Final Frontier Running (age 29) 👟❄️

‘Nobody puts Baby in the Corner’
~Johnny, Dirty Dancing

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While living above the Arctic Circle in the town of Inuvik for a couple of years in the 90s, I got into running.  Yes, running above the Arctic Circle folks.  No corner.  No Baby.  (Not that I’m Baby or anything.)

Dean and I were living in a huge apartment above a Skidoo store (what else would it be?) and we were both working full time: Dean as a Director at the local college and myself as Manager of the medical clinic.  We were out to work by 8:30 each morning, walked home for lunch, and then finished at 6 every evening.  There was very little physical exertion in our days of mostly sitting.

Soon, new friends Mitsy and Byron moved to town and they were into running in a big way.  The way they talked about it, it got me intrigued to possibly start again.  I hadn’t run for a few years.

My first time out, I ran for ten minutes only.  I gradually increased my time.  Before long, I was running 10Ks, except during the very darkest winter months.  The month of December was basically twenty-four hour darkness.  Hibernation or vacation time.

Our first Christmas up there, we flew down to Vancouver and rented a car.  We went to visit my brothers Job and Mark in Sooke, took a peek at Royal Roads Military College (yep, the peacocks were still there, and still distinctly smelly and noisy), tried to have a plate of nachos at the Six Mile Pub (‘Sorry we don’t do them during supper anymore’  I nearly cried at this) and then drove all the way down to Los Angeles over the next two days.  There, we stayed in a small hotel in Hollywood.  So, from the quiet dirt roads of Inuvik to a dozen lanes of traffic on a jammed freeway. Extreme.

We walked around Rodeo Drive, saw the stars in the sidewalk, did some window shopping and from there drove through the desert to Palm Springs.  Circling back through Ojai, we stayed a night with our runner friends Mitsy and Byron.  We had a fun supper with them and marveled at the citrus trees in the backyard, and then we were off north.  First to San Francisco, then to a little town just north of there where we enjoyed walking on the beach in December.  Next, off north again to Vancouver where we stayed in a nice room for New Year’s Eve.  We walked around downtown a bit, then back to our room to watch an in-house movie while lying in a very comfortable bed, feeling like a million bucks.  We then flew back to Inuvik where reality struck hard.  Vacation over.

Inuvik/ Tuk Iceroad
Canadian Geographic

To exercise the dogs, we would get on our snowmobile and drive on the ice-road toward Tuktoyaktuk.  Every year, to facilitate travel and transport of goods from Inuvik and points south, the 150 kms to Tuk, the Territory would build an ‘ice-road’ on the frozen MacKenzie River.  In the most basic sense, it was the plowing of snow to build guard rails and delineate the pure ice roadway.  The scary thing about the ice-road, which was completely dramatic and beautiful, was that if you ever got into a spin out there, it would be a toss up as to which way you had been driving.  It looked exactly alike on both sides of the road – stunted, drunken trees so it was just a guess unless you were smart and traveled with a compass.  Anyway, the dogs would run, full tilt, beside our skidoo for a few kms and back.  They loved it.  Happy lolling tongues the whole way.

Soon enough, there began to be a bit of daylight and then a full twelve hours by March, we would be out running almost daily.  Granted, it was still cold, and it would take about ten minutes to get dressed for the run with layers and layers of athletic Lycra and polypropylene and wool toque and neoprene balaclava, wool mitts and socks, then trail runners.  We would always figure one layer on our legs for each ten degrees below zero and then one extra layer up top.

Next, a drink of water and slathering of exposed skin with Vaseline, leash the dogs and hook them to the coupler and off we’d go.  There were almost no music-playing  devices back then, so, the only real sound would be the funny random noises of the huge ravens, sometimes clucking, gurgling, popping or cawing, depending on their mood or message to be conveyed, and there was our own breathing and foot falls, of course.

raven in flight

We would often do a loop around Inuvik that was about 10K.  It would go along the back road and then a right turn and a gradual hill and we would be on this spectacular ring road.  It was the final frontier, – so, running along it, one could imagine no one else existed at all.  Look left and there were literally millions of acres of wilderness with those black, stunted trees growing every which way and half drunkenly falling down.  PINGOThese were the final trees before the tree line, after which there would be a stark switch to tundra and pingos (dome-shaped mounds consisting of a layer of soil over a large core of ice).  Snow or frost was on every surface, every spruce needle, every power line wire.  It was spectacular and we had it to ourselves until a right turn onto Main Street and back to our apartment.

These days, I don’t run anymore due to sore knees, just a lot of walking.  But, it was a great pass-time while living above the Arctic Circle and I will always fondly remember those days and the final frontier feel.

Focus Kids. It’s Only Tuesday! 📆

Play is the work of childhood.
~Mr. Rogers

This is a quick little story which is set at our humble home on a quaint street in our wee tidal town.  We have lived here since August 2010.  Shortly thereafter, due to the stress and strain of a kitchen renovation which may have but then didn’t include asbestos poisoning, I landed in the hospital.  The stuff of nightmares.  And, to think, we had said to each other, Dean and I, ‘let’s not start any renos until we have owned our home for at least two years.’  Ha!  We lasted four months such was the atrocious state of our new-to-us home. (Every time I see the previous owner, I strangle him in my imagination).

So, our new reality found us painting our kitchen ceiling on Christmas Eve (which is also our anniversary); having had our kitchen gutted, rewired and replumbed; having re-painted and re-positioned cabinets, having had new appliances and fresh drywall, not to mention a shiny new double sink and formica counter-tops, flooring and windows. There is a lot involved in kitchen renos.  Trust me! And ours had the added bonus of a psychotic break for me.  Lovely.

Anyhoo, after we all recovered from that, come spring we were laughin’.

That was the year that St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday and this being a small University town, with nearly as many students as full-time residents, well, when the students decide to get out and make some noise… we all hear about it.  Don’t get me wrong, we love our students.  My comment here is that the day was an incredible early Spring day.  It was twenty-two degrees Celsius on March 17th (~72 F).  Unheard of.  And, it was St. Patty’s Day.  So, many folk were just OUTSIDE and havin’ a ball.

