Friday, May 29, 2009

Mountain Pine Beetle

How can something so tiny
cause such immense devastation?
More about BC's mountain pine beetle problem and TreeCanada.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


For years I've marveled at how energetic and rambunctious my dog, Pepper, is for her age (she just turned 12 at the start of May) and doubted that she'd ever show signs of getting old. This past Christmas Pepper was still bounding over snow drifts and racing to be first in line as our family roamed the woods in search of a Christmas tree. But since coming back home I've noticed a change in Pepper. All her movements are a lot slower than usual and she occasionally limps. I had tried to ignore the telltale signs of Pepper's advancing age until Sunday, when Bryn and I took her for a walk to the creek near our house.

The walk started out normally with Pep happily and obediently trotting by my side as we followed Bryn, riding her bike, down the road. But before we were even halfway to Mission Creek, Pepper started lagging behind and I noticed a slight limp. I had planned to take Pepper to a part of the creek that has a natural dam where she can swim and fetch sticks without getting pulled downstream by the spring mountain runoff. But when I saw how tired she was as we got to the Mission Creek Greenway, I knew she'd never make it all the way to the swimming hole and then the whole way back home again, about three miles in all. What had been a routine walk for Pepper and me last summer was now next to impossible. Bryn and I found a place just off the Greenway trail where Pep could clamber down to the edge of the creek. She eagerly waded into the water to drink and cool off, being careful to not venture too far into the creek's rapid current. When I felt that she'd had enough time to rest, we started for home. The 5 minutes it usually takes us stretched to almost 15, even with Bryn and I gently encouraging Pep the whole way back.

The next night the three of us again ventured down to the creek, bringing Tyler along this time. Pepper seemed to do better, limping only slightly on the walk home and keeping up with my pace until just before we turned down our road. She was tired when she got home though and flopped down in her favourite spot, under the juniper trees, when I put her in the backyard. I wondered if taking Pep for walks was beneficial for her or just inflicted more pain. Today I got my answer.

My mum and I decided to drive up into the mountains this afternoon to take some pictures. On a whim, I decided that Pepper needed an outing and boosted her into the back of our truck. After Mum got some shots of the bluebirds and meadowlarks nesting near the logging road, I let Pep out of the truck bed to roam around. She excitedly raced around the cattle pastures sniffing (and tasting) everything in sight as Mum and I finished up our photoshoot. Pepper had magically transformed into her old energetic and crazy self. For close to two hours she meandered behind Mum and me, never showing a sign of tiredness or a limp. She even jumped into the back of the truck all by herself. As we drove home I realized that Pepper had enjoyed a dog's dream afternoon - freely running around and exploring out in nature with family nearby. I'm not sure how many more afternoons she'll have, but I'm grateful that I got to share this one with her.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Setting: My bedroom and later, our kitchen
9 a.m. Monday, May 18, 2009

I awoke in a very confused state of mind. Instantly I remembered waking up after 4 a.m., walking toward the bathroom, seeing Mum, Dad and Tyler at the entryway getting ready to go to the airport, and saying good-bye to them before they left. I glanced at my clock. It was 9:02 a.m. I wondered why in the world I woke up so early to say bye to Dad and Ty when I had already said my good-byes the night before. That was weird, I concluded and rolled over to see if I could get a few more minutes of relaxation before getting up and starting the chore of the day, unpacking.

Only minutes later, I heard the sound of one of our vehicles (I couldn't process whether it was the Jetta or the Ridgeline) pulling into our driveway. Mum must have already gone out to do some errands, I surmised, persistently re-clamping my eyes shut. I just wanted more sleep. Then I heard the voices. I couldn't distinguish what they were saying, but there were several people, two definitely male. My eyes popped open and, after rechecking the time (9:19), I leaned toward my front window, straining to figure out who had come to our house at this unearthly hour. I'm not getting up to let them in, I told myself resolutely. They can come back later, when normal people are up and about. My decision made, I no longer cared who the visitors were.

Although I had decided not to get out of bed for these intruders, I was now completely awake. Grudgingly, I realized there would be no more sleep for me. I stretched out my hand, sleepily knocking my glasses off my nightstand as I reached for my book. Maybe I can finish this one today and start a new book, I thought as my fingers made contact with the hardback cover.

The sound of a key jiggling the front door lock stopped me from picking up the memoir. Oh, well it must be Mum. Who in the world is with her? I propped myself up on an elbow and again strained to decipher the voices now just entering the house.

"Well, I guess I can eat some breakfast now."

"Didn't you do that a few hours ago?"

"No, I just grabbed a bun before we left."

"I have to call the airline right away. Maybe they can help us figure something out."

It was Mum, Dad and Tyler. What in the world! Mum drove Dad and Ty to the airport hours ago. They were supposed to have left at 6 a.m. I scooped my glasses from the floor and pushed them on my face. Then I leapt out of bed, grabbed my red and white maple leaf blanket, wrapped it around my shoulders and strode out of my room, through the dining room and into the kitchen. Dad, standing at the island, filed through a pile of papers as Ty's top half disappeared inside the fridge. I heard Mum clacking away on her office keyboard down the hall. "What are you guys doing home? Shouldn't you be in Calgary by now? What is going on?" I quizzed the male members of my family.

"Hi Al. We're back." Ty's voice drifted from the depths of the refrigerator.

