January 24th, 2013 writerspice
Cabin fevered!!!! (This is Bonkers, one of the pet rescue kittens)
It’s pretty quiet up here.
The usually sunny and blue skies are disguised by snow: a fine mist that lays like a fog over the river. January crawls on and I realize I have a bit of cabin fever.
I’ve been doing stuff: yesterday I went skating. The day before, I stopped by the Sam Waller Museum to see about volunteering. Tomorrow I’m driving to Snow Lake, to deliver a rescue dog for the pet rescue with which I’m volunteering.
But something’s missing.
Warmth, yeah, but I think another cause of the “fever” has to do with the temporary hold on my creative work.
My second novel gurgles and burps in my brain but apart from Swarm edits, I haven’t been doing a whole lot. This is partly because I have to dive more deeply into research. And it’s also because I’m in the midst of transforming my creative space into an area more inspiring that what it currently is: a drab basement room with cold lime sherbet coloured walls.
The spare room/library is also getting a redo; its deep lavender walls already primed and ready for a new colour. My paint choices are predictable: oranges and reds, those vivid shades that are absolutely lacking in the outer world.
The ice planet, J. calls it. At work, an old-timer who was picking up his grandchild told him, If you can get through January….
You’re home-free, I guess he meant. I hope so. And I hope I’m also working happily in the bright corners of my cabin.
January 6th, 2013 writerspice
High noon in The Pas – ice-fishermen on the Saskatchewan River across the road from our house.
The first couple nights J. and I slept in our new house, we left the bedroom curtains open. We are out in the country, after all (although only five minutes out of town). But a blazing spotlight woke us in the middle of the night.
Or so we thought.
It was actually 7:30 in the morning and the light was the moon, arcing past our window.
In other words, a weird convergence of night and morning.
This has been one of the biggest adjustments so far: getting used to the change in light. We expected it, of course, but expecting it and experiencing it are two different things.
Dawn doesn’t come until around 9 am and dusk arrives at 4:30 or so. Back east we’d watch the squirrels scamper on trees silhouetted by sunrise as we had our first coffee (or tea, depending on how much we had to do) around 7:30.
We have had a couple of bright days with blue skies but because the sun slides so low across the southern horizon, the night seems almost ever-present. Like the day never completely blooms.
Needless to say, we’re taking lots of Vitamin D and going outside for daily walks in this beautiful landscape we now call home. Here’s the impressive Northern lady who chaperoned us today:
January 1st, 2013 writerspice
Griffy’s a trooper! Yesterday she rode 11 hours in the truck with us, using her floor litter twice, and sleeping most of the way. It’s super cold up here (feels like minus 32) so she hasn’t had any outside time (which is okay, since she’s mainly an indoor cat and we want to keep her away from the eagles in The Pas, anyway). She does like to occasionally watch the world go by from a lap though.
We covered Wawa to Dryden yesterday – that’s 800 kilometers or so – because the roads were dry and bare and the sky was clear. By the time we pulled into our hotel we were nearly delirious and didn’t do much for New Years – a hotel restaurant dinner, gin martini for me, shiraz for J., and a bit of reading back in our room (I’ve made the switch to an e-book, but that’s another post) before conking out around 9:30. At 2 a.m., a slurred, shouting version of Auld Land Syne from the parking lot woke me which is how I even remembered that we were supposed to stay up ’til midnight and watch the ball drop or something like that. Oops.
Today we’re getting ready to head to Winnipeg. Hoping to find a motel a wee bit north of the city, along the highway to The Pas. Tomorrow we arrive in our new town, get the keys to our house, and start unloading the cargo we’ve carried across a province that, in Europe, would likely be a few separate countries.
Onward, on this first, frozen day of a brand new year. Happy New Year! How did you all ring in 2013?
November 6th, 2012 writerspice
Jason and I in The Pas
My irrepressible husband, J., unsatisfied at the idea of being a supply teacher for the rest of his life, went and landed a full-time teaching job in The Pas, Manitoba.
Where? That’s what I said.
