Friday, October 31, 2014

What the hell is going on

It's starting to look like maybe they "had something" back in the days when a woman could never be alone with any man who wasn't her father, brother or husband. Maybe it wasn't a convention meant to curtail the freedom of women. Maybe it was for their own protection. And it's starting to make sense.
No woman willingly la di da goes off alone with some man who is creepy and frightening and known to be violent. She goes off alone with a man who seems kind and gentle and decent, a friend or lover or even a casual acquaintance who comes across as nice, as safe, as trustable.
And then the woman gets the shock of her life when he hits her and/or rapes her. 
I know men can be trusted. I trust all the men in my family, gentle men, every one, and I have sons who would never even think of hurting a woman. I know many lovely men who have never threatened or abused me or, as far as I know, any other woman. 
So where all are these other guys and where are they coming from? These guys who have murdered more than a thousand First Nations women in the past few years. These guys who beat and murder their wives and girlfriends. These guys who molest and rape. And that's just here in Canada. When you look around the world to, for instance, Africa, you can't help wondering if a large number of men are some kind of alien in a human body. 
I have been alone with three in my lifetime who gave me a serious scare, and felt lucky to get away without having something terrifying and painful forced upon me. I've known another who believes any woman is strong enough to stop any man and therefore rape is impossible. Him I wouldn't be alone with again. And as a very young woman, I was inappropriately groped by an employer and a co-worker at one of my first jobs. I laughed it off and forgot about it, afraid I was just immature and had somehow invited this treatment by my lack of sophistication. I never reported it, and I didn't quit the job either. I just became more careful.
Becoming a martial arts aficionado couldn't hurt. 
Or maybe we should never, ever be alone with a man we don't know well and trust. 
(Even then, do women and children have to worry? 
According to the history books and the newspapers, we do.)
Jian Ghomeshi obviously has serious mental health issues if he is compelled to punch women in the head or choke them. Maybe he should be in jail; maybe he would be if any of the women he abused had gone to the police.

Listening to their stories, I'm reminded that high hopes, trustingness, willingness to give someone a second chance, not taking your own experience seriously, and even naivety and poor judgment aren't responsible for what this man did. These women did not provoke his behaviour, nor did they allow it or invite it. Getting into a shitty situation and not knowing how to escape it is not a crime; violent abuse is. 
When you look at the statistics on reported rape and abuse of women and children today, the social conventions of a couple hundred years ago don't look so backward.

What a horrible shame, though, that anyone — anyone — should have to experience this kind of victimization by anyone, and that this violent mistreatment is running rampant in the world. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My companion CBC Radio, and books

“This is what I listen to every weekday morning right after the 10 o’clock news,” said Aunt Margaret. She was my great-aunt, actually— my grandmother’s eldest sister— and I’d been sleeping on her couch near Mile One in Victoria, B.C.

It was a CBC radio program called Morningside, hosted by Don Harron. That was 30 years ago, and that program has been my morning companion through the years, through Peter Gzowski as host, and then Shelagh Rogers.  I listened to it from a house trailer in a First Nations community in northern Saskatchewan. I listened to it from a one-room log cabin with wood heat and no running water. I listened to it from a shack on the side of a mountain in Kelowna. I could and I did and I’ve never stopped listening to it, even when, years later, they created what I thought was a dumbed-down version of the show and put Jian Ghomeshi as its host, asking questions intended to be edgy (I guess) but I found simply unimportant and dull… more of interest to a 19-year-old, apparently the new "age demographic" the CBC was targeting. Since then the questions have become more interesting and Ghomeshi has improved as a host (as, according to my friend Julie, he would, with practice), and I still listen to the show when I have the opportunity. 

It makes me remember Aunt Margaret, long gone now, who introduced me to the CBC and its many excellent programs. She also introduced me to washing all the fruit and vegetables when you bring them home from the store, before putting them into the fridge. And to the idea that a young man invited over for a game of chess was being “forward” if he brought a bottle of wine along. I didn’t agree with that one then, and I don’t now; I guess it was a generational thing.

