Wednesday snowshoeing

I think I have come to terms with winter outdoors here in the Slocan. Unless I am willing to drive for a minimum of 1.5 hours, I have to snowshoe on roads. It’s just the way it is.

There is the possibility of hitching a snowmobile ride now and then, but roads it must be. The alternative is to stay indoors.

Not gonna happen!

So today I met up with Sheila and Ann and we snowshoed on a road (!) It was a slog of about 700 metres up on those long switchbacks. I’d say two-thirds was breaking trail and it was hard work. We eventually got to a sort of viewpoint – and that was about it. As Sheila and Ann said, the road down was very, very long.

It was absolutely a case of “Are we there yet?”

On the bright side, we saw sun because we rapidly rose above the valley cloud layer. And we moved our bodies even though I still have some interesting sore spots from my exciting ski outing two days ago.

I had time to myself – time to think. Most of my thinking was about Sandra. Of course. Carrying her with me.

Leaving soon for Vancouver again.

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A different kind of Tuesday

One of the people I love, admire, and respect most in the world, is dying. Her time is soon. Her spirit is lifting.

When I read her daughter’s last email, letting us know, my heart almost jumped out of my body. Even though I just came back from seeing her – from spending two days with her, it doesn’t feel completely real – not right somehow. When I saw her she was alive. I kissed her warm lips – touched her, spoke with her.

And here I am today. This morning I took great joy in writing another short story. I took joy in walking with Simon and the dogs down to the lake at Bannock Point. I am writing this. I am living a life full of energy and plans for the future – and this beautiful being is ready to fly.

How can this ordinary life of mine continue – while the life of this amazing person is about to change – not disappear, but alter so dramatically that her body will be left behind?

How is this possible?

How can the world keep spinning without Sandra in it?

I want to go back to Vancouver – to honour her, to be part of a sacred ceremony in her honour. If I can’t send my body, at least I must send my spirit.

I ache.

And I am alive.

I am perplexed that life can go on and change and transmute and I am still here, breathing – as though nothing had changed. And an earthquake is shaking the foundations.

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Right! First day of skiing. And you know what? I set a new world record! Yes I did. Gold medal for shortest time on skis before falling on tailbone! (ouch!!!)

Was it my fault that at the very beginning of the trail is a hill that goes down? (I know – that’s what hills do – they go down) So before I had even skied one inch on a flat surface – down I went. And I do mean down.

Happily all was not lost because neither Sheila nor Nicky remembered to pull out a camera in time to catch it. Such was not the case the third time Sheila fell – caught it beautifully! (scroll to last photo).

So off we went and it was all going pretty darn well until I fell again. But this time I picked myself up handily – off we went. I listened closely to instructions from both friends: keep your elbows in, push with your poles, look in the direction you’re going, bend your knees, keep your back straight, bend forward (!)…. I was pure shite going uphill. Why? Well, dammitall, skis are just as slidy going back as going forward. At one point, when I thought I had the stomp your feet on the skis to go up thing figured out, I at least didn’t slide backwards, but I did stay in the same spot – kind of like running on a treadmill, except it was on skis and I wasn’t running….

But they encouraged me – told me I was doing fine; probably said all that so as not to get whacked across the head with a ski pole whose wrist straps I hadn’t adjusted so I couldn’t put my hands through them – yeah – coulda used those straps a few times.

Also, I think I need to get the skis adjusted a bit so the middle part touches the ground more firmly when I stomp.

Also need to figure out better how to do up my boots – got some snow in them.

But other than falling twice (Nicky said I fell seven times but really, who are you gonna believe?) it was a terrific two hours.

Tailbone is badly bruised. But that’s a bit like getting summer legs, right? Scratches in the summer and bruises in the winter.

Just before getting back to the warming hut and start of trail is a hill. I heard suggestions I should take my skis off and walk down. Hell! I went for it, tucked in, bent my knees and leant forward. Dammed if I didn’t make it three-quarters of the way down. What happened next I’ll leave to your imaginations.

