Archive for the ‘loss’ Category

meet Sage   no comments

Posted at 8:23 am in loss,sabrina,sage

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

As you might have guessed after reading my last post, Sabrina and I arrived home over a week ago. We’re busy every day as there’s a lot happening in our lives, not the least of which is the arrival of Sage, who is now part of what I guess you could refer to as our “family unit”. She’s a blue merle Rough Collie who came to us from Caralan and Bob Dams of Kars, Ont (Forestree Collies). The manner in which she arrived was a little unscheduled, but the search for a young collie has been more or less underway for quite some time. However, it was put on hold after Don became ill in 2007 as we knew I probably couldn’t deal with starting a young dog while also caring for him during the following months. Although Sabrina seems to be in good condition now, her deterioration during Don’s illness was a strong reminder that she won’t be with me forever and that this might be a good time to find an apprentice who can absorb some of her wisdom. That’s pretty much how Sabrina learned — by acquiring the wisdom passed along by my previous collie, Maggie. We’ve always had two collies at any given time, so I’m just attempting to return to the usual way that we did things around here in the past.

She’s only been here about a week, but Sage is fitting in well. She’s just a little over 3 months old and seems bright and quick to learn. We go for about 4 or 5 walks on the trails in our fields and woods each day. She has already learned which paths to take and likes to show off by racing ahead and hiding in the dry grass, waiting for Sabrina and I to catch up so that she can spring out and scare us (or so she believes). I’ve put up a short video clip in case anyone wants to see part of a walk from my point of view. Not that much happens, but what seems interesting to me is how Sabrina walks ahead, then stops to make sure that everyone is coming along.

In other news, it is with some sadness that I report on what is probably the demise of my trusty Windstar van. Last Sunday, while returning from the city after spending an evening with my mom and brothers, I heard a loud BANG and instantly felt the van lurching out of control. Although I had very little steering, I was able to swing the van onto the roadside. When the tow truck driver winched the van up onto the bed of his ramp truck, we could see that the steering parts – tie rod, etc.. had come apart and the right front drive axle had actually fallen out of the transmission. The right front wheel was turned out to the side at a crazy angle (see below – click on all images for larger views). A mechanic friend dropped by to look at the damage this week and we pretty much came to the conclusion that the van is probably not worth repairing. So, for now I’m driving a rental car and looking around for a replacement van — something appropriate as a home to a gypsy traveling with her two dogs — a van that is up to the challenge of being both a “camper” and a “construction workhorse” as we move into the next phase of our lives.

Although I probably haven’t written much about this on the blog, I’ll be putting my farm for sale very soon. In fact, I’ve spent the past week packing up all of the belongings I’d like to take with me as I move on. The rest, I’ll be disposing of, mainly using The Great Matter Transporter (putting things at the roadside with a big FREE sign set up beside — it works almost instantly to move objects out of my universe and into someone else’s). After I get all of the work done that needs to be taken care of, and I leave the farm in someone else’s hands to sell, my plan is to head east to Nova Scotia for awhile. At the moment, my intention is to look around for a place where we could spend spring through fall. In winter, we would return to southeast Arizona, to the region that I now like to think of as our “other home”. No doubt, there will be plenty of wandering in between points A and B as I’m restless and find it next to impossible to stay in one place for any length of time. Most days, I’d rather be off wandering around in the forests, deserts or along rivers or the ocean. However, I’m hopeful that I can find a place that will make me want to settle down for a time – or at least to plant a vegetable garden and do some hiking or canoeing around each summer. Also, to get back to my writing, photography and art — all of which I’ve largely abandoned over the past few months. But more about all of this a little later on. For now, I’m just busy packing and spending as much time as possible working with Sage so that she’ll be ready to go on the road with us when it comes time to depart for points as yet unknown.

One other note — a little belated as I’ve been without a net connection so much of the time for the past few weeks. The third edition of “Carnival of the Arid” has been up at Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing for a couple of weeks. You’ll find some nice things to see and read. Also, Chris invites anyone to submit posts or other material having to do with arid regions, so give that some consideration if you have something you would like to share.