CBC Radio has been a good companion to me all these years, many of which I’ve spent alone during the day. For a while there I read all the Canada Reads books so that when they had the conversations about them during the show I would know what they were talking about. After a couple years I gave that up; some of the books were a boring slog and there is already too little time in a life to read all the books that really interest you. However, the Canada Reads event brought Canadian authors to the attention of Canadians, and that was a good thing. There were some impressive books in there, certainly. There were also some that got far more kudos than they deserved.

Shelagh Rogers as host of the morning show was likable and when she gave that job up and began hosting The Next Chapter, an interview show on Monday afternoons with Canadian authors, I was there with my bells on. Oh, she could make those books sound fabulous! I’d get them from the library, all excited … and then about half the time, if not more, I’d be sorely disappointed. I’d find the writing poor, the editing seemingly non-existent, the — snooze. Oh Shelagh, do we have such different tastes in books? Apparently we do, or, as my internet acquaintance Eugene remarked, “She’s there to shill for CanLit.” She’s very good at it, too. I’ve been suckered in many a time.

An occasional feature on Shelagh's show is “If You Liked That, Then You’ll Like This.”  That is usually a book by a non-Canadian, and this is one by a Canadian. Several weeks ago “that” was Tina Fey’s Bossypants; “this” was Kelly Oxford’s Everything is Perfect when You’re a Liar. I ordered them both from the library and started with Bossypants. I was laughing out loud by the time I finished reading the dedication, and chuckled all the way through. Then the Canadian book was up. What a treat this would be! I thought, until I read two chapters without cracking a smile (I wanted to be entertained! Yes! just like I want to laugh at The Big Bang Theory, but it’s.not.funny either. I know, the sitcom-watching world disagrees with me bigtime but … take out the laugh track, folks, and I bet you won’t be laughing either) and decided to return it to the library without finishing it.

And this is as close as I’m coming to a book review, because really, what good are they? Aside from telling you a bit about a book’s plot and characters (which I haven't done here, so this isn't even close to being a book review, is it?), reviewing a book is such a subjective affair. It truly is a different-strokes-for-different-folks thing and tastes in literature differ widely, not only between people but between different times in the same person’s life. A book that is fascinating and informative and inspiring when you read it at age 20 is often flat, dull and old hat when you’re 40. And sometimes it’s the other way around. There are times in your life when a book can move you, and times when the same book leaves you cold because it isn’t what you need at the moment. I couldn't get through Proust's Remembrance of Things Past when I was 30, or even when I was 40, but I bet now I could. 

I will always listen to and probably act upon book recommendations made by my friends. Some of the books they rave about may be stinkers, but others will be a revelation (Thank you, Bev, for introducing me to The Buckshaw Chronicles.) When you love books and reading, you will be open to anything and make up your own mind about everything. 

But I don’t trust Shelagh anymore. Fool me once, Shelagh … fool me twice … but dammit, you fool me every time!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jimmy's in Saskatchewan

Usually one enjoys a live concert more if the music has been heard before, and I have heard it but I'm still having a listen to some Jimmy Rankin tunes before attending his show. His videos are playing on my desktop but I'm not watching, just listening.

Rankin writes gorgeous songs with the hauntingest melodies and has a supple sweet voice that's a real pleasure to listen to. He's got so much good stuff it's hardly possible to pick just one video to put here. Is there any chance you don't know who he is? Nah.

 Jimmy Rankin sings songs you (OK, I) can't help singing harmony to. That's my favourite kind.
And this, one of his more recent, makes me want to go for a drive with Scott.

And after you listen to it (and sing along. You will.) you should find a shitload more videos with nice, nice Jimmy Rankin tunes online.

And with that helpful advice, I leave you and go for a walk:

Chicken coop and storage shed.
Barn and ? Darned if i know what that building is for.
Dugout in back yard.
Back yard.

