Monday, 20 August 2012

I'm Singing in the Rain

The rain storms that would blow ashore on the coast of Maine when I was young were sudden and violent as only storms in the North Atlantic can be. I was terrified by thunder and lightening and any but the gentlest of rain storms would fill me with foreboding and fear.

My father was determined both to cure me of my fear and to instill in me his love for the wildness that rode on the wings of storms. To show me there was nothing to be afraid of he would dress me up in a rain slicker and southwester (rain hat) and we would set out to walk in the rain in the midst of the thunder and lightening no matter how violent the storm.

The harbor was but two miles or so from our home and often we would walk to Mill Cove to watch the surf crashing into shore.

As I recall it took but one summer to drive the fear from me and turn me into one of those 'nutters' you see out walking in hurricanes which father and I quite literally would do.

Do you remember when you were a kid? You would be in your yard playing and suddenly the heavens would open up. You would run and race in the rain and dance in the mud puddles until your mother came to the door to call you inside and end the fun. Do you remember the joy you felt in the rain?

When did that leave us? When did it suddenly seem to be wrong to be out in the rain? When did it become a problem to become soaked through to the skin? When did the magic go away? Did our mother call us inside once too often? Or was it our teenage years that made looking like a drowned rat become unfashionable? What was it? Why did the magic go away.

The central interior of British Columbia is actually the start of the Great American Desert and is known for its long, hot, dry summers. This year has been anything but hot or dry. One rain storm after another has assaulted us for weeks now. The foliage which is usually brown by this time of year is so lush and green it is like living in the emerald city.
Looking outside a while ago I saw a storm was brewing and decided to drive to town to walk the river walk before it began to rain. As I began the walk the wind suddenly increased to a very strong blow but I thought I might be able to do half the loop. Suddenly I was in the midst of a storm of biblical proportions. The thunder rolled, the lightening cracked and the rain started to fall in torrents. I started to sort out in my head where the closest shelter was. Did I head forward to the bridge underpass? Was it closer to shelter to turn back and take cover under that large tree I had passed.

And in the few seconds it took to process that little decision I realized I was already soaked and seeking shelter wasn't going to keep me from getting any wetter. And then, the real realization hit me: that it didn't make any difference. And so I kept walking in the rain, walking in the storm, drenched to the skin and shivering, my feet squishing a squashing in my wet running shoes, my glasses to wet and steamed they were useless.

All the while with a huge grin on my face. I started walking with my hands outstretched, palms up, face into the wind and rain and stomping through the puddles. It was the most fun I have had outdoors since I was eight years old. Okay. Perhaps I will qualify that. It was the most fun I have had outside with my clothes on, since I was eight years old.

I don't know when or why rain became our enemy but I am determined not to allow it to become so again. I am not made of sugar. I have no one to impress.

By the time I got back to the car I had to take a taro from the trunk to cover the seat and once home I had to undress at the door, dropping my clothes in a sodden heap.

Do you want some fun? Real fun? Forget you are in your twenties. Or thirties. Or forties, fifties, sixties or whatever decade you are in. The next time you see a storm brewing? Go for a walk. No matter how old you are, if you walk in the rain you will be able to hear your Mom calling you in the back of your mind. You are an adult now. Ignore her and stomp in the puddles.

(Originally posted to Multiply June 24, 2008)

Perhaps the Ladies Can Explain

What does on in the female mind eludes me just as it eludes most men. The truth is, I think the female mind even eludes most women and their behavior is as confusing to them as it is to us men but perhaps not. In any event, I am turning to the distaff side of Multiply in the hopes that they can explain an element of female behavior that has lately confused me.

I walk a popular city walking trail once a twice a day. It is always busy and I am always passing people coming from the opposite direction: people walking alone, in pairs, and in groups. The people on the trail are a friendly bunch and most of the people you pass will nod, wave, and say hello. Twice in fact, as you usually meet them again at a halfway point on the trail as you walk in opposite directions.

What I have noticed is this:

If you pass women in pairs or in groups, it is always the married women who make eye contact, smile, wave, and say hello. The single women in the pair or group, and they are easy to pick out, never smile, never nod, never wave, never say hello. They either look off into space or keep their eyes firmly on the ground ahead of them.

However, if you come across women walking alone, the opposite behavior is true. The single women will always make eye contact, smile, and wave or say hello. The married women alone never lift their eyes from their shoes.

I can make several suppositions about this odd behavior but I am sure they would all be wrong. So I will leave it to the feminine gender to answer. Ladies, what the hell is this about? Your answers would be appreciated even if you have to guess.

For anyone who has been following. It has been 30 days now since I quit smoking. Yay me. It has been much easier than I ever thought it could be. I have not craved a smoke and I have only reached for one without thinking a couple of times. I think this one is in the bag!

We celebrated Father's Day in the usual Locarb family tradition with a lobster fest.

This is my father. He is the best man I have ever known. I love you, Dad, and I hope you had a great Father's Day.



Someone gave Dad 'lobster' boxers for Father's Day.



He had to try them on. Don't worry. This is a PG13 blog.



This is my Mom with neice, Lindsey.



My daughter Christina and her husband Ace came. Chris gave me a book for Father's Day. What else? She knows her Dad.



Of course Sharleigh and Winter came too.



Now that Kitten has passed on my brother's dog 'Bailey' has become the obligatory mutt at family events.



My brother Kyle.



Then, just as we were about to start eating, it rained!



So some people ate outside under the tarp.




And some ate inside where it was warm.



With people scattered all over inside and out and with the rain, I didn't get a chance to get around and get a lot of pictures of everyone. Besides, I was more interested in eating my lobster than in taking pictures.



We all had a great time. We all got stuffed on lobster and butter. We all still had lots of lobster left over so I made mine into a lobster stew the next day. Yummy!