Written by bev on April 19th, 2009

the return   11 comments

Posted at 7:45 am in being alone,loss,ontario

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

As most of you will know, events and places I have been, are described at least a few weeks later. Often, I haven’t had a net connection, or am so busy trying to “carry on”, that I can’t post until I find the time or a good connection. This morning, I don’t really have time, but am making a little for this post before continuing on my way.

This may surprise a few of you, but I’m now back in Ontario. Yesterday, I drove the northern route around Lake Superior between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie. It was a very long day. This morning, as soon as I finish this post, I’ll be continuing eastwards. With luck, I may be “home” tonight. I left Utah about a week ago, traveled west and north, up into B.C., then east along the trans-canada highway, pretty much following the route that took me west last October. It’s been a difficult trip — colder than I had hoped for. Yesterday, as I stopped at a few spots along Superior, the lake was still frozen in many places, especially at the western end near Thunder Bay. The ice looked unbroken out to Sleeping Giant and beyond.

I have more to write about the time spent in Arizona and Utah, but today, I wanted to write about “real time” events — things that have happened over the past couple of days.

Two days ago (April 5) was Don’s birthday. Had he not died on September 6, 2008, he would have been 57 years old. A life cut short. Seven months later, I am still learning to deal with that reality. The journey, to this point, has been difficult. I’ve found that many of the things that once meant something to me, are now meaningless: time, distance, the future, the past, home, among others. The map by which I navigated over the past 52 years, doesn’t exist anymore. In the space of a few months, it was destroyed and replaced with a new one that looks more like a map of a galaxy that is being drawn as I go. Many changes in direction are and will be happening soon. More about this in the coming weeks.

Yesterday, while traveling the north shore of Lake Superior, I stopped at Old Woman Bay to take a few photos. A week ago, my friend, Paul, met me in Utah to bring me this box made by a mutual friend, Ken Altman, a maker of bows for musical instruments. Last autumn, after Don’s death, the idea of making a special container for his ashes began to form as I drove westwards. I wanted to make a box that would be somewhat similar to a west coast bentwood box in shape but not construction — a box which could be carved and then painted or inlaid with abalone shell in a design which I have been contemplating over the winter. Initially, I had intended to make the box myself, but Paul suggested that we talk to Ken as he is a master craftsman and had the skills to make a box that would suit the intended purpose. We met with Ken and I described the box which I envisioned while he made careful notes and suggested ideas for possible construction. I left to continue on my way to Arizona.

Over the winter, Ken worked on the box between other projects. The box which you see in the photos above and below is the result. It is a thing of great beauty. I’m sorry that my photographs from yesterday can’t begin to illustrate just how wonderful this creation is “in person”. Further, there are things about it that a photograph can’t express. The scent of the wood which is Yellow Cedar from Alaska. Ken made the box from a slab which had been under his work bench for more than 20 years. It was brought to him by a friend named Don, who died several years ago. Ken so generously contributed this precious piece of wood for this project. I wish to take this moment to thank him for all that he has done to make this project possible. Thank you, Ken. The box is all that I hoped it would be, and more. Its smooth, fine grain is a pleasure to touch and hold.

The lid of the box is constructed in such a way that it lifts to reveal a small compartment in the top of the container — a place to store a few photos and other keepsakes. When I have time, I’ll work on the outside of the box and hopefully do justice to a blank canvas that is, in fact, so perfect that I wonder whether it should even be altered. Perhaps that is something I will know in time. This isn’t the gift I would have ever have imagined, or wished to give, to Don for his fifty-seventh birthday. However, it is such a wonderful piece and I know just how much he would have loved and appreciated this final gift to him.

Well, it is morning and I must be on my way. Another long day of driving — hopefully to that place which is “home” to us for a short while longer. I believe I can speak for Sabrina when saying that we’re both tired from many days on the road. It will be nice to rest awhile before continuing on the new path which forms before us.

