I've spent a lot of time at a particular park with a lake not far from my house. As I walked the dog there last Saturday I remembered a few stellar moments.
I was once a Park Interpreter at this place. Park Interpreters basically "speak for the trees", to quote the Lorax..They are the communicators and educators for everything that is protected within that park, tangible and intangible. Ecosystems, animals, plants, cultural history.
But let's get away from the higher level stuff, shall we? It's the day to day where all the fun happens.
Take the hundreds, of school kids who traipse into that park on a regular basis every year for educational field trips. Mostly it is challenging, fun and inspiring to create experiences for children to be in nature, but sometimes not. Sometimes it's just absurd.
This particular park is loved by dogs and their owners. Unfortunately, as we all know as with anything, there is a small, but strong contingent of bad dog owners. In short, this princely lot don't pick up after their dogs.
Let me explain the situation as delicately as possible. After seeing one too many small child pick up dog droppings on the trail, which to their minds looked a lot like the Banana Slugs we were encouraging them to pet, we started to patrol the trails early in the morning before the kids arrived.
We did this with an old discarded golf club someone had left behind. We'd jog around the trail, rain or shine (the wet days were the worse for the misidentified-slug handling fiascos) and putted the lonely fecal remnants off the trail into the bush. My teaching partner and I would take turns putting and slow golf clapping the accuracy of the shots from the sidelines. (Note to any errant dog owners reading this: This is not ideal either, but the scope of applying the proper remedy was well beyond what the hours of our day entailed and what our patience allowed for your kind.)
I used to also lead canoe program for all ages on this lake. One particular early morning canoe stands out in my mind. All the sexy wildlife came out for us that day. In every cove we paddled into there was something new. Soaring Bald Eagles, gorgeous Wood Ducks, kingfishers, ospreys, Painted Turtles, River Otters, Minks they all showed their feathered, scaly and furry faces. The lake kicked in too by decorating herself in a lovely mist, not too thick, but just enough to add to the feeling that each siting was like unwrapping a gift. Each time we turned a corner and the mist parted there was something else. It was magical The visitors in all the canoes ooohed and aaahed accordingly.
And then something otherworldly. From out of the mists, just mere metres from the boats came a rowing scull. And in that scull was a famous Olympic rower who had just recently won some serious medals. No one squealed or pointed like they did when Mink pranced over the rocks. They just watched silently as athletic greatness glided past.
To train for these canoeing excursions, I've purposely capsized my canoe so we could practice rescues. I did this weeks before my wedding and ended up getting pink eye, that only cleared up the day before. I'm not blaming the lake. Wait, yes I am.
Finally, one class of kids will forever remain in my heart because there was this one boy. (Teachers will recognize this one boy. He was the one running around bouncing off the trees before we could get the program started). I was standing at the front of the group about to start and he whizzed past me and then darted back in front, hovering like a hummingbird. He read my name tag out loud as though I wasn't there and said to himself, "Zil? What kind of a name is Zil?
This energetic, dyslexic little boy gave me a nickname I still hold today with my Park Interpreter friends.
Remember that olympic rower? Not long after the canoe siting, she ran by me on a park trail with her unleashed dog. He stopped to relieve himself. She kept running. And so the circle of life and this blog is complete.
“By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing.
And he vows his passion is,
Lady make note of this --
One of you is lying.”
I memorized this little verse during my Dorothy Parker days in my 20s. I'm sure there is absolutely no correlation between this particular verse and what was going on in my 20s. Leave that errant thought behind Dear Reader. What you need to know is that Dorothy Parker was infinitely more talented than her cynical quips and ditties about romance,
But oh she had such wit!
More recently than my 20s, I was able to pull another one of Parker's famous lines out from the recesses of my memory when my yoga teacher sprung one of her lesser used props on us one evening. I came into the yoga studio to find she had placed these carefully carved wooden devices (that look like broken coat hangars) next to each mat, What we were to do with them I did not know, but I was sure they would be coming into contact with my body in some way. I turned to the woman beside me and said, "What fresh hell is this?"
My use of the quip aptly suited the moment, but even better is how Parker herself originally used it. Reportedly, she'd say it in response to a telephone or doorbell ringing.
What fresh hell indeed.
Thank you for the segue Dorothy. And so I write this during the first week of January.
I live on the west coast of British Columbia where, it is true, we live in an earthquake zone, but we are also blessed with the mildest weather in Canada. Still, we like to talk about the weather like other Canadians. Sometimes I find it funny when life long west coasters, (those rare individuals who haven't come here from somewhere else), talk about winter.
And by winter I don't mean grey skies and incessant heavy rain as we mean on the west coast, I mean ice and snow as experienced by the rest of the province and country.