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Snowstorm and selling the house

I took photos of the house today – we list on Dec. 5 – two days.

But before I get into that, let me tell you about yesterday. It went like this: I got up, dilly-dallied, did my blog, and finally hopped on a bus at about 11 or so to catch the Greyhound bound for Kelowna at 12.30.

For some strange reason, they had us leave the warmth and comfort of the waiting room to go and line up outside waiting for the bus. We stood there for 20 minutes – waiting. At last, 8 minutes before the bus was due to leave, it pulled up, the bus driver got  out and wandered off. The washroom? The vending machine? A quick tryst with a young lady (or man?)? Who knows. At 12.30 he came back and we were allowed to board. This took some time. Finally, we were ready – but then the bus driver got out again to go back to whatever he had been doing before (finish peeing?) and got on. He turned over the engine pretty close to 1 p.m.

Off we went. We drove over the Coquihalla. No more green – a winter wonderland. But he gunned it pretty good. Still, it was a long, five-hour ride. I managed to get two more chapters edited for Simon and we pulled into Kelowna at 6 p.m.

Simon had had quite a trip himself, leaving home at 11.30 and arriving in Kelowna at 5.30 – because he had to drive through a blizzard.


Okay – we had to find a better way home through the dark. Main highways! That was the ticket! And so we drove down to Osoyoos. Excellent. Great decision! Mostly it drizzled and rained and we made good time, which was great because this is the long way around to get home, adding at least one hour to a 4.5 hour drive.

We drove up the pass from Osoyoos after a half-hour dinner break and that’s when the snowstorm hit. Seriously. Vicious! The roads were insane. Simon white-knuckled it; I just tensed into a little round ball of whimpering horror.

This went on for a very long time because wisely, Simon decided that keeping his speed between 40 – 60K per hour was smart.

Finally we descend into Grand Forks. Whew! Still alive. We decided it would be smart to put on our chains, even though Grand Forks had clear, wet streets. We knew that Paulson Pass was coming.

Simon had never put on his new chains – no idea how to do it. A nice logging truck driver stepped in and between the two of them, they managed it.

Off we went only to find that the chains were making a very strange noise. Upon inspection, Simon discerned that the wheel hubs (or rims or whatever those things are called) were not made to accommodate chains. After due cursing, he got them off again. We had to chance the rest of the drive without.

Paulson Pass was vicious. I went into the fetal position for most of the drive and Simon’s knuckles shaded from white to blue. Every now and then we made some conversation, just to keep the dogs and ourselves distracted. Don’t ask me what we talked about – no idea.

By the time we got into Castlegar my chest was actually hurting from tension. We had expected Castlegar to give us some reprieve. But it was not to be. In fact, there had been no plows here at all so the roads were worse than ever. And did I mention that by this time we had hit one a.m.?

We kept driving – slowly – and finally a bit of improvement – then worse – then better – then, just for a change of pace – ice fog! Yay!

At 2 a.m., we saw our driveway and figured – home! And then we had to drive up it. Not so yay. We did manage to get the car to the top but it wasn’t fun. More stress. For the hundredth time on the drive I covered my eyes and with my inside voice sang, “la la la la la. Don’t want to know what’s happening. It’s all TMI.”

At 2 a.m. I filled my hot water bottle (no heat in the house all day) and crawled into bed. It should be mentioned at this point that every time I wrote “we” in reference to driving, I meant Simon – he’s my hero. Truly!

Yup – and despite all this, it was worth every bit of it. Seeing Sandra – touching her, kissing her good-bye, full body hug from Annette – hugs with Lee and Cheri – yes – worth every minute.

And here are some selected photos of the house. Other than laundry, dog walking and a bit of shopping, this is all I managed today.

Tomorrow I break out my new skis for the first time. Fingers crossed I don’t fall on my face more than a dozen times.

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Life and death and the whole damn thing

Early morning post. I’m almost packed and ready to go. The bus will be waiting outside the door. Etc. And boy, those would have been pretty lame lyrics. The lesson to be learned here is that it is better to take taxis to the airport than busses to the greyhound station. Just saying.