I will never forget that day because I spent the whole day out in the garden, raking, picking up sticks, splitting off lilies, vinca-vine and ferns.  Just any excuse to be outside.  Any Canadian can relate, I am sure.  And the whole time I was out there, I could here the ruckus happening downtown.  I had no desire to join in or to even see it, but, it was hilarious and just one of the many oddities about being Canadian.  When Spring springs, we CELEBRATE it, baby, and we GET OUTSIDE.  It was so nice, we were able to plant our gardens a month early and therefore had huge growth.

So, a few weeks later, my raised garden boxes with tall sunflowers, scarlet runners, tomatoes, kale and asparagus bed were doing very well.  It was the best, warmest Spring in a loooong time.

One of the unique features of our property is that the town tennis courts are right on the edge of our back yard.  Also, we are sandwiched between two parks, one with pitches.  So, that means a constant stream of frisbee, soccer and tennis players.  Also, students of tennis, including young kids taking tennis lessons with a hired tennis coach.  So, when I am out in the back yard, gardening or hanging a load of clothes, there is almost always banter and pock-pock, pock-pock sounds going on, not to mention the highly annoying and obnoxious exertion grunt (which drives me WILD.  Don’t they know we can HEAR them?  What the hell people? Shut up and hit the ball.)

For a few seasons in a row, the tennis coach was this big young guy with a wild head of curly red hair: Conrad.  He was very patient with his young students and consistently gave good clear instruction, over and over again followed by ‘good’, ‘better’, ‘great’, kinds of adverbs.  It was a pleasure to be weeding the garden and to overhear his patient, deep voice working with his young charges.  There is nothing like the sounds of children playing actively to bring a contented smile to my face.

It was this one weekday in mid-summer that I will never forget.  I was bent over my garden boxes just quietly working away.  I could hear the young tennis students running around on the hot court, whapping the balls around and asking for a drink about every thirty seconds, it was so hot!

Then Conrad’s voice in this slow, understated yet exasperated deep tone booms:

‘Come on kids FOCUS! It’s only Tuesday!’

Oh my god.  I was silently laughing so hard I almost inhaled top soil.  I looked over my right shoulder to see a few of the kids looking up at Conrad with a quizzical squint on their freckled faces.

‘Who cares if it’s Tuesday?? We’re playin‘ here.’ they seemed to be thinking.

Exactly, I thought.

(Thanks to Google images for the picture.)

Sublime: Perfect. Without Blemish 🌸

Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it. ~Dalai Lama

After exiting the Arctic , where we lived for three years, give or take, I applied for a job from an ad in the Globe & Mail Newspaper.  A recruiting firm was looking to hire a House Manager for a wealthy family; let’s call them The Roses in Toronto’s Rosedale.  Eagerly, I applied for the position thinking that I had the attributes mentioned in the ad.

I made the cut.

At the end of the first interview with Braun the hiring manager, I asked him why they picked me out of the three hundred applicants.  He said they liked both my creative leaf-art at the bottom of my resume as well as my military experience.  Both sides of the brain.

Braun had spent the better part of a dozen years working for the Eaton Family and he knew the kind of person that would do well in this job.  Detail-oriented, strong work ethic, well-spoken, able to foresee disasters and their solutions, appreciative of wealth but not themselves wealthy and, let’s not forget, approval-seeking.  Yep.  I had all of those qualities.

After the second interview with the agency, I was told I would next be going to the offices of Mr Rose to be interviewed by him.  I made sure to have a sturdy note pad, and a good pen.  I donned my navy blazer, blouse and skirt.  For the first time I was missing my military uniform which made wardrobe decisions so easy.  In my mind, I was a Captain heading to a meeting with a General.  Just putting it into perspective.

It went well.  I could tell Mr Rose was happy with my confident eye-contact, my note-taking and my questions.  My seriousness but also my quick smile.  I even managed to negotiate my salary up to the next notch, which I could tell both amused and impressed him.

He told me that the next step would be to visit with his family.  Meet them, tour the houses and property.  Get an idea of the scope of the job.

I had been told they were a Jewish family.  Knowing nothing about the Jewish faith, I sought the opinion of a Jewish acquaintance.  He said my visit would be during one of the Jewish holidays – Rosh Hashanah.  I was nervous about being the House Manager for a family with a completely unfamiliar faith to the one I had known growing up.  I was bound to make mistakes, even subtle ones, just because I had no idea.

At the time, I was reading a book by Deepak Chopra.  In this book, he advised to always show up with a small gift when going to someone’s house.  Wise advise, I thought.  I picked up a small box of chocolates and made sure they were kosher.  I donned my conservative atire and grabbed my sturdy note pad and reliable pen.

I drove into their estate in my 3-cylinder shit box I called ‘Puny’.  The same one I had bought before leaving Comox in 1988.

The house was modern and grand.  I knocked on the door and smiled gently as I was met by Mrs Rose.  I passed her the little box of chocolates and made nicey-nice while she showed me the huge kitchen and writing nook where she wrote her cookbooks.  Then Mr Rose took me to the other house which backed onto theirs.

His 4000 square foot Man Cave.

The door opened to a dining room with a chandelier bigger than me and a table which sat twenty-two.  Enough said. The place was perfect.  A lot of brown and beige tones with the odd hint of deep burgundy.  Very mannish.  He told me, and this was important, ‘I want this place to always be absolutely sublime‘.

K, I didn’t even know what sublime meant back then.

The first thing I did upon getting back to Scarberia (North Beaches really but, whatever) was look it up.

Sublime: Perfect, without blemish.

I was sweating.

I knew I could do this job, but, did I WANT to?  It sounded like a lot of bullshit to me.  My mind imagined my days on that property.  Worried about every little thing.  I was completely stressed just thinking about it.  When Dean and I had traveled to Australia, we had seen the movie: The Remains of The Day.  Was I meant to be a glorified Butler / House Keeper; a combination of both Anthony Hopkins’ and Emma Tompsins’ characters? Was I to walk around with a feather duster and white gloves?

