished product. You can watch the trailer at this link:

Then on Saturday, I will attend a still life painting workshop. When I asked what I need to bring, I was told – “Yourself and an open mind.” That sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

Another of my activities this week is all about Halloween. My sister Anne designed a dragon costume for our grand niece. She got the gorgeous wings made and I am helping to sew them on to the body of the costume. The dragon is glittery purple and besides the huge scaled wings, she’ll also have a long spiked tail and 3 inch claws attached to her hands and feet. Little Emily is so excited – I will post a photo when the outfit is ready.

When I don’t have any special activity planned, I sometimes play Scrabble with one of my neighbors. She and I are different kinds of players. She is a genius at placing two or three tiles across one of the existing words already on the board. 40 points is not an uncommon  tally for one of her moves. But on Thursday night I made: C-L-O-I-S-T-E-R-S. You got it – I used my seven tiles! 50 extra points!

I live right downtown, so shopping and all my entertainment are close by. I walk everywhere and carry home all my purchases – it’s a practical way to get exercise.

But the best news is that this “winter wonderland” lifestyle will only last for a short time. I won’t have a chance to grow weary of the short-cold days or even-colder-and-longer nights. In two months time, I will return to Merida and the balmy December temperatures.

I can’t say what the future will hold, but so far I like this 6 months in Canada – 6 months in Mexico arrangement. I like it very much. Jorge has not embraced the idea as I have. He is a Yucatecan through and through. He is happiest in his home town – and we all need to choose what makes us happy – right?

All of us have different priorities; we make different decisions and take different paths. Life offers so many options. But one fact is constant for us all – these “golden years” are NOT what any of expected them to be. Just when we think we have everything figured out, a bolt from the blue can turn it all upside down.

All the more reason to remain flexible as we grow older and stay open to the ever-surprising changes in our lives.

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Sleepless in Merida…

At 2 a.m. something startled me.  Music from a party somewhere? A dog barking? A car horn honking? My foggy mind couldn’t quite figure it out – I wanted so badly to roll over and go back to sleep.

This day will be a busy one, I told myself, and you need your rest.  

I forced my eyes shut.

Tick-tock, tick-tock…

Come on, come on –  let’s settle back down now.

I closed my eyes tight and wiggled my head into the soft pillows.

Sigh-igh-igh-igh…

How soft my sheets are – how comfy I feel– I’m so ready to go back to dreamland.

Yaw-aw-aw-awn…

One minute passed, two minutes. The self-motivational tactic was NOT working.  I tried counting backwards from 100 to 0 with no slip-ups.

 – Ninety-nine, ninety-eight, ninety-seven… ninety-eight…  

NO – O – O -O-O-O-O !

– Maybe some of that Sleepy-Time tea might help?  

I climbd out of bed and padded to the kitchen. Of course the tea was at the back of the cupboard. After groping around and locating the tin, I  dusted it off, filled the kettle, waited for the boil, and let the tea steep. Ugh! The hot raspberry, mint and licorice liquid tasted ghastly, and I was more awake than ever.

 – Well, maybe a little time with facebook might help?

Oh-oh – oh-oh

But after twenty minutes of scrolling through inane comments and out-of-focus photos, my eyes started feeling heavy.

Hurray-ay-ay!

I was just about ready to pack it in when this post caught my eye:

 

Social media is leading the way, and in just two days, 1,300,000 Mexicans have made their views known.

2018 will be an electoral year in Mexico and the political parties traditionally receive funds from the “government” (the money of course comes from taxes paid by all Mexicans). The amount is 12 billion pesos! The change.org petition urges the parties to decline the 12 billion pesos slated for their electoral campaigns in 2018, which would free up the funds for use in earthquake relief and rebuilding efforts.

We don’t need to hear empty promises on TV and radio and see banners blowing in the wind. We want the parties to stand up for Mexico and be of some real use.