Tractor shed

Think these trees on the left will ever fill in after the deer chewed them up a couple winters ago? 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rudolph & family

Karen had just started assembling her new Xmas decs—a reindeer family—when I got there.  We set them up in the yard once we had them cobbled together.

When plugged in, this family of reindeer will light up.

My sister's front patio at AURORA BEACH.

I drove cross-country to get to her place, past the farm where we spent our teenage years and down the curvy road around Mink Lake between there and Highway 5. When I saw this scarecrow some distance across a field, it looked so much like a lady I did a double take.

I did a double take, so maybe the birds and deer do too, and don't make holes in the grain bag.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


There are things we believe we cannot bear.
But we can bear them.
We do bear them.
-Clara, in 'The Paradise' (tv series)


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More Bales*

Another cross-country walk in windy perfect scented fall air.
You can't really ask for more than that on your days off.

That was yesterday.
This morning I went out onto the step just long enough to turn around once or twice in the sun. I had a powerful urge to sit down and drink coffee out there. Alas the coffee was gone by then and I wasn’t about to make more. Maybe Karen and I will sit outside later. Maybe she will go for a walk with me.

*Well what would you title this entry?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Geese and Eagle

Saw a pair of bald eagles on the way to Nut Mountain early this afternoon but they flew up and landed a further distance away when I stopped the car. But we were still quite excited, Pat and I.

On the way back, we saw these:

Usually I only see flocks of geese in a field. Click on image; for some reason this small one is fuzzy.

And this, overlooking the geese:

Click photo to enlarge.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The back 40

The back 40 is an ankle-twister so it's less often a walking destination of choice. For that reason there's still a bit of a mystery back there and I'm nervous, like a deer. Not when out in the open, as in the photos below, but when I enter the trees and approach the slough. Thank goodness there's no need to be concerned about alligators or man-eating snakes.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Let's see if I can squeeze in an entry before the midnight hour.
I really should be going to bed— I'm in my pyjamas— but I left the house at 8 this morning and just got back an hour ago, at 9:30pm, and who wants to go straight to bed? Not me. Though I should, because I was awake till 4 in the morning. What're ya gonna do.  Maybe two 12-hour nights'll do that to ya. Dammit. I went all day without remembering I should be tired. Till I arrived at Everett's to get Little Green (car) and then got grouchy. That's when I knew I needed a nap.
Scott's just gone to bed, so he's no company, and I'm beat so I'm to follow shortly.
Just not quite yet.

I haven't finished my glass of wine.

You can see our house behind the trees on the right. Click image to enlarge.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Piggy in Sweater

Just call me Sleepyhead.
Another 12-hour night in bed.
What can I say?
Thank goodness for CBC Radio, from which I learn so much about so many things. I go to bed early just so I can listen to it in comfort, in the dark.

Image from Facebook
Last year at this time I had just been for a pancake breakfast at the hall in Wadena with my new "boss." It was my first day on the job at Wadena News. Wow, the year has zipped past.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to get dressed and actually go to the office, now?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


I went to bed well before nine last night, and slept through till eight this morning.
Well, almost. I listened to parts of programs on the radio from time to time: Ideas at 9, Vinyl Cafe at 11 ... but mostly I was snoozin.
Think I'll do the same tonight.

Finally picked up the hammer and nail and got the sign up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Texting with Dad

I texted Dad, who’s out in Kelowna where, till next month, it’s an hour earlier:

8:33a.m.  No bad news from Wadena today. So far!

His reply: Pretty early ----- Wet the bed?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Christmas in October

When Emil and I arrived at Everett's place on Saturday, their dad wasn't there. He'd gone to the liquor store to buy Palm Bay coolers as a treat for us both.

It was like Christmas in the kitchen. Everett was at the sink, washing his dishes, when I came through the door. He pulled his hands out of the water and dried them so he could show me everything Gord had brought. 