Then, the call came.  Braun the Hiring Manager was dressing me down for bringing a box of chocolates to the interview at their home.  He told me it was inappropriate.  Mr Rose had mentioned it and said it was like I was trying to ‘butter’ them up to hire me.  Geez.  This guy was a freak.  I wasn’t even hired and he was already disappointed in me.

phone boothI remained silent when Braun stopped speaking.  I was in a phone booth in the village of Maggie River on Eight Mile Lake, near The Camp in Cottage Country of Ontario.  It was a gorgeous early summer day.  I looked at the shiny water near the locks.  I looked at the nodding heads of the wild flowers growing in every possible crack or fissure.

Sublime: Perfect. Without Blemish.

flower

I took a deep breath and told Braun that I was no longer interested in the position.  I said, ‘If Mr Rose is that worried about a proffered tiny box of chocolates, I don’t think I can work for him.  I don’t want to work for people like that.  Sorry.’

Braun was speechless.  He had invested a lot of time in me.  He would have to start over.

‘You mean, you don’t want to work for The Rose Family?  At that salary?  Maybe I can get you more money, Morgan.’

‘Sorry, Braun.  I can’t do it.  It’s not for me.’

I walked away from that phone booth feeling a massive weight lift off my shoulders.  I felt like I had dodged a bullet.  Next, I went for a swim in the shiny waters of Eight Mile Lake.

Sublime: Perfect. Without Blemish.

 

clip

 

(All pictures come from Google Images.  Thank you!)

A Posting to Germany and a Lifelong Romance, (Army Part 5) 🥂

We were spending all kinds of time together, working and exploring Europe but, it wasn’t turning into romance. So, I did something about it…

Continued from A Posting to Germany and a Lifelong Romance (Army Part 4)

So we began our careers together as young platoon commanders and it was busy – the learning curve was vast and challenging and not without sweat and tears.  We attended daily meetings and orders groups.  We went to gun-camps and field exercises together.  We did physical fitness tests; challenges like rappelling off the jump tower and out of a helicopter; and long marches.  We had TGIF gatherings and formal Mess dinners together and soon we started hanging out as friends.  We would drive to neighbouring countries, cities, towns and villages.  We would check out various restaurants and go for hikes or to a soccer match.  We would find English movies to watch in various Movie houses.  One of our favourite places to go was Strasbourg, France.  It was so beautiful and medieval. We also loved going to the baths at Baden-Baden.

baths

We would stay at the baths for a few hours and walk on the crooked cobble-stone lane ways until we found a little bistro. Famished from the baths.

At Christmas time, feeling that I had just finally settled in, I thought I may not go home back over the pond.  I would just stay and catch up on work and have a quiet time, solo.  My apartment phone rang.  When I answered it my eldest brother Matt’s unmistakable voice asked my why I wouldn’t be coming home.  In his deep, slow drawl he said, ‘Morg, I almost died a few months ago.  I’ve just re-learned how to walk.  You really need to come home.  We’re going to have a big Player Family Christmas party.  You can stay with us.  Come home, okay?’

My biggest brother had had a near fatal car accident outside of town up at the lake.  He was driving his new convertible and somehow it flipped, throwing him a distance.  He landed on his head and was knocked out for days.  When he came to, he couldn’t speak properly and he couldn’t walk.  He and June persevered, as they would, being who they are – tough and hardworking.  They pulled through.  June ran the business while Matt did physio and recouped mentally.  He would later tell hilarious stories about his time in the hospital.  How he would jumble his words and meaning and sayings.  Of course, all the nurses loved him.  He made everyone laugh.

So, of course I went home and I enjoyed every minute of the catching up and the hyper-ness of being with all the personalities of my big, wonderful family.

***

Out on a field exercise once we had to do the Junior Officer Challenge.  It was twenty-four hours and 75 km with eighteen mini-competition posts along the way.  Fifty Junior Officers started out.  We nick-named it the Okey-Dokey Challenge.   The other female officers and many of the male officers dropped out — mostly due to wicked blisters and injuries.  Dean and I did the whole thing together.  I was the only woman to finish.  The picture here is of us at the last ‘competition’ – wine tasting.  Dean and I were seated on a bench, side by side.  Luckily, I got to do it again the following year but, not Dean.  He had been posted to CFB Baden as the Quarter Master of 3RCR.  So, that year, I did most of it with Scott Spinner, also from Walden.

okey-dokey-1990

All this time we were spending together though, didn’t turn into romance.  Then I found out that my Dean had a girl-friend back home in Newfoundland.  Geez.  What would I do about that.  I was in love with him.

Then it hit me: make him jealous.

That is what I did.

I started dating gorgeous specimens whom I would meet around base or at the Officers’ Mess.  Each hunk I met and dated, I made sure to introduce to Dean: Pete, Greg, Chris, Fraser.  Dean would prickle slightly when I would bring a new guy to him to meet.  This went on for about eighteen months.

One Friday, I had made a date with Fraser — a gorgeous, sweet-natured, blue-eyed, muscled helicopter pilot and I was to meet him later at the Mess.  Mid-morning, I was in my office when in walks Dean and sits down.  He then did something he had never done before.  He asked me to go to a soccer banquet with him later that evening.  Bristling, I asked him if this was a date.  ‘Yes’, he said.

I was so mad.

I called him an asshole.

He looked at me with shock of his face.  I asked him if he thought I had nothing going on on a Friday night.  I told him about my date with Fraser and that no, I couldn’t go to his silly banquet.  I was seething.

Later I was with Fraser all I was doing was talking about Dean and how much he angered me.  How could he really expect me to be just available to him, just like that.  I went on and on.  Fraser looked at me and gently but firmly said: ‘Morgan, go to the banquet.  Don’t worry about me.  Just go.’

Off I went.  The banquet was in a restaurant just up the street from my apartment.  After the banquet, Dean and I walked the cobble-stone street to my apartment, arm-in-arm.

We have been together ever since.