If they do, they will be acting like the LEADERS they claim to be – and God knows we desperately need some good leadership!

¡VIVA MÈXICO SEÑORES!

If you’d like to sign the petition, here’s the link:

https://www.change.org/p/senadomexicano-mx-diputados-canalizar-los-recursos-de-los-partidos-pol%C3%ADticos-a-la-reconstrucci%C3%B3n-de-zonas-afectadas?utm_medium=email&utm_source=welcome_new_user&utm_campaign=triggered&j=141343&sfmc_sub=553483212&l=32_HTML&u=26920992&mid=7233052&jb=58200

It seems like TOO MUCH

Yesterday, Tuesday September 19th, the central region of Mexico was struck by a powerful earthquake. As I painfully type this post, the death toll stands at 241 – twenty one children are among them – they were crushed when their primary school collapsed.

It seems perverse that yesterday’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake came on the anniversary of the devastating 1985 quake that caused so many deaths in Mexico City. To compound the irony – the shaking started just after a citywide earthquake drill. No “plan” can possibly cope with such sudden destruction, but I wonder – I hope – the simulation exercise saved at least a few lives.

Since the last BIG one – 32 years have passed – and our world has changed. Mexico has suffered from countless natural and man-made disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes, environmental catastrophes, a breakdown of traditional values, corruption, narcos, devaluations, one political mess after another, inflation, slander by the international media, bullying by neighboring countries – I did not think one more thing could possibly befall the country – and now this.

It seems like TOO MUCH.

And yet, the minute the shaking stopped yesterday, men and women ran through choking dust and began clawing at the rubble – moving anything they could lift. As others began hauling the rubble away – buckets, shovels, work gloves and masks materialized. TV footage showed bare-backed young men balancing on the top of twisted metal and broken concrete – swinging sledge hammers to loosen the girders and beams. The crowd raised their arms and passed the twisted steel over their heads to those who loaded it into the dump trucks that soon were on the scene.  All through the night, the makeshift rescue workers have continued working. They know that each passing minute reduces the chances of finding survivors.

They remember the horrors of 1985 and they remember the acts of heroism, like those of Los Topos—The Molesa group of young people who spontaneously grouped together and risked their lives by crawling into collapsed buildings to look for survivors. The Moles had no equipment, training, or knowledge of rescue tactics, but they were instrumental in saving countless people, including newborn babies from Hospital Juárez—the most heart-wrenching, heart-warming story to come after the earthquake.

That quake brought the citizens of México City solidly together and caravans arrived with relief supplies from Canada, the U.S., Central America, and from every state in México.

What will it be like this time? Will the world help?

The students at our college here in Merida are collecting baby supplies for needy families. You can help by bringing diapers, wet-wipes, talc, formula, new or used clothing, blankets, bottles, or whatever you think would be useful. On Friday morning (Sept 22) they will deliver the collected goods to the Red Cross , who will in turn distribute them. TTT’s address is:

Calle 57 No. 492, Between 56 & 58, Centro Histórico, Merida.

If you’d rather, the link provided below will direct you to a number of verified agencies who will make good use of anything you can give:

http://themexicoreport.com/2017/09/12/mexico-earthquake-relief-efforts-and-links-to-donate/

Mexico does not have the resources to get through this on its’ own. PLEASE do all you can.

 

*Photo credits: found on Google Images    /     http://www.ocregister.com   /    AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

 

Eccentricity

I went to a small gathering the other day and struck up a conversation with a woman I was meeting for the first time…

We exchanged the usual pleasantries and before long, she confided that she felt a bit out-of-place in Kamloops, but she figured this was because she’d lived most of her life in Vancouver, a much larger city with many more amenities and lots of “diversity”. She then asked me if I have ever lived anywhere else.

My new acquaintance was full of questions when I told her that indeed I had lived in another place – another country in fact – for most of my life. After a brief description of my lifestyle in Mexico, she threw her arms up in the air and shook her head back and forth. “I could never do anything so eccentric,” she said.