This week I overheard a darling stairwell conversation by several folks who were eagerly citing the coldest temperatures they ever experienced. Their tales were qualified by details explaining the singularity of their experiences.
"One time we went to Winnipeg for Christmas and it got down to -30!."
"Oh yeah, well I visited a friend in Yellowknife in March one time and with the wind chill, it was -50"
Here's me sounding west coast precious. Several years ago, (the last time we had snow here), I overheard some moms in the playground complaining about having to drag out all the snow clothes for their kids for the snowfall we'd just had the day before. It was an extra pain because they were just going to have to put it all back in a few days when the snow was gone. There was not a hint of sarcasm in their voices. They were truly put out.
Still, the days are short and we have to layer-up like other Canadians. Except of course the mail carriers who wear shorts all year long. (But we all know they are originally from Ontario and they just do that so they can call their friends in Toronto in January and say, "Yeah, I wore shorts again today.")
Best thing about winter is hibernating. A cup of something warm and a good book. I just finished reading Dorothy Parker Drank Here, by Ellen Meister. If you like Dorothy Parker or don't know anything about her and want a taste before you dive directly into her work, I recommend. It's a good, quick, fun read.
Thank you Dorothy. Thank you winter. As you were.
As I sit here nibbling the last of the stale gingerbread, preparing my wardrobe for the return of Downton Abbey this evening, candles lit, tea at my side, I am swimming in warm holiday memories. (I have already blocked out the bad ones and will dredge them up later when required).
For tonight People, we brace ourselves for the first full week of January, which will come all too quickly tomorrow morning. It will be brisk, so we must be kind with ourselves. Here are a few of the happy holiday memories I am carrying in my heart to get me through the next week. Feel free to borrow if you can't access your own.
Let me begin by drawing your attention to the photograph of the elf. I'll tell you more about the elf later, but I feel the elf is worth mentioning twice. For now, just look and imagine the joyful industry it took someone to build that elf. Look at him with all his smug elf-ness! He is joy embodied.
Funniest Family Moment:
My mother in a dark, rainy parking lot, after seeing The Force Awakens, desperately, though skillfully, (not unlike a Jedi might) holding out the key fob to her mini-van at arm's length and pointing it at any vehicle that looked remotely like her own. The important detail of this image is that my mom was not in the least trying to appear warrior-like in any way. She was earnestly trying to find her van as quickly as possible while her grandchildren darted about the dark traffic. (So, there was an element of danger). Eventually it was a combination of her skill and my keen eye (I see a white van! It's white, right?) that found us our trusty ride. It was very Star Wars. Possibly you had had to be there.
Best spontaneous moment:
Watching The Sound of Music. I have loved the Sound of Music since I was wee and I don't associate it with Christmas as some people do (it's a bit tenuous don't you think? Just because there's a song in it that mentions a package tied up with string?) but I got a hankering to watch it a few nights ago and so we did. It was as good as ever.
A long aside about The Sound of Music.
I'm not a fanatical about The Sound of Music as some people are. However, in my lifetime I have:
Funny thing about being in the Nun's Choir. At the same time as I was singing all that glorious Latin, I had just started a new job, in environmental education. I was very quiet in the beginning while my co-workers were not. At all.
To set the scene, it was at this job where I first heard the term "vegan Birkenstocks". There was also a couple at this workplace who had met while strapped to the front of a bulldozer at a logging protest. Although it was a whole new world for me, parts of it were strangely similar to the bible belt I had grown up in. (Angry fundamentalist Christians pretty much sounding the same as angry fundamentalist environmentalists).
Thankfully not everyone I worked with was angry and judgey. Far from it, and eventually I loosened up and had great fun with some wonderful people. What has this got to do with The Sound of Music? I will tell you. One day after a long meeting, the admin person came into the room to give us all our phone messages.
"And Liz, Nun's Choir practice has been cancelled for tonight."
I thanked her. There was a small silence and then she moved onto the the next message. I suppose at the time I was mildly embarrassed, but didn't really know anyone well enough yet to explain what I was doing on the side for fun.
Months later, one of my new work friends shyly said, "Liz, can I ask you something? Are you a nun?"
Turns out since that message had been handed out, rumours had been madly circulating that the reason I was so quiet was that I was in fact a nun.
Good stuff. But back to the warm holiday memories.
Best holiday purchase: The fiercely knitted elf (pictured) that I bought a local craft fair. The sign said "Lumberjack Elf". Of course he is! Look at his checkered pants. Can you make out the pocket on his right hip? Regular elves don't have pockets! I can't explain it but this elf makes me smile every time I look at him. Thank you Elf and thank you to the mystery woman who knit him.
I can't put it off any longer. January is here and tomorrow I will have to leave the house. Good luck to you all!