That was 1990.  It is now 2018 and we just celebrated 25 years married while on a trip to Cuba. I am the luckiest girl in the world.

After we started dating, we began to go away on weekend or week-long trips.  We went skiing in the Swiss Alps, staying at a chalet.  The Alps were beyond belief.  We would ride various lifts up to the peak, spend a couple hours skiing up there, then ski down to a chalet for lunch and a beer – the scenery from the chalet was enough to bring tears to your eyes.  Spectacular.  After refreshments, we would ski for a couple more hours in the middle of the alps and then ski down to the base where we would find the lodge and end our day.  It was blissful.

swiss alps skiing

Another trip found us in the Austrian Alps on Officer Adventure Training.  Well subsidized.  The Austrian Alps were also spectacular.  This time we were staying in a quaint village that looked like something from a painting or a Christmas card.  So picturesque with its crooked, old stone buildings, shutters, balconies, cobble stones, wrought iron and of course, the layer of pure white snow on every surface and not a flat roof in sight.

austria
Another trip we went on together though was to Corfu, Greece.  We had two weeks at an all-inclusive resort and we had an amazing trip.  The trip ended with the two of us exchanging identical rings on a hill in an olive grove.  We were now engaged to be married.  Oh happy day!

corfu

In Greece, we met an older couple named Mary and David from Scotland.  They made the mistake of inviting us to their home to visit some day.  Well, we went.  We flew into London on a military air craft.  We saw Les Miserables, a Tottenham soccer match and we walked and explored all around parts of London.  We went to Harrods and stayed in a B & B.  Then we took a bus north to Glasgow.  Mary and David handed us a shot of whiskey as we arrived at their house.  For the next couple of days, they toured us around the countryside to see ruins of Castles, Inverary Village,

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom

boutiques and tea shops.  In one shop, I bought a lavender coloured kilt that I later wore to be married in.  Dean bought a deer-stocker hat. We went to the pictures one night and then it was over.  We headed back to London and flew back to Germany.  One regret is that we did not get over to Ireland.  To date, we have still not been to Ireland and we would truly like to go.

Somewhere in there, my younger brother Luke came to Germany and stayed in my apartment with me for a number of months, sleeping on my roll-away cot.  I look back on that time with regret because I feel that I didn’t spend enough quality time with him while he was there.  My attentions were focused elsewhere and I was sometimes rather stressed with pressures at work, which came out in tetchiness with him.  Luke was able to pick up a serving job and use my bike to get to the Caserne where the cafe was. One nice time we had was to head down to the Bondensee in Switzerland where we had a bit of time together by the water.  I was doing my dive licence at that time and needed to conduct a deep dive.  Because the visibility at depth was about nil, it was fairly intense and I had to talk to myself the whole time to stay calm.  After getting my SCUBA licence, I never dove again.  It just wasn’t something that I liked doing, after all.  While I was deployed on exercise for several weeks, Luke went home to Canada.  I missed him bitterly after he was gone.  He had met a very sweet lady who herself was ready to head home and I thought they would be together forever, but, alas, one never knows.

bodesea

It was about this stage in our young relationship that we started to discuss the idea of getting out of the army.  We would make our own way out on civvie street.  We had no real idea what we would do for jobs, but, we knew for certain that we did not want to be ‘in’ any longer.

We were honourably discharged from the Canadian Forces in March of 92 and moved in with Dean’s parents into their 800 square foot house in Newfoundland.  A few months later we started another adventure…travelling all over Canada and into Alaska in our 1976 VW Van named ‘Betsy’ that we brought home from Germany.  Ahhh, but, that’s another post…

(Please note, all photos, except the one of us drinking wine in combats, are from google images and my thanks to those who took the pictures!)

My Small-Steak Freak-Out 🐂

Let me ask you something, in all the years that you have…undressed in front of a gentleman has he ever asked you to leave?… No? It’s because he doesn’t care! He’s in a room with a naked girl, he just won the lottery. I am so tired of… waking up… and recalling every single thing I ate the day before, counting every calorie I consumed so I know just how much self loathing to take into the shower. I’m going for it…. I’m just through with the guilt. So.. I’m going to finish this pizza, and then… tomorrow we are going to go… buy ourselves some bigger jeans.
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

For most of my life, I have been completely messed up with regard to body-image and worth regarding its size.  It is a sad story when considering just the amount of time, thought, energy and tears that I have expended with regard to this.  I will reference an earlier post that I have written on this topic: BoPo Revisited.

Since January 2017, I have been working and trying and hoping to get this monkey off my back and to just really be okay with my still strong, newly soft body, more lustrous hair, clear skin and more peaceful attitude.  I strive to go about my day without judgement and with forgiveness toward my past and to just be chill with regard to food and exercise rules of the past.

I’m getting there folks.

Some days I barely think about my past.  Where as before, I would be worried about every food choice; doing way too much exercise and giving myself way too many imaginary pats on the back for that plus food restriction.

Just now, as I was walking to my office and I had this funny (scary) memory of a freak-out that came from nowhere.  The preparation of a meal used to be a major production (ie: in my mind).  My thoughts around ‘did I deserve’ this meal would run rampant.  Had I done enough exercise to allow for a big meal or should I just eat a salad while my family ate the well-rounded meal, that I made.  This was a daily, useless ordeal with many pitfalls.  I’m exhausted just remembering it.

So, this one day, I’m cooking up steaks — a real treat.  There were two large ones and a small-ish one.  I fried them in our cast-iron pan with garlic and herbs.  They smelled heavenly.  Meanwhile, Dean mashed the potatoes and Leo set the table to include steak-knives, salad and red wine.

steak

I placed each juicy steak on a plate to rest, thinking, of course, I would have the small one…

but,

when I turned around I was both confused and horrified to see that Dean had taken the small one.  Then, a completely inappropriate reaction erupted from myself.

‘Dean, the small one is for ME!!! Why on earth would YOU take the SMALL one??!’ I shrieked at him.

He looked at me. Looked at his plate. Looked at me.

‘I thought I would leave a large one for you, Morgan, since you’re the one cooking them.’