Written by bev on April 7th, 2009

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and so we came to bisbee   11 comments

Posted at 11:11 am in Arizona,birds,insects,loss,mammals

Sabrina looking out over the garden wall towards town at the beginning of our first day in Bisbee

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

Six weeks after setting out on our journey, Sabrina and I arrived in Bisbee. Before leaving eastern Ontario, I had made arrangements to rent a house on the outskirts of the town. It’s perched on the side of one of the round-topped hills in the Mule Mountains, surrounded by live oaks and manzanita. The place was ideal for us. It had a flat garden where Sabrina could roam about. In her (at that time) somewhat debilitated state, she couldn’t handle stairs or steep hills. For myself, it proved to be a peaceful place filled with interesting plants, insects, birds and mammals. Within a day of arriving, I had already shot dozens of photos of the butterflies, grasshoppers, bees, flies and other insects visiting the flowers in the garden and on the surrounding hillside.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Although all turned out for the best, our arrival was not without some stress. On the way up the steep lane to the house, the transmission of my limping van gave out — requiring replacement of the torque converter at a cost of about Cdn $1000. However, I tried not to let such things bother me — after all I had been through over the past year, a broken down van seemed like nothing more than a mere blip on my radar screen. It was just good to be in a quiet place surrounded by nature.

Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus)

Within a few days of arriving, I filled some bird feeders and soon had about 15 species of birds coming to the garden each day. The Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) are a favourite and there were two pair visiting on a steady basis. The little Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) were our constant companions, even through a few snowy days when I would see them coming and going from their cover within an Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana) just beyond the garden wall.

Javelina (Pecari tajacu) on the hillside beside the lane

Almost like clockwork, a small herd of Javelina (Pecari tajacu) wandered along the outside of the wall by the kitchen window each evening while I prepared dinner. At first there seemed to be five, but their numbers have since increased to eight as three young appeared soon after my arrival. At first, Sabrina didn’t know what to make of these strange creatures, but she has since become accustomed to seeing them trot past the yard.

If you wonder how I came to choose Bisbee as a place to rest, it was an easy decision. Don and I had always wanted to spend some time in this area after visiting once back in 2001. While enduring his series of chemo and radiation treatments, Don would often sit with my laptop, looking at possible rental properties in the southeast area of Arizona. It was our hope that, if the EGFR inhibitor drug he began in August worked, we would be able to escape to the south for at least a little while. Unfortunately, that treatment failed and he passed away in early September. However, the dream of spending the winter in Bisbee did not die — and so Sabrina and I came to be here. All in all, this has been a good place to rest for a time. It’s with some regrets that I will soon be leaving to return to eastern Ontario as we have made friends and learned to love the land here. However, we are certain to return, but more about that later. For now, I will be writing a few posts about some of the places we have hiked, and the flora, fauna and geology we have seen.

But speaking of flora and fauna and the desert, the second edition of Carnival of the Arid is now up at Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing Be sure to pay a visit and check out some of the wonderful writing, art, and photography.

strangers in a strange land – part 1   11 comments

Posted at 5:06 pm in california,geology,loss,sabrina

Sabrina at the entrance area to Trona Pinnacles

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

After the previous day of very hard driving, Sabrina and I slept far beyond our normal rising time. Fumbling in the darkness of the motel room, I pulled back the heavy curtains just a little, then swiftly recoiled, practically blinded by sunlight reflecting off every hard surface in the courtyard. Later, as Sabrina and I emerged from our room for a morning walk, we must have resembled a pair of moles, squinting and stumbling about for the first minute or so after stepping outdoors. The air felt hot and the light searing, and yet the temperature was probably not exceptionally warm for that location. The problem was “us”. Such are the perils of moving across several climate zones in the space of a few weeks.

Today’s game plan was to get some rest and perhaps play at being tourists for a few hours. The previous morning, I had it in the back of my mind that we might make a detour into Death Valley at some point along our route. However, after several recent experiences with gross miscalculations in time and distance, I had enough good sense not to make such an attempt. Instead, after studying my maps, I decided to drive east into the Searles Valley with the intention of visiting the Trona Pinnacles. After loading up the van with water and food, I attempted to convince Sabrina that this was a worthy adventure. She ignored my words and gazed toward the motel room door. Torn between a shady, air-conditioned room, or the alternative of hopping into our sun-drenched van, it was fairly clear that she wasn’t feeling too enthusiastic about my plan. But, being the good sport that she is, she finally decided to come along for the ride.