That rattled me a bit. I’ve always considered an artist like van Gogh, an actor like Robin Williams, an entertainer like Lady Gaga or those older ladies in purple hats to be eccentric – but me?

I decided to go on line to read some definitions and more opinions. I found psychiatrist David Weeks website – he has conducted a study called, “Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness”. The short video on the site

http://celebratingeccentrics.com/eccentrics-a-study-of-sanity-and-strangeness/ )

intrigued me and I delved further. Bingo! I found Dr. Weeks’ inventory of the 25 descriptors of eccentricity. He lists them in descending order of importance – the first five being the most significant.

  • Enduring non-conformity
  • Creativity
  • Strongly motivated by an exceedingly powerful curiosity and related exploratory behavior
  • A constant and distinct feeling of differentness from others
  • Idealism
  • Happily obsessed with a number of long-lasting preoccupations (usually about five or six)
  • Intelligent, in the upper fifteen per cent of the population on tests of intelligence
  • Opinionated and outspoken, convinced of being right and that the rest of the of the world is out of step with them
  • Non-competitive
  • Not necessarily in need of reassurance or reinforcement from the rest of society
  • Unusual eating habits and living arrangements
  • Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of other people, except perhaps in order to persuade them to their contrary point of view
  • Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy, and wit
  • More frequently an eldest or an only child
  • Eccentricity observed in at least 36% of detailed family histories, usually a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. (It should be noted that the family history method of estimating hereditary similarities and resemblances usually provides rather conservative estimates.)
  • Eccentrics prefer to talk about their thoughts rather than their feelings. There is a frequent use of the psychological defense mechanisms of rationalization and intellectualization.
  • Slightly abrasive
  • Midlife changes in career or lifestyle
  • Feelings of “invisibility” which means that they believe other people did not seem to hear them or see them, or take their ideas seriously
  • Feel that others can only take them in small doses
  • Feel that others have stolen, or would like to steal, their ideas. In some cases, this is well-founded.
  • Dislike small talk or other apparently inconsequential conversation
  • A degree of social awkwardness
  • More likely to be single, separated, or divorced, or multiply separated or divorced
  • A poor speller, in relation to their above average general intellectual functioning

Hmm-m-m-m-m… I do fit a number of those descriptions, especially the last one… thought I. Maybe I’m a a bit unconventional, but I don’t think I’d go so far as to call myself eccentric.

What about you? Do you see yourself as someone who fits this profile?

Words and pictures together

“Angels are needed in the world right now. Aren’t they always?”

Something I enjoy about blogging is getting to know other bloggers. We form a friendship online, and sometimes we get the opportunity to meet in person. On occasion, I discover that someone I already know is a blogger. This happened with Alexandra Wallner, a woman I often see at the symphony and other musical events. I now find out she is the author of a delightful weekly blog – Sylvia Saltwater ( http://www.sylviasaltwater.com )

Alex, as she prefers to be called, was born in Germany after WWII, and at six years of age she immigrated with her family to the U. S.  She found first grade torturous because she did not understand English. There were no learning assistance programs – everyone sank or swam – and she was sinking fast. Her father, a doctor working in tuberculosis sanatoriums, already knew several languages, and he came up with a way to improve his daughter’s “F” grades. He read comic books to her and his wife – words and pictures together – Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, Little Lulu, and Katy Keene became learning tools.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, there were fewer new TB cases, and the sanatoriums were closing. Alex told me that her family moved many times, but mostly to towns in upstate New York.

She attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N. Y. for her BFA, and was then accepted to the Tyler Institute of Art’s MFA program at Temple University in Philadelphia. But her mother passed away the summer between her senior year at Pratt and the start of the MFA program. Devastated by her loss, Alex decided to stay put. She knew and loved New York and had friends there who would support her.