My face was red.  My mind was confused.  Didn’t he GET that I didn’t DESERVE to eat a large one?

Leo weighs in.

‘Mom. Chill. We usually have too much anyway.  Dad will not starve.’

But, you see, I wasn’t worried about Dean starving.  I was worried about ME eating more than I should.  More than I deserved.  Fuck.  Messed up.

Thankfully, this little freak-out episode was close to the time of my epiphany away from disordered eating and over-exercising.  Praise Jesus.

Barefoot Heathens 👣

A sunny day and a barefoot walk with my big brother turns into a horrible memory…

Many long sunny days during our summers at the lake, we would walk the two miles to the nearby town of Maggie River, population 300 souls, just for something different to do.  Sometimes I would be with a friend staying in the camp.  Other times I would be with a brother, or two.  On this particular day, I was with my older brother, closest to me in age: Job.

We were walking along on that hot summer day in the 70s.  We each had a dollar to spend in town and we were feeling rather rich.  We were discussing what we could do with that money. Would it be spent on fries and a pop at July’s or a vachon, black balls and chocolate milk at Jake’s General Store?  July’s and Jake’s shared side-by-side real estate in the village of Maggie River and each backed onto a grassy patch which sloped down to Almond River, which was really Maggie River extended after the locks system.

general storeBoth July’s and Jake’s were tired, dusty and faded.  Their respective owners, July and Jake, had since thrown up their hands to the bygone dreams of business greatness.  (A few decades later, both buildings would burn to the ground in an unsolved tragedy that would rock the core of the wee village, one which still wondered at the loss by fire of their once proud Marina.)

The Tuck Stop didn’t mind.  Even Seniors were ordering take-out these days and pulling up a bench seat at a red wooden picnic table in order to enjoy their chicken fingers and fries with a cold coke sipped by straw.  For Job and I, our favourite was the foot-long hot dog.  We just could not believe that a hot dog could be that long.  We marveled at it each time it arrived in front of us.  It was especially good when washed down with a thick sweet chocolate milk-shake.

So, on this particular day, with nary a water bottle nor a hat and never ‘sunscreen’ (what was that?) Job said, ‘hey Morg, lets walk the whole way to town up on the rocks!’ Job loved a physical challenge.  I guess I did too.  Up we scrambled onto the hot, dark rocks which had been cut to form the roadway.  We carried on walking, sometimes skipping from one outcrop to the next.  Job was way ahead of me, as usual.  He was faster, more daring and more physically efficient in every way.

road and rockAs I walked along the rocks, a bothersome horsefly bobbed around my head, crashing into my tanned forehead every few steps.  Looking up to see Job’s red head bobbing up and down ahead of me, I suddenly realized that there was a warm sensation coming from the bottom of my right foot.  ‘What the…?’  I reached down and my hand came back to me covered in blood.  The tears burst from my eyes as I screamed for Job.

With wild, frightened green eyes Job arrived by my side and knew instantly that I had trod on a piece of broken glass.  He found the piece a second later.  It was a nasty jagged stalagmite of broken beer-bottle glass and it was covered in my blood.  Job half carried me for about ten minutes to the closest cottage where he pounded on the door and asked for help.

The nice lady who came to the door took me to her pure white porcelain tub and quite tenderly washed my gash of blood.  She soothed me with sweet mutterings while she ensured there was no glass left inside the wound.  I was silently crying and worried. Next she sat me down on a kitchen chair and expertly bandaged my foot with a gauze.  She used a lot of gauze.  A whole roll.  She knew exactly what she was doing.  Then she drove us back to the camp and made sure Dad received us before she left.  Dad had a quick conversation with her, thanked her profusely and got the details of the unfortunate occurrence.

Dad closed the door of the office and turned around to stare us down with the look of thunder on his face.  He was not happy.

Morgan, why didn’t you have shoes on while walking to town?  FROM NOW ON, YOU WILL ALWAYS WEAR SHOES WHEN WALKING TO TOWN.  IS THAT CLEAR?! he bellowed.  ‘THAT WOMAN IS A COMPETITOR OF OURS.  DID YOU TWO KNOW THAT?’

We both shook our heads vehemently, but, we DID know that.  He was always talking about our competitors.  How many campers they had compared to us, and so on, endlessly.

campground

‘NOW SHE THINKS WE ARE HEATHENS AND WITHOUT SHOES!’ he yelled.  ‘SHE’LL SPREAD IT ALL OVER THE LAKE THAT WE CAN’T EVEN AFFORD SHOES!’  He was livid. His face was purple.

At this point, Job escaped out the screen door and all I heard was the wap of the door as it hit the frame – his red noggin’ bouncing up and down as he diminished down the trail to the shop then hard right and gone up into the camp, likely to find Mom and our baby brother Luke and tell them the story.

Next, Dad grabbed me roughly by the arm.  I was just seven years old and tiny and he was huge.  And Mad.  He spanked me hard several times with his open hand which hit my bare legs and stung very badly.  It hurt a lot and I quietly bawled and bawled, but what hurt even worse was the betrayal I felt.  He was the guy who was supposed to protect me.  I didn’t think it was fair to receive a beating when I was already injured but, I didn’t say a word.  That would have been certain death.

He told me to get in the car and off we went to the medical clinic in Rex Falls, 20 miles away.  I needed stitches and a tetanus shot.  So much for a vachon and coke.

This day was horrible and getting worse by the minute.  The aftermath of the cut foot was ten days of no swimming.  Was I miserable!  I always wore my shoes to town after that one.  Probably didn’t need the beating because the no swimming was punishment enough.

Usually natural consequences work best, I find.

But, what I am still confused about when I remember this, even though it happened to me decades ago, is just how much my Dad over-reacted, in a bad way, to my cut foot.  Perhaps he was having an awful day and this was just one more hassle to deal with.

But, it was me.

His good little girl.

I was hurt and scared and needed a hug.  I can’t imagine beating my child who came home to me with a cut foot. It’s like kicking someone when they’re down.  Who does that?