Desert Holly (Atriplex hymenelytra) in the Searle Valley region

The trip east from Ridgecrest is short and easy. You pass by some part of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. Don’t ask what goes on there for I have no idea. The installation seems to consist of several compact buildings baking in a parched valley with a hazy backdrop of mountains beyond.

We soon arrived at the entrance lane to Trona Pinnacles. Sabrina hopped out of the van and immediately began to inspect the rocks and plants while I read the interpretive sign boards. For an explanation of the geology of the pinnacles, see here and here. Turning from the sign, I caught sight of Sabrina carefully sniffing a white-leaved Desert Holly (Atriplex hymenelytra). She has her very own way inspecting plants — tilting her head to one side while studiously running her nose along the edges of leaves. This is a slow and tedious procedure. Her methodology causes me to wonder if she might have been a botanist in a past life. Once finished with her inspection, Sabrina gave me a sidelong “what the heck is this?” glance. I could see she wasn’t impressed with this place. I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that it’s probably not all that surprising that a predominantly black Rough Collie from Canada shouldn’t be enamoured with life on the desert. However, back to the Desert Holly. A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert (Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press), states that Atriplex, often referred to as saltbush, appears grayish “because they cope with saline soils by secreting excess salt into tiny hairs on the leaf surfaces. The hairs die from high salt concentration, leaving a deposit of salt crystals on the surface that reflects some of the intense light that would otherwise overload the photosynthetic system.” Further, “if water is available, these plants can photosynthesize on the hottest days, when most other plants are stressed and forced to shut down.” (pg 219-220).

Trona Pinnacles, as seen from a distance of about 4 miles

From the interpretive signboard, I could see the vague outline of the Trona Pinnacles wavering mirage-like in the light reflected by the saline sands of the dry lake bed (see above, click on all images for larger views). I felt both an attraction to, and a little uneasiness with, this place. While I had some desire to see the pinnacles up close, at the same time, I was acutely conscious of the intensity of the heat and dryness on this open plain. I scouted the area with my binoculars and saw no other vehicles. Although apprehensive, I decided to start down the road to see how it looked. The signs at the entrance mentioned that the road was passable by two-wheel drive vehicles most times, but could be impassable at others. Soon, the van was banging along over washboard. After the previous day’s expedition to Bodie, Sabrina was quicker and much more insistent with her nudging of my right arm in an attempt to convince me to abandon this mission. I pressed on a little longer, but the road grew increasingly worse.

Not much farther along, I decided to abort our little expedition. Turning the van in an open area next to a set of railway tracks, I caught sight of a sizable fissure in the road, one that could not be seen from the angle we had been traveling. It was wide and deep enough to have easily swallowed one of the van’s tires if I had unwittingly driven into it. I felt a brief jolt of panic as I realized just how serious it could be to find us stranded a few miles into this place — with me thinking more of Sabrina’s safety than of my own. Yes, this was a *bad* idea. If I was doing this trip with Don, I would have little fear. He and I had occasionally had to push or dig our truck out of a hole or rut from time to time. But alone with Sabrina, and in such an unforgiving environment. No. Not on this day. I drove us back up the lane. We would find some other less risky adventure to occupy the remainder of the day.

message in the sand at Trona Pinnacles

Shortly before reaching the entrance, I noticed the above message written in stones arranged on the sand. We got out of the van while I shot a few photos from various angles and distances. The artist in me has always found such ephemeral messages to be of visual interest. However, now they affect me in a different way — one that I am at a loss to explain. Maybe it’s the feeling that I am alone now and such messages are no longer part of my realm. Stepping closer to photograph the stone heart filled with fragments of broken glass (below), I thought, “This is the part of the message meant for me.”

We got back into the van, drove on up the lane and back out onto the highway to continue our exploration of the Searles Valley.