Sitting in her first class, on the first day of her MFA studies at Pratt, serendipity stepped in. “I believe my mother was my angel,” she says, “I was wearing a silk dress and alligator pumps, and John sported a coat and tie. Nobody dressed like that in art school during the 1960’s.” Alex and John must have looked like a pair of swans in a pond of common ducks – they married three years later.

Once she finished her MFA, she worked as an associate art director for American Home Magazine and New Ingénue Magazines. And after a few years, she and John found themselves working together in their own place, Greywood Studios.

Collaborating on the illustrations for children’s books made their career. The comic books Alex’s father read to her left a deep impression, and in the 1990s, she started writing and illustrating her own works.  Like wet cement sticking to Daisy Duck’s oversized shoes – a love for words and pictures together had firmly adhered to Alexandra Wallner’s alligator pumps.

(See samples of Alex’s books at:  www.alexandrawallner.com  )

Alex gets her inspiration from real life. She says that when she and John lived in Maine, they belonged to “probably one of the worst homeowner’s associations in the U. S. A.” The couple kept sane by making up humorous stories about Sylvia and Max Saltwater, a retired catering couple who believe they have moved to an upscale island community, only to find out it is anything but.

“It was rough living there,” says Alex, “but the place provided me with lots of material. I tell the story of Sylvia and Max in my as-yet-unpublished book, PINOCCHIO ISLAND.”

Eventually Alex and John left the USA and they now live in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Every Wednesday she publishes a charming and insightful post, inspired by characters from her novel, but set in her new home. (You can see her latest one today)

Always enthused, Alex is now writing her memoir. She laughs, “I have old family photos and stories to go with them – more words and pictures together,” she laughs. Mornings find her painting angels. “Angels are needed in the world right now,” she states emphatically. That said, she peeks out from under her floppy hat and asks rhetorically, “Aren’t they always?”

“Merida is an excellent place for writers and painters,” says Alex. “The colors, the textures of the city, the warmth of the people, the music, the rich Mayan / Spanish culture all blend to stimulate creativity. Often artists and writers live in a vacuum and being able to mingle with other artistic people and those who support the arts is inspiring and stimulating.”

Alex and John have just celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary.  Remembering how they met, she says, “We were two squares meant for each other” – like words and pictures together.

Whew! You can say that again.

I6 month

The North and South Thompson Rivers merge in Kamloops

 

This morning I scrolled through the posts I’ve written since arriving in Canada. Pickings are slim – there has been a lot going on, and I’ve not had a lot of time to blog.

Living in Kamloops and living in Merida are as different as you can imagine. Both places have their own beauty, and their own challenges.

Merida is hot and humid for much of the year, but the winter months are glorious. The city lies just 30 kilometers from the Gulf of Mexico and the topography is flat as a pancake. My garden is lush and tropical. Kamloops is cold and dry in the winter, but during the summer months, the days are long and lovely. It is far from the ocean, but a string of lakes are close by. Sage and Ponderosa pine cover the surrounding hills.

The ancestral people who settled in the Kamloops area, called it, T’kemlups, which means, “the meeting of the rivers”. Indeed, right alongside downtown Kamloops, two major rivers join – the South Thompson, flowing from the warm interior – and the North Thompson from the frigid high mountains. The merging causes the water to rise and spill over the banks to form Kamloops Lake. Later the lake narrows and becomes a river again. A few hundred miles further downstream, the Thompson River meets the Frazer River in a gorge called Hell’s Gate. After a series of deathly rapids and undertows, the mighty river calms and meanders its way west until it reaches the Pacific Ocean.

Oh the parallels I could draw from this tale of two rivers! I lived fulltime in Mexico for more than 40 years. Through my family life and my involvement in the community, I grew to feel at home there. Nonetheless, memories of my Canadian home and that identity never left me. Most of the time, the loyalties I feel to both Canada and Mexico harmoniously coexist. Nonetheless, there are occasions when my emotional equilibrium feels like “Hell’s Gate”.