So,

I am gonna re-write the last bit…bear with me…

…Dad closed the door of the office and turned around to look at Job and I with a worried look on his face.  He gathered both of our small bodies to his chest with his big strong arms.  He kissed our curly heads, mine dark, Job’s ginger.  He told us not to worry.  He was going to fix all this.

‘Get in the car you two.  First it’s stitches for Morg, then it’s ice-cream.’

We smiled at our Dad who was always so good to us and fixed all our mistakes, or tried to anyway.  In town, we picked out a sweet thank you card for the lady who helped me and after ice-cream we brought it to her door to thank her in person.

Even though I couldn’t swim for ten days, Dad took me fishing and we had so much fun.

fishing with Dad

If you have any comments, I would love to read them.

~Morgan

Canoe Island’s Cataclysmic Storm (part 2) 🛶

‘What doesn’t kill you will only make you Stronger’
~Nietzsche

By Guest Writer: Luke Player

Continued from Part 1

canoe island2

Around six in the evening, the canoe finally drifted into the little cove on the island.  They carefully unloaded the gear to assure it would remain dry.  They set up the tent, threw the sleeping bags inside and paddled off to Echo Rock.  As they paddled, Luke looked up at the rock cliff, and he began to remember the first time he had jumped from Echo Rock.  He recalled the mixture of exhilaration and frightening feelings, as he slowly scaled the naturally laid stones to the precarious ledge which opened to a panoramic view of the bay.  Local history has it that in the late nineteenth century, before roads were built in the area, a steamship that supplied the towns of Maggie River and Almond Harbour caught fire and sank in the bay.  On a clear day, one can still see the timbers of the old steamship from the ledge at Echo Rock.

jump from rock

They docked the canoe to the side of the majestic rock surface and tied a line to a birch tree conveniently overhanging the surface of the water.  Like most hot July days in the north, the day’s end was a subtle transition into a long, warm evening, with the heat of the day still prevalent in the mid-summer air.  On this particular day, the late evening temperature was higher than usual.  As he dove through the air, he anticipated the cool feel of the water on his sweltering body.  After thirty minutes of climbing and diving, they were both ready to retire for the evening.  They jumped back into the canoe and headed toward the tiny island campsite, just three hundred yards in front of them.

As the distinctive sound of crickets filled the air, accompanied by the multitude of mysterious sounds from other diverse night creatures, the sun’s powerful radiance created a timeless portrait on the night’s western sky.

sunset on water
Courtesy of ‘Nature’s Knocking’ Blog on WordPress

The buzz of thousands of mosquitoes hovering over the surface of the water were silhouetted by the red glow of the sunset.  The night became animated in sound and the peculiar northern environment came alive with tranquil vitality.

campfire and canoe

The time was 9:30pm.  Jason started a small fire and they cooked a meal of beans and wieners as they quietly watched the flickering flames.  Luke turned and asked Jason a question and he was surprised to see him already heading for the tent to go to sleep.  Just then, he looked up at the night sky and saw a ring of clouds forming in the western horizon.  Suddenly, he heard a splash on the other side of the island.  He ran over to a barren rock-shelf and flashed his light in the rippling water.

snapper

A big snapping turtle appeared in the dark water below him.  The characteristic hooked head and long tail on the lonely reptile gave it a sinister look as it frantically swam away from the light.  As he looked over the water, the rain then began.  Nevertheless, Luke doused the fire and headed for the tent.

The air in the tent was hot, but after a while the rain’s hypnotic sound on the tent softly lulled him to sleep as it quenched the night air of its sticky heat.  The wind was picking up as the sound of trees bowed to its might and it could be heard all around the tiny island.

Suddenly, Luke awoke.  He looked out the tent window and saw a flash of light in the night sky.  Just heat lightening, he optimistically thought, as he drifted again into a twilight sleep.

Twenty minutes later, however, the tent abruptly shifted as the wind became strong and severe.  They were both awake now and wondered if this was a smart time to get off the island.

white water

Luke looked out the window of the tent at a tiny porch light, about a quarter of a mile up the lake.  The light flickered and went out.  A power-line must have gone down, he thought to himself.  He realized then that this was not a normal storm.  As he looked out at the turbulent lake and heard the white waves hit the shore of the island, he knew they were trapped.

The canoe could easily capsize if they took the chance to reach the nearest shelter.  The storm raged on, and with every flash of lightening their fear rose as they waited for the inevitable clap of thunder, which sounded so close it shook the tiny island and rang in their ears as a warning of its fury.

Luke reminded himself and his young nephew not to panic.  The combination of rain, wind and lightening became so intense that they were forced to yell at each other to communicate over the furious tempest.

What could they do?

Their bodies were drenched from the deluge of rain.  They were sitting ducks in the midst of a powerful storm.  The lightening flashed with great intensity and they both knew that they could be electrocuted at any second.

The time slowed to endless crawl.  The lightening crashed down so close that the ground was alive underneath them.  Fear became their greatest enemy.  Luke thought about the headlines in tomorrow’s local paper:

Two Careless Canoeists Swept To Death Camping On Tiny Island

They had to act!

They both jumped out of the tent and into a blinding shower of rain.  They had to get to the canoe to get off the storm-besieged island.  They looked in amazement when they realized the canoe had flipped over and dislodged itself from its original place high up on the rock.  The tie-line had torn off the tree limb.  They were just in time!  Luke had to get to the canoe before it was swept away into the deep water of the lake.  He dove into the tumultuous water and came up on the other side of the canoe.  The waves lapped against his head and he luckily braced himself on the bottom of the lake, pushing the canoe into the island’s rocky shore.  Jason grabbed the tie-line and they lifted the canoe up and over, to empty it of water.

lighteningThe lightening flashed and they saw its giant forks crash into a tree near Echo Rock, splitting it in half with ease.  But, they were paralyzed with fear and decided they had to wait it out in the water-soaked tent.  Going out on the lake now would put them in more danger.

It was three in the morning, and the storm had raged for more than three hours.  At three-thirty, the lightening and the wind began to subside and they were ready to risk an escape in an empty canoe.