Here’s where: get in a car in Winnipeg, go north, and drive for six hours through flat land known as boreal plain. In October, we did that, our eyes on tamarack trees, orange as candle flame, and exotic black-and-white magpies we’d never seen before. In The Pas, two bald eagles took down a duck over the wide, brown water of the Saskatchewan River while we watched.
These days, we’re back home and packing up. A For Sale sign in the front yard of the house we thought we’d grow old in. It isn’t easy: the task of leaving family and friends to go a long, long way away.
I’ve started thinking a lot about home, how we define it, and the extended history of transitions that is inherent in my own family history: my grandfather who came to Canada when he was 17, my ancestors in another century who left Scotland during the Highland Clearances.
I’m not changing countries, barely even crossing mine. But, as a friend said, “Living in the north with a school teacher has to be THE quintessential Canadian settler experience.”
In late December we’ll pack up our wagon (a blue Subaru Forester) with a few precious things we don’t want to send with the moving company, and Griffy, the stray cat we found starving in a parking lot last winter. We’ll head north and at Sudbury, turn west.
Lately, my motto comes from the brilliant Manitoba-born Margaret Laurence: “The wind will bear me, and I will drift and settle, and drift and settle. Anything may happen, where I’m going.”
August 1st, 2008 writerspice
Last year, around this time, Jason and I headed to the Quebec City region to toodle around the nearby island of Ile d’Orleans for a story I wrote for National Geographic Traveler (March 2008).
While in the area, we were also able to attend early August’s New France Festival, a five-day extravaganza that turns the city’s already historic downtown core into a true image of the 17th century, with costumed crowds, acoustic music and booths selling authentic food-stuffs.
Yesterday, my story on the event came out in Toronto’s NOW Magazine – giving me a great excuse to post this picture.
I may look more-or-less like a sophisticated lady-in-waiting, but truth-be-told, I’m still indebted to a stock photographer from Vancouver who lent me his camera bag safety pin to hold the whole contraption together.
I love dressing up, but by the time I got back to Chateau Frontenac and stripped off my itchy, bulky and unflattering petticoats, I was pretty thankful to be a woman of modern times (minus, of course, low-rise jeans and “empowering” pole dancing lessons)!
March 3rd, 2008 writerspice
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a photojournalist for National Geographic. Last year I managed to somewhat fulfill this life-long ambition, when a story I pitched to their travel mag, National Geographic Traveler, was accepted.
In August, J. and I jumped in the car and headed back to that little bit of Europe, that pastoral paradise (pictured above) where we honeymooned in 2003 – Ile d’Orleans, Quebec. And this month, my brief piece about the island is making its public appearance, on page 114 of the March issue. Check it out!
Photo by Jason Mills
August 7th, 2007 writerspice
Across the invisible border, the land is no different and the money is the same but for anyone who thinks that Quebec doesn’t demonstrate a distinct culture, I have one thing to say: get thee east, young man (or woman).
Deep within the province that saw some of the earliest occupiers set up shop lives that trademark joie de vivre that is evidence of a people who have never lost their love for the good life. And why should they have? After all, the place was French for a good 151 years before the British climbed the cliff and took over.
We should all thank the gods of history that the Brits didn’t succeed sooner.
What we’re left with, 399 years after Samuel de Champlain settled in Quebec City’s Place Royale, is a place where good food rules, fine vintages are appreciated, and people easily embrace the enjoyable accoutrements of being human.
Early this August, I took part in the celebration of the roots of this culture at the 11-year-old New France Festival. In the aforementioned once-dirt, now-cobblestoned square where a bronze bust of Louis XIV stands, rowdy crowds gathered at booths serving samples of French wine. By the oldest church in Canada, a woman dressed as a bar maid pulled on a beer tap, hollering humorous insults to the crowd in French.
Deeper down in Lower Town, the absence of corporate signage was obvious in the festival’s food market. There were no typical fast food vendors here. Instead, under wood-shaded booths with minimal signage, singing and shouting French Canadians served skewered small potatoes, cobs of sweet corn, spicy barbecued chicken, two-year-old cheese and rabbit rillette.
Incredibly tasty, this trip back in time brings the truly French heritage of Quebec fully to life – a history that will be celebrated next year at the best and biggest birthday party Canada’s ever seen. It’s one you really won’t want to miss.