There were root beer Twizzlers. There were grape-flavoured Twizzlers. There was a tabasco chocolate bar. There was candy on a stick for Emil. There were sausage sticks. The list goes on. The fridge was full to bursting. There was a pile of food on the counter. The cupboard had a new lining of Kraft Dinner boxes.

But the big favourite was the tardis cookie jar (à la Doctor Who) that, when you lift the lid, plays the tardis time-travel music. 

An even bigger surprise was that inside it were cookies that appear to have been made using Everett's sacred (not "secret") recipe! So finally they are available to the public. I didn't believe it at first—sure he'd made them—but Everett made a point of showing me the disposable packaging they came in. 

Had I gone to town yesterday to wash Little Green (sunny day, perfect for getting the inch of dry mud off your car before winter), I'd've stopped over there and got a picture of the cookie jar. But the day flew by, as they do, and I went nowhere except for a walk. 

There was machinery running in the field along the road to the south, and to the north. I don't like the noise so I headed straight across the road into the old homestead quarter. 

This coyote didn't hear me or my dogs because of the loud tractor across the road, and was intent on hunting for rodents around the bales. When I had done watching it, I started walking. Then it lifted its head, eyed me for a minute, and all too soon turned and ran away.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pots of Gold

When I awake and my neck is complaining, what I feel like doing is going back to sleep, to escape it. What I have finally learned is that doing so only increases the discomfort by the time I do get out of bed. So usually I get up (and that's hard to do; I love my sleep, and I want to escape that neck pain so badly!), and the discomfort goes away on its own after a while. Not always. But sometimes.

Yesterday morning, after a fitful sleep due to the neck thing starting the night before, I just took a pill and slept till noon. Scott had left early and I was alone in the house, or felt like I was, until about a half-hour after rising. That's when I heard a noise a lot louder than what the little Mr DoodleDog could make. I was perplexed—until I saw Emil coming out of the spare bedroom. I had forgotten he was here. He'd come home with me from town the night before and he'd slept in, too.

Once in a while the trusty pills THANK GOD FOR THEM don't do the job. Yesterday I had to take a second one at noon, then lounge in the living room watching movies in hopes of taking my mind off my neck. After a couple more hours I was good to go, and was just out of the tub when my former husband phoned.

"I'm here in Wadena. Should I come and get Emil?"
"Nah," said I, thinking Gord had already driven the eight hours from Edmonton and I'd save him an extra 20 minutes behind the wheel. "He's outside walking around already. I'll bring him into town."

It was a beautiful day and I'd already wasted most of it indoors.

The gate has been left open after the cattle at GGFarm were moved to the home quarter for the winter.

The boys have got their straw bales ready to be picked up and hauled to the yard.

Scott told me he'd been driving down the road when a great blue heron flew up and flapped along, well within easy view of the truck for quite a while instead of disappearing into the distance like they usually do. He was pleased, he said, until he saw a giant blob of shit shooting out its ass ("as big as a cow pie!") and then stretching out and hanging in the air, attached to the bird like rope, as the shy bird pulled it across the sky.

I couldn't help thinking, after that, that someone should make a horror movie about the amount of shit birds terrorize us with.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tough little nuggets

Brave little things were still trying to bloom, and some were succeeding.
We had a hard freeze, so the garden is looking pretty dull today.
But just a few days ago ...

Feverfew; migraine medicine

Rose bush, one of several planted in memory of Mom

Speedwells and poppies

Straw flower

Painted daisy
The combine lights are sparking up the fields tonight.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Little Update

The office was less of a Grand Central today but there was still plenty going on. People were coming and going, renewing their subscriptions mostly. A wandering reporter from Calgary came in, looking for directions to a wi-fi hookup. I gave him my hideyhole desk and said Have at 'er.

Erin Collins,  a former Nipawin resident, now works for CBC Calgary and filed his story from the Wadena News office.
And over to another desk and computer I went.