They placed the canoe in the water and paddled for the nearest cottage with all their might.  The lake was still rough and the white waves became a formidable obstacle in the dark.

The wind gusted unpredictably.  The canoe turned abruptly and the waves haphazardly hit the side of the tiny craft, pushing it into the bay.  Luke started having second thoughts about their decision to cross over to the cottage on the mainland, but they could not turn back now.

The cold rain dripped from their weary faces as water lapped over the sides of the canoe.

The wind subsided and attacked like a bull on a rampage.  After forty-five minutes of wind and waves, Luke pointed to the dock in excitement.  Just as hope became alive in them, a colossal wave rolled mightily over the side of the canoe, sweeping them into the uproarious lake.

Fortunately, Luke and Jason were both strong swimmers and they did not panic easily.  The night seemed endless and surreal as the dark water encompassed their every thought.  Luke then looked behind him and saw the protruding dock just a few feet away.

They had made it….

***

Luke opened his eyes and it took a few moments to realize where his exhausted body had fallen two hours before, in the dark.  The water was now calm as the early rays of the sun shone over the tree-line in the east.  The canoe was rhythmically hitting the rocks just twenty feet to the left of the dock.  As Luke’s eyes came into focus, he thought that the once proud craft looked broken and demoralized as the water swelled over its humble crescent form.

A man then appeared on the dock and told them about the tornado that had touched down in the area.  They suddenly realized that the storm had left a path of destruction, with immense pine trees split in half and cottages with trees leaning on them, precariously.

As Luke and Jason drove out onto the main highway, they looked in wonder at the legacy of the storm.  It was a storm that would be well-remembered by the two fortunate survivors.

Luke turned to his nephew and said:

A philosopher by the name of Nietzsche once wrote what I am feeling right now…

‘What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.’

canoe on sand

Leave a comment!  I love ’em and the guest writer, Luke Player, will love ’em too!

(All photos were found on google images and pinterest and https://naturesknocking.wordpress.com/ )

Canoe Island’s Cataclysmic Storm (part 1) 🛶

~Guest submission by Luke Player~

Here’s a fabulous adventure and survival story from my little bro.  Prepare to be very, very scared.  Shivering in your boots and thanking your lucky stars that you’re dry and warm as you read…

tree tops

The winding country road was once again under construction.  In the twenty-six years both as passenger and driver on that road, Luke had witnessed few changes in the 14-kilometer trek from Rex Falls to the town of Maggie River.  Every inch was etched in his mind: every bump to avoid; every curve that had caused a fatal accident; every long hill that brought back the rush of deliberate speed of bike trips as a teen; every business sign battered and torn by winter’s cold and every cozy structure that lined the highway with backyards of dense forest or boggy swamp with poorly rooted trees leaning loosely to one side.

highwayThis road often triggered a set of paradoxical emotions, with both excitement and melancholy.  Every turned corner held another vividly colourful memory of childhood summers. Driving to town with siblings to do errands was always a treat and the family’s weekly trip to church brought all of us together to share in the week’s joys and sorrows.  Luke’s reflections were suddenly cut off by an unexpected bump and the long rough sound of gravel under the car’s wheels.

The heat of this July day was exceptional.  Luke casually observed the straggling construction crew, noticing the look of dogged monotony in the eyes of one anonymous worker, draped in the ubiquitous orange which made him stand out like a flash of fire at the side of the road.  He thought to himself that the sign in his hand was more than a warning to drivers to slow down; it was a warning as well to slow down before the power of the sun stripped them all of their energy.

As he turned another corner, just before entering the camp, he reminded himself to stop at the spring on High Road for some cold water.  He could remember as a small child looking down at the bubbles in the crude wooden box which contained the spring water.  His mother dunked the neck of the water jugs to fill them as she commented (with a pained smile) on how perfectly cold the water was on her hands.  Today, the old wooden box has been replaced by the modernized well and tap that create the seemingly never-ending sound of water on the smooth, polished rock below.

spring2

Luke bent down for a long drink and he noticed a tiny bright green frog playing in the stream of spring water.  As a child, he caught the same tiny green frogs for the purpose of scaring his big sister with the slippery creatures.  He splashed cold water on his face and the memory was driven away with a feeling of cool, refreshing relief.

springHe filled the jugs, threw them in the back seat and was confident that in a few minutes he would be unabashedly running to dive in the lake that he had known all his life.

As he finally neared the entrance to the camp, that old familiar anticipation rose in his being.  He looked to his left and saw that the sprawling bay was unusually calm except for the group of children diving off the raft near the beach.  Even though the raft was far away, he knew they were his boisterous teenage nephews.  He turned into the old camp road, reducing his speed, as the car rolled gently over the incorrigible rutted grass-line, cutting the rugged road in half with long green grass.  He then drove straight for the beach.

He parked under the natural shade of an old pine tree, quickly exited the car and did a running dive into the water.  As he swam in slow motion under the water, his heat exhaustion was washed away.  He thought to himself about an ongoing contest he once had with his sister Morgan, in which they had devised an underwater race, with the winner being the first to come up to the surface and touch the raft.boy jumping off raft

He reached the raft and called to his eldest sister’s oldest son, who was swimming about ten feet to his right.  The last time they had talked in May, they had decided on canoeing up the lake, and all they had to do now was decide when to go.

They had planned to paddle to the small island, approximately ten kilometers up Eight-Mile Lake, near a gigantic landmark by the name of Echo Rock.  It is the name for a place where one can climb up 50 feet to dive into the deep water below, with the Precambrian wall of rock providing a unique, natural location for diving.

echo rock

The water was extraordinarily calm as they started up the lake.  It made the canoe’s speed easy to increase over the glass-like water.  The afternoon heat was overpowering in the middle of the lake; so they headed over to the shoreline, to allow for the natural shade of the over-hanging trees.