Dad offered a better explanation. "Our plane wouldn't leave the ground. It had mechanical problems."

"We might not get to go now." Ty extracted himself from the fridge with a wildberry Sun-Rype juice box and a Tupperware container of assorted leftovers in hand.

"I'm going to my office to make some calls," Dad called over his shoulder as he descended the stairs.

I stood leaning against the counter watching Tyler down the entire juice box in one swig. "Did I say good-bye to you guys this morning before you went to the airport?"

He shot me a questioning look before popping the leftovers in the microwave. "No, of course not. You were sound asleep when we left. We said bye last night, remember?"

"Hmmm, that's weird. I absolutely remember waking up early and walking out here just as you guys were leaving. I guess that must have been a dream. Well, let me know when or if you're leaving again." With the morning's mysteries solved, I turned back to my room, determined to make headway in my book.

A couple hours later, I said another good-bye to Dad and Tyler. Dad had phoned Northwest airlines and they had helped him make alternative arrangements to get him and Ty to Calgary in time for their flight to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. From there, they would fly to Hannover, Germany for a week at Ligna, the grand-daddy of woodworking shows. Just three days after my siblings and I arrived home for the summer, our family was down to three members.


And...I have no suitable conclusion so far. I just thought it'd be fun to write up that experience as a story. Hope you enjoyed. If anyone has a good conclusion to suggest, definitely let me know.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Trip by the Numbers

Bryn, Tyler and I made it home just before 10 p.m. yesterday. It was a long trip, but we had so much fun driving across the country together. We met our parents at Yosemite on Monday afternoon and had a mini vacation together for the last few days of our travels. All in all, it took us several hours more than a week (even with crossing time zones and gaining three hours) to get from Collegedale, TN to Kelowna, BC. That's definitely the longest we've ever taken to get home and by Thursday night Bryn, Ty and I all just wanted to be back home. But we made a lot of interesting stops for fun excursions during our trip, so that's why it took the extra time. Here are some random number-facts about our latest excursion.

Miles driven: 4,095.4 (6,590.9 km)
Hours spent traveling: 180.5
States driven through: 11 — plus 1 province, obviously
Interstates taken: Five — I40, I15, I5, I205 & I84
National parks/areas visited: Three — Yosemite N.P., Crater Lake N.P. & Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area
Other attractions seen/visited: Hoover Dam (way too hot and way too many people to get out of the car), Las Vegas strip (definitely counted as an attraction) & the Stratosphere in L.V. (not nearly as exciting or tall as we imagined)
Wildlife seen: Numerous deer, golden eagles, squirrels & sea lions, plus 1 whale (seen only by me)
Animals hit: One — by my dad just after leaving Yosemite at night (It was too dark to see what it was, but I'm convinced it was a sleek, long-tailed baby panther, Bryn's sure it was a fuzzy, curly-haired dog, and Mum claims to have seen the ink-black wings of a huge raven.)
(Thanks to Kevin for this depiction of the mysterious animal.)

Oceans seen/waded in: One — the beautiful Pacific
Notable mountains seen: Six — Half Dome and El Capitan at Yosemite, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood, Mt. Ranier & Mt. Adams
Times pulled over by a cop: Two — Our parents both times for "possible drunk driving/driving too slowly and hesitantly"
Tickets received: None
Pictures taken: Still being tallied, but, with four cameras along and our picture-loving mother on the trip, the number is definitely in the thousands.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Heading Home

I finished the Insight Writer's Workshop at 5 p.m. today. I managed to write two stories (both more than 1100 words) during the last four days. I spent lots of yesterday and almost all of today editing the stories and then started on a third one to finish up later and email in to the associate editor of Insight. We ended the workshop by each of us seven students eating ice cream bars and then reading our favourite story out loud. It turned out to be a great week. I learned a lot and found it really fulfilling to just be able to sit and write for four whole days without any distractions. Of course the best thing is that now I have another upper division credit and I'll probably have more articles published to add to my portfolio.

After the workshop finished, I came back to Bryn's room and we've been packing and cleaning, off and on, ever since. Tomorrow we're leaving for home. I'm so excited to get home and sleep in my own bed and unpack my stuff and play with my dog, Pepper. I want to go swimming in Okanagan Lake (although that will have to wait for a month or so before the lake warms up) and quadding at my uncle's cabin and taking Pepper for walks on the Mission Creek Greenway. But another thing I can't wait to do is eat Canadian food (and candy)! These are just a few of my favourites.

(I know vinegar can't really be classified as a food, but I've been craving it on my French fries since I left home last summer. Restaurants down here just don't seem to understand that there are alternative (and superior) condiments to ketchup.)

If you'd like to try any of these awesome treats, just come up to BC and visit. We'd love to have you. Happy summer everyone. I'll see you next school year!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Insight Writer's Workshop

Tomorrow, while other Southern students are relaxing (or sleeping) at home, or finishing up cleaning out their rooms/apartments, I'll be starting a new class. Bright and early at 8 a.m. I have to be in the School of Journalism and Communication's Mac lab in Brock Hall for the Insight Writer's Workshop. I'm not exactly looking forward to more class-type activities and writing so soon after school is out for the summer, but it's for upper division credit, so at least that will keep me motivated. It will be interesting to see how many stories I can turn out during the next four days.