As for the fire and the trains. Well!
The fire is out but there is a lot of cleanup and various crews have been out there for many hours with heavy machinery doing it, and they are probably in for another long night.
There is a bit of video posted on the WADENA NEWS webpage and there are some excellent pics online. Some were taken from the air; pretty good ones.

I am a bit freaked out by what could have happened if this had occurred in the middle of a busy town like Wadena, right next to an above-ground bulk fuel tank, with the wind blowing like a bitch.

Relieved that it didn't.
But wondering again about rail safety, for sure. It's not a new issue. That warning bell has been sounded before by them as knows. Accidents are lined up waiting to happen, they said, on our railways; it's just a matter of time, because the railways are in need of repair and it's not being done.

Rail cars a-burnin'

I meandered into the office yesterday afternoon at 1:30 and immediately sensed that something was up.
Usually I say, tongue in cheek, "So— what happened while I was away?"
But yesterday the phone was ringing steadily, and My Pal Al (publisher) said "You haven't had your radio on today, have you?"
A freight train had derailed just down the road from Clair, one of the nearby villages. It had been carrying some hazardous materials, there were explosions and fire and evacuations and roadblocks and detours, and reporters from as far away as New York and Los Angeles were calling for photos and information.

I sat down and wrote up a brief report for the Wadena News webpage, and will leave you with a photo and link to that:

Photo courtesy Wadena News

Click here for more info: WADENA NEWS.

The webpage's hit count shot up from an average of 100 visitors a day to more than 2000 before I left the office last night. A TV cameraman was in to film Alison answering questions about what she'd seen as one of the first people on the scene, before the public was ordered back. CBC Radio's As It Happens called to interview her over the phone.

The local motel was booked solid by the afternoon and so was the bed and breakfast in town. Later that evening I heard that an evacuation centre was being set up in Wadena, and called to offer beds if anyone needed a billet. Everyone has friends and family in the area and it was unlikely anyone wouldn't have a place to stay. But you never know. The person answering the phone said that had I called a half-hour earlier, they had been looking for a host for a group of American hunters who'd been displaced.

This morning the fire is out and the emergency crews have been working all night to get things cleaned up. We have yet to hear what caused the derailment. I talked to Dad on the phone. He said he wasn't surprised there'd been a derailment, that the condition of the tracks at the crossings at both entrances to our home town, Margo, were so bad this summer that he'd actually gotten out of his car to decide where to drive over them so that his tires wouldn't get wrecked; clearly the railway companies were a bit behind when it came to maintenance of the tracks.

Anyway, no one was hurt. Some people have been inconvenienced; I hope that's the worst of it. Had this happened at a busier place, say the railway crossing at Wadena just a few miles east, who knows where the fire might've spread to, in the terrible wind we had yesterday.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mystery of attendance

There was another "house concert" in town last Thursday night, and in spite of the high quality of musicianship that Shadow House Concerts brings to our town over and over again (thanks to Don Tait, who organizes it all), I only went because I had purchased advance tickets after watching a YouTube video of the performer's excellent blues piano. I do love a piano.

What I really felt like doing was coming home after a day at the office and putting my feet up in my own living room. Had I already been home, it would have been a job to drag myself out again. Keep my ticket money, I may have thought; I am content right where I am. I've missed a few really fine shows due to my own inertia; Coco Love Alcorn was one I really regret.

And so we were not all that surprised (just disappointed) to count only 10 people in the audience at the little wooden church in town with its great acoustics. This is quite often the case, for I imagine many people feel as I do: tired and lazy and relieved to be home after their day out, and going out again is not in the least appealing.

It's not that the house concerts are not well advertised. Shadow House Concerts operates on a non-existent publicity budget based on Don's pocketbook, so there's nothing big and splashy, but he runs classified ads in the local paper and puts posters up all over the place and bends over backwards to sell tickets himself.

So why—WHY?— don't more people come out?

We think it's partly because they have not heard of these performers before.
Because they are running around elsewhere with their kids' extracurricular activities.
Because they are adequately entertained by their televisions and computers, in their own homes.