As they paddled through a narrow stretch of the lake, they kept their eyes on a well-known wooden bridge which gave access to a dock for a group of cottagers.  The canoe skimmed briskly over the serene waters of Eight-Mile Lake.  As Luke looked down into the water, he saw the flash of rock and dead tree stumps, but they were just deep enough to be missed by the canoe, and Luke thought that the canoe is truly a superior water craft, for it can intimately explore every inch of a lake.  He would soon think a little differently about it…

…Continued at Canoe Island’s Cataclysmic Storm part 2

big rock and canoe

(all pictures courtesy of Google images except the highway and the two spring pics which are from ‘Nature’s Knocking’ Blog on WordPress)

Crazy Train 🚂 (part 2) Cuba 🇨🇺

So, no, woman, no cry.
No, woman, no cry.
I say, oh, little—oh, little darlin’, don’t shed no tears.
No, woman, no cry. Eh.
~Bob Marely

Continued from Crazy Train (part 1)…

My brother Mark and his wife and my sister Amy and I had tickets for a week in Cuba and I was determined to go.  I was looking forward to getting out of our messed up house with it’s temporary kitchen and dust everywhere.  I was determined to go.  I may have mentioned that already.  I figured it would do my cough good to get into the sun even though I had coughed up a bit of blood earlier that day.

When I met my sister Amy at the Toronto airport she noticed immediately that I was holding my body rigidly.  Her big blue eyes searched my face as she asked me if I was okay. My green eyes began to water as I said: I have a few problems right now.

Cue the ominous music

The first two days in Cuba were fine.  We walked on the beach and swam and laughed and Mark played his guitar and we all sang a whole lot but, my bronchitis was not improving.

It was worsening.

Amy, Mark and Irene went out in the evening to watch the band.  I was going to stay and rest, I said.  Mark was going to play a song and he was looking forward to that.  Our rooms were about a five minute walk to the area on the beach where the music was to be performed.  After they left, I decided to put something comfortable on and walk over and stand in the sand to just listen.  By the time I walked the walkway to the beach, tears were streaming down my face due to the beauty everywhere and how frightened I was of what lay ahead.  I knew it would be psychosis and psychosis can be a very scary place.

Someone in the band saw me crying and he whispered to his band mate.  Suddenly they were playing, ‘No Woman No Cry‘ by Bob Marley.  I just bawled some more at how sweet they were to try and help me with their music.  I realized again just how much I love Cuba.

However, I could not sleep.

I would lay in bed staring at the ceiling and then, by the third night, the visions and the outrageous thoughts started: I was the Virgin Mary. I was the one meant to save the world. There was a numerology aspect.  I was born on 03-03-66. Leo was born on 09-08-99. I was 33 when he was born.  Mom was born in 16-06-30 and she had been 36 when I was born.  My business was Incorporated on 06-06-06. So, lot’s of threes (and sixes and nines, all divisible by three).  There were three in my family.  Three was a special number, as a former Catholic I knew this well.  The number of the Holy Trinity in Christianity.  My mind churned these thoughts — twisting and turning them, over and over.

Then, I was having conversations with God. The Player family would all be saved from the coming world crisis if we gathered on a tropical island together. My pulse raced.  My stomach churned with butterflies.  My bowels turned to liquid.  I was all keyed up and it was impossible to sleep. Mania was taking over my mind and I was familiar with it. All aboard the crazy train folks…

railroad, abandoned

Things rapidly deteriorated from that point.  Luckily our week was almost up.  Mark and his wife began furtive preparations for home while Amy watched over me. I just wanted to walk around the resort and connect with every possible person in my vicinity. Mark and Amy were worried I wouldn’t be permitted on the flight if I was acting too manic, so Amy and I went to the medical clinic where a very kind and gentle doctor, while holding my hand, shot a huge syringe of tranquilizer into each cheek of my ass.   Amy said that it was enough tranquilizer to drop a horse.  But guess what, I was still manic with no tranquility in sight.  I popped off the bed like the Energizer bunny.  By the time we got to the airport though, I was much more calm but still no sleep.  I should have been slumped over, drooling, in deep sleep.

Now, I was taking the hands of total strangers, gazing deeply into their eyes and telling them all about their lives and how to improve it.  Funnily enough, people seemed to really want to hear what I was saying to them.  It was bizarre.  One man told me I was the most honest person he had ever spoken to.  Meanwhile, my brother Mark was running around trying to keep me safe and to act normal so that the airline people would allow me to fly.  I, of course, was oblivious by this point.

Next up….Crazy Train (part 3)

girl on tracks

Near Death Experiences

As I stand alone at the window
In search for what I cannot see
I wonder to what might show
Some of you or all about me.

This poem is a guest submission to my blog.  It was written by an old high school friend who, almost nine years ago, had a freak, totally sober accident with a patio door that, when it broke, nearly severed his arm.  He almost bled to death in front of his family.  How completely scary that at any moment, anything could happen to any of us.  Al explained to me that he had to learn to write with his other hand.  He said the body is an amazing machine.  Don’t I know it, Al.  Our bodies do so much for us and walk us on this Earth.  Al said he didn’t start writing poetry because of the accident, but, that his poetry became much deeper and intuitive because of it. Here’s his poem.

A Poem By:   Allan Edward (Po Po) Kinsella

 S E A R C H I N G – H I D I N G  B E H I N D  O F  M Y S E L F

As I stand all alone at the window

In search for what I cannot see

I wonder to what might show

Some of you or all about me.

I often will hide what I’m thinking

Or disguise it with something else

When in reality it is simple

I’m hiding behind of myself.

The sun and the moon I do turn too

For answers I simply can’t find

The thoughts and tears of a lifetime

Once left in a time way behind.

I realize the answers not out there

Not found in the moments gone by

To find them I need to stop searching

And look in the mirror inside.

AL
Al in high school

So, lately, I was looking through some old yearbooks and came across this adorable picture of Al. An old friend from high school in a place three provinces away.  I always liked Al.  Everyone likes Al.  Such an easy going, nice person.  Because I reached out to him, due to this picture, he is now going to bring out his poetry to be read by others.

You GO Al!

Leave a comment about your near death experience (or one from someone close to you).  Did it change you?  Did you learn something?  Tell me…I love it!