A bicultural life has its share of turbulence – my decision to live in Canada for half the year created a good deal of inner conflict. But after three months here in Kamloops, I think my two “halves” are fusing again. I feel strong and peaceful.

And guess what? Even though my Canadian stay is not finished, I will be traveling to Merida for two weeks. I have some paperwork to look after and I long to see Jorge, Carlos and Maggie. I want to swim in my pool and see how my garden is growing.

Jorge will fly back to Vancouver with me, and before his return flight to Mexico, we’ll spend Thanksgiving, Halloween and Dia de Muertos with each other.

Changes in our Lives – Whew! You can say that again.

 

Duck or deer?

Now that’s an ambiguous title for you, but you’ll see the point after reading a bit further. Many thanks to everyone who has written to ask how I am doing.

In some ways, my Canadian experience has been exactly what I figured it would be. I’ve reconnected with friends and family and met new people too. We have enjoyed concerts and dinners, morning cups of coffee and evening glasses of wine – we’ve spent hours talking and reminiscing. But there have been differences too. I’ve had little time to concentrate on the writing and painting projects I had planned. Scheduling phone calls with my family is a priority – I bless Telcel’s long distance phone plan, facebook, whatsap and Skype! Hearing each other’s voices sometimes seems vital to our family’s sanity. When I think back to how limited communication was during my first decades in Merida, I don’t know how my mom and I coped.

Fixing up my second-floor apartment has been fun – “decorating on a dime” – as my sister calls my forays through yard sales, craft markets and “vintage” shops. Re-cycling, re-using and re-purposing are trendy in BC. An original late-1940s watercolor, painted in San Miguel de Allende by Leonard Brooks is my absolute top find.  Who knows what else I’ll unearth in the coming weeks?

San Miguel watercolor by Leonard Brooks

(A little aside… Born in England, Leonard Brooks served as a Canadian army artist during WW II, but once back in Canada, he did not find the art scene to his liking. He took his veterans’ pay and set off for sun-drenched San Miguel de Allende. There, he and his wife Reva lived for 60 years – they were founding members of the informal artists’ colony that is now a magnet for English-speaking expat creative types)

Filling out forms at government offices and grocery shopping are usually on my daily to-do list. I don’t buy much at a time because I’m not driving here, and I need to lug home whatever I purchase.  But when I don’t have a heavy load, one of the best parts of every day is spent just walking around town, getting my bearings.

And even while I am occupied with some or all of the above, I ponder the changes in our lives. Truth be told, I feel overwhelmed quite a lot of the time. Before leaving Merida in June, people (who are wiser than me) warned that it would be like this. What are you talking about – thought I – I was born in Canada, I have family and friends. I’ll be like a duck landing on a familiar pond.

 True enough. I was born here and my Canadian friends and family are wonderful. If I need anything – anything at all – I know I only have to ask. But I feel like my balance is a bit off. I am not a duck gracefully gliding onto the water – I am more like the deer I see all around me – staring wide-eyed as they bound from one veggie garden to the next.

And another funny thing. I spend a lot of time cleaning. I’ve always found that getting my exterior surroundings all shined-up puts my thoughts in order.

It feels strange without Jorge and the rest of my family. But he will be coming to Kamloops this fall and Carlos was here a couple of weeks ago. The smoke from the wildfires will be completely gone by the time Jorge arrives – we look forward to spending Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween together.

I have my return ticket to Merida booked for December 11th. I joke that I’ll be like one of the Guadalupe pilgrims, carrying my torch all the way from Canada.

Changes in our Lives – I did not realize how prophetic my new blog’s name would be – changes aren’t easy or exciting all the time. But they are impossible to ignore. It is not always smooth sailing as our family adjusts to new circumstances, but a little voice inside my head keeps reminding me that over the years we have successfully weathered many storms.