My head this morning feels more attached to my body. That said, I still don’t have anything profound to say. Thoughts: I’m eternally grateful that I came to Vancouver to see Sandra. I love her. It’s that simple. I love this whole family of women that has been my sisterhood for so many years. We have been through a lot and will have a lot more to go through in the future.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with  her, Annette, Lee. Mostly Sandra. I’m grateful that my amazing husband helped me get here. That he insisted I go. That he drove me all the way to Kelowna and is picking me up again. Two ten hour days. He’s special, that one.

I am grateful to Kathleen for giving me a place to stay. She is kind and gracious and – well, just plain nice.

I keep thinking there’s a lesson in here somewhere. There’s something new here for me to know. I just wish I knew what it was. All I know is that love rules and is more important than anything else. There is a glow deep inside that friendship kindles. It’s a spark of blessing. It’s something we should cherish every day.

Life is short. That’s such an old cliche and we say it so often. It’s prevalent in memes. You know, life is short, eat the chocolate cake. But I don’t think the cake is really where it’s at. It’s more about life is short, love your friends, let them know how much they mean to you, do your best to light up another’s life, give.

Something like that.

Off to the store to get a sandwich for the bus ride. Then -soon – off to the bus.

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A day with Sandra

I am beyond exhausted. This is going to be a short post. No, not physically done in – emotionally and mentally. Annette and  Cheri and I spent most of the day at the Hospice. Sandra was weak, slept a lot – had changed from yesterday. We saw little of her. Mostly it was about keeping vigil. And yes, we went out for lunch. And we told stupid jokes.

Gerda, her best friend of 5o some years is miraculous. I have never seen anyone take such good care. The love is tangible. The world I was in was here and not here. There were many times today that I felt I was walking a boundary line between here and elsewhere.

And I feel the love.

Wonderful to see Alisa. She is amazing. But then it seems that every time I write about here, that’s what I write. A special yong woman.

I won’t see Sandra again and I can’t wrap my head around that yet.

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Vancouver rain and Sandra

My life of luxury in Vancouver complete with king bed and my own bathroom and kitchen. All this in the heart of Dunbar. Rather nice.

But enough about my nice life. The reason I’m here is Sandra. Cheri picked me up at 8.45 this morning and we drive down to the hospice. I have no idea what purpose the building served before it was a hospice, but it’s beautiful. Something out of Tolkien. What you would get if a Hobbit married an Elf and they had a joint hand in the design.

Sandra has changed dramatically since I last saw her early this year. Of course she is heavily drugged on opioids and she has to be. Managing the pain. And she doesn’t want to be. It was very telling when her eyes got misty and she said how sad she was that she couldn’t get excited that her daughter was going to be with her in the morning. She wanted to be able to feel. And yet, there she was, feeling about not feeling. She has so much emotional intelligence. I think it goes beyond intelligence and deeply into wisdom.

She knows herself. She knows life. She is loved. There were five of us with her this morning and then two more people showed up. If she allowed it, her room would be stuffed full from morning to night. But of course, she needs to sleep. A lot.

I am so grateful that there was a wonderful party for her last January. So glad that she could feel the love that surrounds her so acutely – so openly displayed.

Tomorrow Annette arrives and we go back to have lunch with her. And I am determined to take photos.

After our visit, Cheri and I went back to her place, picked up her dog and took a walk in the damp, chilly drizzle around Stanley Park. Then I walked up Denman, stopped for a falafel, and caught a bus across the Granville Street bridge to Broadway. My aim – Thomas Haas chocolate. I think I got off the bus a bit too late because I kept walking and no chocolate. I don’t mean actually no chocolate because I got a handful of nice bars at Stongs. But tomorrow I must locate the good stuff.

Also tomorrow – meeting up with Alisa.

And now, some more editing.

I had to have a very hot bath when I got back. The chill of the drizzle gets right into my bones. Better now. Time to get to work. 

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