We always purchase at least one of the performer's CDs. 

There's a concert coming up Oct. 26th that we expect to have a huge turnout because he is well known: Jimmy Rankin. The community hall should be filled to the rafters.

Mind you, we expected the same thing when "rising country star" Codie Prevost, who comes from a small village north of Wadena, played a Legion cabaret here a couple weeks ago. I left work about 7:30 that night and walked past the hall to get to Everett's, where my car was parked, and was surprised to see the hall parking lot half empty. It was a warm, dry evening and I assumed the low turnout was due to the farm families being busy in the fields. I was later reminded that there are plenty of residents of the area who are not farmers.

And I didn't go in, myself. I wanted to get home; the last thing I felt like doing was joining a crowd.

Local people come out in droves to support the numerous fundraisers thrown by community groups. Honestly. Wadena has about 1200 people in it, and when one group held a spaghetti dinner and silent auction, they raised $6000! Holy shitoli!

Maybe the secret is hot food.

It's a mystery.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Coneflowers still blooming

Driving through town, I see flower beds that have been pruned and cleaned off. They look tidy.

At home, I can't bear the thought of cutting down flowers that are still blooming or whose leaves are still green.

And so, if this year is like the last few, they will freeze suddenly with the first snow that stays. They will add visual interest to the snowbanks in the front yard. Birds will visit for the seed from time to time. And in the spring it will be a mess.

But by then I'll be glad to have something to do outside on a sunny spring day.

purple coneflower
As it is now, the wind is nasty cold and the day doesn't draw me out.
I make myself go, even if it's only to the end of the driveway.
Usually once I'm that far, the road will pull me onto it and I'll get some exercise.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Loved Ones Leaving

So lovely:

and a choir version, quite nice:


And then this one that rips your heart right out:

Fancy Edibles

There is no child in the world who would not be captivated by this teddy bear in a blanket -- on her plate.

Go to to see more creative ideas for making kids love their food. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


There will be no suppers in the fields tonight, methinks.
The rain started pounding on the roof while I was at my desk at work yesterday afternoon, and when Alison and I stepped outside after locking up, it was a gorgeous warm dark evening, glistening with wet pools and shiny pavement.
She had a sheaf of papers an inch thick after printing off the photos taken on her cruise, and we went over to our favourite café to have supper and look through them.

My sister Karen is on the far right next to her husband, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.  Thanks for the pic, Michelle!
I arrived home to unlit windows and a message on the phone from Scott to tell me he was staying in Calgary one more night. After shucking my clothes and putting on some pyjamas, I watched the tail end of Coronation Street and then turned off the TV and read the Engene family history book till midnight. To think of how many grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents we all have, back to infinity! And how many of them were cousins who married each other! Well ... people didn't travel and move around then like we do now. My ancestors on Grandpa Emil's side were farmers in Norway and most people they knew were neighbours and family in their own vicinity.

I've read this particular book before, but still found things I'd forgotten or maybe missed the first time around. There was a cousin — a distant cousin — not that distant though — let me see, actually he would only have been my second cousin — my grandfather's first cousin — who at age 24 was dropped off at home (he still lived with his parents) after a party so that he could drive his girlfriend home. His car was known for being a pain in the ass to start; it had to be jacked up in the rear. Anyway in the morning his dad noticed he wasn't home and looked in the garage to see if his car was there. He found his son's body near one of the car's fenders, the car jacked up, and the body of the girlfriend in the front seat. It appeared the car had been started but perhaps the garage door had blown shut while he was fixing a flat tire, and carbon monoxide had killed them both. The headlights were still on.

At any rate, a family tragedy for sure.

There are no Engenes left. Not the last name, anyway. The great-great grandparents who came to North America had 11 children, about half of whom were boys, but it's worked out that some didn't marry and have children to carry on the family name.

One family trait that is mentioned many times in the book, via people's written memories of the Engenes, is their kindness.