And after all, change seems to be a constant for everyone. When we reflect on all we have experienced in our lifetimes – it boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Today I met 150 men!

Harvesting

As soon as I saw the large group standing outside the “Services Canada” – I could tell they were Mexican. I also assumed they were recently arrived participants in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker’s Program (SAWP) – and I was right. SAWP was established in Canada in 1966, but it has only been open in British Columbia since 2004. For many of Mexico’s unemployed farmers, it is a preferable alternative to crossing the Rio Grande.

To say they were surprised to hear me speaking Spanish is an understatement – even after I explained that I had lived full time in Yucatan for more than 40 years, and now I live in Kamloops part time.

“I am from Merida,” one guy called out, “where is your house?” I told him, and a big smile spread across his face. My new amigos wanted me to tell them about “Desert Hills Ranch” – the farm where they would be working. I had never heard of the place, but I assured them it must be big if so many had been hired.

They said they would be given time for shopping after their papers had been processed. I pointed out “Value Village”, a good quality second-hand shop in the next block, and the super market, down one more block. “Come visit us,” they said as we waved goodbye.

Once home, I looked up the SAWP program and I learned that through the SAWP, employers must provide housing for their workers, although sponsors are allowed to charge rent of $5.36 CAD per working day. The workers’ flights to and from Mexico also have to be paid by their employer. On some farms, 3 meals are provided for $12.00 a day. If meals are not prepared for the workers, the employer must provide a cooking facility, equipment, utensils and fuel. Depending on the type of work the workers do, they are paid by the amount they harvest or $10.85 CAD per hour. If they work more than 8 hours, they are paid overtime. Life insurance and health care costs are also covered by the employer.

One worker I spoke with had been in B.C. the four previous years and he said, “There is a lot of clarity about the work that is expected and protection for the guys who come up here.” He emphasized that the contracts are strict, but he has never had any significant problems with the program.

In the ten years since SAWP started in B.C., farm owners have come to rely on the program, to the point that many could not operate without migrant workers from Mexico. The online article quoted a manager, “The workers coming from Mexico are experienced and they’re reliable. It is difficult work and it’s not easy to find a source of workers locally.”

When I googled “Forest Hills Ranch”, I found that the place is a local tourist attraction. It offers fresh produce for sale and special events are staged throughout the year. One reviewer wrote that the restaurant offers the “best tacos outside Mexico”. Obviously the Mexican employees work in the kitchen as well as in the fields.

To me, the SAWP sounds like a well-thought-out program. The most common employee complaint I read against the SAWP is that it does not lead to permanent residency in Canada – the workers cannot stay in the country for longer than 8 months at a time. As well, temporary farm workers are under contract with a single employer and cannot change jobs without the written consent of that employer. While some do move from farm to farm throughout the season, their right to be in Canada is tied to the contract with their sponsor.

My sister and I plan to visit Desert Hills Ranch this summer, or maybe for Fiestas Patrias and again in the fall when the farm has a big Pumpkin Patch festival.  And of course, I want to see how my 150 new amigos are faring!

 

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If you want to visit Desert Hills Ranch, check out the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Desert-Hills-Ranch-140871702651700/

 

*** Photo credits: All images are from the farm’s website and facebook page.

 

Memories

Many children have a tattered coverlet or a favorite plush toy they carry everywhere. It gives them confidence and comfort.  As we get older, our security blankets are not made of wool or stuffed fleece. When I feel down or insecure, I let my mind drift back to happy times. Sometimes I fall asleep and dream about them.

Dad and me in front of our house
Me with Mom
Me with my grandparents

 

 

 

 

 

My parents

Either way, the memories make me feel better quite quickly.  They are like a patchwork quilt with many colored squares – they come from different periods of my life – but I must say that many of the warmest ones are of the house where I grew up.

