Canada is a vast and diverse country. But like most humans, I like to water down diversity and narrow distances into manageable (imaginable) sized pieces. That's why I am nominating the day I spent on horse back in Banff National Park as my most Canadian day ever! (Apologies and Warning to Vegetarians: do not read further. I repeat, Vegetarians Stop Reading NOW!)
1. I saddled up an official Banff National Park back-country warden horse.
2. I was in the company of a real live back-country warden.
3. As we rode our horses through the subalpine forest towards world-famous, picture-postcard-perfect Lake Louise, a cow moose walked almost directly in front of us (nobody died!)
4. When we arrived at the lake we remained hidden in the quiet forest, away from the tourists and ate our packed lunch.
5. Our lunch included moose meat sandwiches!
6. The aforementioned warden had hunted and prepared the moose meat himself.
7. The entire day I was wearing the warden's well-worn old cowboy boots (as I didn't own anything but hiking boots and Birkenstocks at the time).
The closest I will get to this personal Canadian pinnacle tomorrow is time in a canoe on some kind of west coast waterbody. But, I'll take that.
Happy Canada Day.
When I think about bringing back the funny, I look back a lot. But the looking back is helping me notice the present. I've noticed it's a bit like the building up of hope or gratitude in yourself. It's a practice. I can't just expect funny to whollop me over the head, although sometimes it will. I have to pause and notice the the tiny funny moments.
Naturally, this makes me think of bone assemblages. Those tidy arrangements of animal bones that you might come across at an early human site in Africa. Why do I think of this? Because I doubt that our human ancestors, were worried about keeping gratitude journals or how to get ample time to pause and laugh.
Also, I wrote a paper about bone assemblages when I was studying physical anthropology in university. You wouldn't immediately suspect it, but this is a funny topic if read out loud to a fellow student. The paper had something to do with ensuring that the archaeologist remembers to consider the incredible impact of scavenging animal behaviour on bone assemblages at early human sites.
I think even then, I was bored by the topic and so was using a lot of conjunctions. I asked my friend d.m. to read the paper before I handed it in. She decided to do so out loud in her best scholarly sounding professorial voice. Hearing aloud the repetition of the phrase bone assemblage and my overuse of conjunctions like moreover and however, elevated the paper to a level of hilarity that we had never experienced (you had to be there.)
So my point is (I do have one), your funny for the day is to do yourself a favour and watch this one minute clip of Miranda Hart.
Yesterday morning in the usual scramble to get everyone out the door, and the dog walked, I was also asked to take a photo of the 11 year old holding my machete from Borneo. I had dig it out from where it is stored next to my great grandmother's dishes from Newfoundland and the fine linens from Wales. I took the photo, which, I am told, ended up where it was supposed to, in her class report about Indonesia.
It added extra adventure to the morning. Which reminded me of mornings on the epic Canada or Bust journey with Vanessa. (Dear Reader please refer to the earlier blog entry of April 13, 2015 for the back story). Getting ourselves up and dressed and in the car always involved an adventurous search for our morning coffee.
This was in the days before coffee culture. People, there was no Starbucks. I know. I'm not saying this as though Starbucks is the pinnacle of coffee for me personally, though I have been known to go there. I bring up Starbucks for what it is, a marker of what we live in now: A World of Coffee.
Back in 1987 on the Bust trip we mostly drank truck stop coffee. Thin watery brews. Fresh. Stale. I'd like to say that my taste buds were affronted, but what did I know? The finest beans I knew had been brewed for the classy offerings at the Simon Fraser University cafeteria: Irish Cream, Hazelnut, Mocha Almond flavoured coffees. I didn't know anything beyond the Folgers commercials I'd been raised on.
At this time, Vanessa's mother was working for Melita. The company that sells coffee makers. One night over dinner she told us a story we would never forget. She told us about meeting a guy that day in Vancouver who worked for a company called Starbucks. He told her that one day Starbucks would have a coffee shop on every corner. Oh how we laughed.
So it was in that world Dear Reader that we departed on our cross-country journey. It was a world with out rich, fresh, ethically sourced coffee beans. But we made it. We must have because I later went to Borneo and was given a machete. For today, let us be thankful that it is the end of the week and all the assignments are in.
Today I'd like to draw your attention to the bat illustration in the photo. No, this is not a prehistoric European cave art replica. Nor is it the work of a small child. It is in fact something I created more than TWENTY years ago, that has been heartedly used by school children since it first appeared.
I drew the original, that this photocopy is descended from, in a frenzy one spring morning, minutes before a busload of grade three students were to arrive and use them.
Remember, this was before Google. I did not have the option to sort through hundreds of suitable images, select one and print multiple copies. What I did was, look at a picture from one of the many books I used to research the program, and drew this bad boy freehand. I then ran to the photocopier, made copies and cut out each bat with scissors. In the original image, the bat retained its thumbnails for anatomical correctness. You cannot see them here because I can only surmise some interpreter got lazy and lobbed them off. More likely, they were in the same hurry I was on the bats' birthday and desperately needed to finish a new batch for an imminent busload of students.
This bat is a prop for a school program about bats and their habitats (aptly named Ha-BAT-itat, [thanks Mike McIntosh]) that I was piloting that morning while working in Vancouver's Stanley Park. The program ended up a success and very popular with teachers. Excellent! Years later, I adapted the program for CRD Parks on Vancouver Island. By now, thousands of children have traipsed through old growth forests with these little hand-bats, on their fingers (there are supposed to be two finger holes cut out where that white oval is on the bat in the picture) making the wings flap and looking for holes and crevices in big west coast trees where bats might roost or hibernate.
On the surface, it may seem simple, but as an activity, it's got it all; think, feel and do. The little hand-bat acts as a search image, to help them look differently at the trees around them as potential homes for bats. Among several applications, math skills are used as kids are invited to estimate the number of bats that can fit in each roost site. No matter how careful I am to collect them all up, it is not uncommon after a day of bat programs to find a little bat, with its wings folded in, tucked in a Douglas-fir bark crevice upside down.
All good. Love it.
The thing is, this bat illustration, that I hurriedly drew and then madly photocopied and cut out that morning, was supposed to be replaced that very day, with the better, permanent version. One that I or someone else would carefully and lovingly draw. It never happened.
There was always something more important to do. Deliver programs. Clean up deer mouse droppings. Fundraise for our wages. Even when I brought them across the ocean to Victoria, I meant to fix 'em up, but no, they were adopted here too as complete little beings.
Recently I used the bats with a group of kids again and all I can see is the uneven dots for eyes, the wonky ears, lack of nose or or mouth and the unrealistic girth of the bat's chest. Am I going to redo the bat now? Of course not, and rob the children of the joy of their imagination? It's what I intended all along. I'm sure of it.