Written by bev on February 7th, 2009

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return to the redwoods – part 3   11 comments

Posted at 4:33 pm in california,history,loss,sabrina,trees

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

In the last post, I wrote about my thoughts on traveling alone. Of course, I was never truly alone, as Sabrina has been with me on every step of a journey that began long before we left our home in Ontario. I haven’t said much about all that took place during the previous year of Don’s illness, but it was a very difficult time for all of us, including Sabrina. Being a smart and sensitive dog, she quickly intuited changes in Don’s health status, particularly during the final weeks of his life. As his health deteriorated, Sabrina spent an increasing part of her day lying next to him. Eventually, she became so worried that it was difficult to get her to eat, so her health gradually began to fail too. Two days after Don’s death, she was so weak and unsteady that I had to help her get up onto her feet. Over the next six weeks, I tried to get her eating and up moving around to rebuild her strength. However, it was clear that she was grieving in her own way and resisted most of my efforts.

When I first contemplated leaving for the west, I was concerned about Sabrina’s condition. Would she be able to cope with long days of traveling in the van? Could I provide the kind of food she was accustomed to at home? I was a little worried about the logistics of preparing the fresh food she was used to receiving. As the day for our departure drew near, I was still feeling uncertain about how we would manage once on the road. What would I do if Sabrina grew weaker after we were a few thousand kilometers from home? The morning of our departure, as I finished packing, she lay on the ground in front of the sliding side door of the van, refusing to move. Clearly, she was worried about being left behind. I took that as a sign that she too was anxious to be “on the road”. For both of us, I believe that our journey to the west turned out to be the right thing to do as it forced us to move, at least marginally, beyond the sad events of the previous year.

Once on the road, it was interesting to see how Sabrina reacted to each new place or situation. I felt a little bad for her each time we checked into a motel along our route. In the past, Sabrina and I would wait in the van while Don picked up our key at the front desk, then opened the room for us. As I assumed that part of the process, I noticed how Sabrina would rush into each new motel room, quickly searching every corner including looking up on top of the bed. After discovering that it was “just us”, she would flop down, stretch out her neck with her head on the carpet as she gave me the longest of long faces as only a collie can do. I would comment, “Yes, I know.” Those motel room check-ins were among the most difficult moments of our journey and one of the reasons that, whenever possible, I preferred to stay at campsites.

When we reached the redwoods, I was very curious to see how Sabrina would react to what must have seemed a very odd landscape. Along our entire trip, I noticed how carefully she inspected earth and plants. No doubt, her olfactory senses were sending her odd messages about these strange new places. After spending the night at the Burlington campsite in the Humboldt Redwoods, we visited the California Federation of Women’s Club grove before continuing on with our journey. Some of you may remember me writing about The Hearthstone designed by the architect, Julia Morgan, during my autumn 2007 trip through the west. I decided to return to the site in the hope of shooting better photos than on my previous visit. As we walked along the trails of that grove, Sabrina seemed eager to explore and, in her own canine way, expressed awe at the surroundings. Several times, I caught her inspecting a gargantuan mushroom, or gazing up and then back at me as if to see whether I’d taken note of the trees towering above. For both of us, this “new territory” was a good place to explore, far distant from home trails now strewn with countless memory land mines.

After leaving the redwood groves, we stopped at the historic lumber mill town of Scotia. During last year’s trip, I had taken only a few pathetic photos due to rain and a camera malfunction. This time, weather and cameras cooperated well enough to capture a few photos of the unique architecture along the main street. The Scotia museum (above), with its redwood interpretation of the columns and portico of a Greek temple, and the all-redwood Winema Theatre (below) are reminders of those bygone days when it seemed that logging of the redwoods could go on forever. Of course, that notion proved to be false, as evidenced by the many decommissioned mills and abandoned wigwam burners throughout the Pacific northwest.

Under gray skies, we left Scotia, retracing our trail northwards a little before turning east, now bound for Arizona. There will be more about that leg of our journey coming up very soon.

Written by bev on January 18th, 2009