My childhood home was a panabode – a cedar log house – built in 1953 by my father and my grandfather.  Both of them were good carpenters and they could also wire and plumb. They knew how to lay shingles on a roof and fasten siding over a foundation. Granddad was a master at grooving hardwood planks together to make a floor.  Mom and Granny varnished the wooden walls, sewed curtains, and they planted roses, dahlias and lilac in the garden.

Fifteen years later the original house could no longer accommodate us all – two additional bedrooms and a family room were added – our house grew with us.

I was 20 when Mom and Dad sold it and moved to Princeton, a town in the interior part of the province. Since then I have driven past the place a few times but I never went inside – until last Tuesday.

***

Serendipity was certainly at work when I met “Cheryl” at Auntie Alice’s knitting retreat on Pender Island. I learned that she and her family live five doors away from my former home and she said she’d try to get an invitation for me to visit. Fortunately the present owner was pleased to oblige.

My childhood home in North Vancouver

The angle of the front stairway felt immediately familiar, and at the top, I pivoted to face the front door – the original front door with its long black hinges and the same “tricky” lock – I couldn’t believe it.

The same “tricky” lock
New glass in the windows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The same steps lead downstairs

The coatroom seemed smaller to me, but the living room with its wood burning fireplace looked just the same. Several new skylights are a great addition – they allow lots of sunshine inside. My parents’ bedroom is now a sleek kitchen and my mother’s galley has been repurposed into a pre-teen’s bedroom.

Looking all around, I remembered how my grandfather’s paintings used to decorate many of the walls, and now the present owners’ art works hang in their place.  The backyard has been beautifully landscaped – my mom loved gardening and she would be so pleased to see the way it looks now.

 

 

The dining room and kitchen

 

The back garden

When I went to see the house, I took a floor plan of how it looked when our family lived there. I told a few funny stories from the “good old days”, and I think the family who now own the house enjoyed learning about the history of their home.

Seeing how much they love it created a happy new memory for me, and I know my parents and grandparents would feel gratified to know that the house they built has stood the test of time.

British Columbia’s State of Emergency

Areas where the fire danger is highest

For the past three weeks, I have been in Vancouver and on the Islands, enjoying time with friends and family. However like most residents of British Columbia, at 6 pm I make sure I am close to a TV so I can see the latest news reports about the wild fires burning in the interior of the province.

Evacuees on their way to safety

 

Getting animals out of harm’s way

There have been good days when it looked as though the fire fighters were getting the upper hand. But the forests are tinder dry at this time of year and strong winds propel the embers from established fires, starting new ones every day – 15 yesterday – and today another city was evacuated.  Some of the fires are so huge they have jumped rivers and highways.  Thousands of fire fighters from across Canada are now battling more than 160 fires in BC!

 

                                          Water bombers loading over one of the lakes

Much of the province is relatively out of harm’s way, and these cities and towns are taking in evacuees. One of them is Kamloops, the place where I will be living until December. On a news channel, I saw footage of suburban streets lined with campers and trailers, and tents pitched in front yards – the Kamloops homeowners were shown running power cords out to the stranded families and inviting them use their bathrooms.

Six Kamloops women have joined together to run a temporary donation centre, operating out of the Sandman Signature Hotel. They provide clothing, food and toiletries to those forced to evacuate their homes.

In Kamloops, sorting donations for fire evacuees

One of the women, Dusti Naud, said she and her friends used social media to spread the word. Their friends began dropping off items, and soon local businesses and others – even from outside the province – started donating items. Independent grocers donated 15 pallets of food, and another relief agency dropped off 16 bags of clothing they had collected.

Jamie Maclean, another of the six friends talked about the gift bags that have been personalized for men, women, and families. “The community has been absolutely astonishing with their donations, with their support,” she added.

Hundreds of evacuees have used the donation centre. “It’s open each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. We’re here for the people that need us,” Maclean said.

I will be returning to Kamloops on Wednesday. I’m happy that I’ll be living in a community where such caring people live.