Speaking of the River Front Trail, I have shared pictures here of what it looks like in the autumn and in the winter and during the flood so now I though I would share a few pictures of what it looks like in summer.  These are a little dark. It has been raining in biblical proportions for days now.

I love this section through Tingley Park where the trees arch over the trail.




The last time I posted a picture of this, this was all under water.



There are several different parks that dot this trail as it winds between the two rivers. What kind of momuments do you have in the parks where you live? Our's are all dedicated to mining or forestry.

So we have old Cats.




And old hydraulic pumps.



And old steam shovels. Please note, this is a real steram shovel from back in the days when they really ran from steam.



Are their any experts in silverculture or forest biology here? I would love to know the name of this shrub. It grows all along the trail and perfumes the air with a heavenly peppery smell. A handfull of leave do not have much smell. Neither does one bush alone. But many of them together produce what is my favorite summer smell.







The Quesnel River.



A little back channel.



The path.



Even the deer like this trail.



Another little park. The last time I posted a picture of here it was under snow.



Now onto the Fraser River Side.



Wildflowers all along the trail. I don't know what the are but they are pretty.



And now back where we started.



I hope you enjoyed your walk.

(Originally posted to Multiply June 19, 2008)

Keeping Quiet

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda. (trans. Alastair Reid.)



And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.


For once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.


It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.


Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.


Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.


What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about,
I want no truck with death.


If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.


Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve,
and you keep quiet and I will go.


(Originally posted June 16, 2008)

An Ocean of Suffering

"Mouse" was named for his coloring and markings although I am sure the humor value wasn't lost on whomever named him.

Mouse is a gentle giant, an immense Clydesdale who is staying with my daughter and Ace on their 'ranch' until his owner, whom Chris and Ace bought the property from, finds him new digs.

Mouse spends most of his days and nights alone, grazing his way back and forth across the field that has been his home for several years now. Mouse is, however, quite sociable and enjoys company. I have made many trips out their now as I help Chris get all her belongings moved and as she and Ace and the kids settle in. Mouse has watched all this with great interest but each time I have driven up he has plodded across the field and up to the gate close to the house to have a better watch of what is going on and when I have walked down to the fence line Mouse has always walked over to greet me.

I have started taking him treats on each trip: a couple of apples and two or three carrots. That mighty mouth which could crush a man's hand gently removes the offerings from my hands with great, soft lips and devours them with crunching loud as artillery.
I do not always remember to take the treats and, indeed, Mouse does not always expect them. Knowing now that he can have attention any time he wishes it and having decided we all are, for the most part, quite boring, he does not always come to the gate now when I go there although he always looks up and acknowledges me with a whinny. Sometimes I will call him. He knows his name. And sometimes he will just wander up and wait for me to approach and give him a scratch or keep the bugs away for a while.

Sometimes if I am not attentive enough Mouse will mouth my arms and hands with those huge lips and I, not knowing him well and all too aware of how huge those teeth are, resume my petting and scratching that he has obviously come for. At other times Mouse simply approaches and lays his immense head across my shoulder with his horses cheek up against my human one and there we stand for a while, man and horse, strangers by species and strangers, really, as we have just gotten to know each other. But there we stand and shower each other with affection. I suspect that giant is also aware that this will be a fleeting friendship, that soon he will rejoin his owner somewhere else.

Yet, we seem to like each other, Mouse and I, and for however long we know each other I suspect we will continue to share apples, and scratches, and standing cheek to cheek. The giant Clydesdale and I have reached some kind of understanding about kindness and gentleness.

I wonder. When he has gone to his new home, will he remember me as I remember him?
There is another creature living on the ranch. He has been there two days now. His name is Copper and he also was named for his coloring.

Copper is a geriatric S.P.C.A. rescue dog who will living out his remaining months with Chris and Ace, free to wander the fields and forests as much as he can.

Copper is 14 years old and his health is bad. He has lived a life of intense abuse at the hand of his former owner who has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty. For fourteen years Copper has been kept in a tiny cage with a concrete floor and never allowed out. The filth he lived in, the conditions he survived defy description and I will spare you the horror that dog has lived.

Usually animals in Coppers condition and who have been so heavily abused are put down by the S.P.C.A. when they are apprehended but Copper made a bit of a turnaround and no one there had the heart to terminate his life after the horror he had lived and so he has been sent to live with Chris. He won't live long. A year at best. Probably just a few months. Perhaps until autumn. He can barely walk: both age and confinement working against that effort, and yet he is trying and each day seems to gather a little more strength.

Copper's first night with Chris he was given a soft bed and a blanket to sleep on, the first night in his life he hasn't slept on concrete covered in his own urine and feces. He slept sound throughout the night and after a morning trip outside to relieve himself where he wished to, he went right back to his bed and curled up.

Copper has been allowed to come and go from the house as he wishes and it seems he does so just because he can. I am sure that is a novelty to that old dog he can hardly comprehend. Copper will accept affection from people but he is slow to respond and often does not respond at all although by yesterday afternoon I had taught him that it was okay to accept treats from my hand.

Everything is new to Copper, of course, from being allowed in and out as he wishes to feeling grass under his feet, to having a bed to sleep on in the same room people are in, to getting a pat on the head that is given in love and not to inflict pain. Copper is quite bewildered at times. All has happened to fast. From horror to dog heaven in just a few days.

So now, in addition to the apples and carrots I take to mouse, I always have a soft treat for Copper as well. Soft for an old dogs teeth.

Copper will never be hit again nor will he sleep on concrete. He will not be left alone without water and food, He can wander about acres and acres rather than being confined to a tiny cage and he can live his remaining months as he should have lived all of them. Nothing can be done about what he endured and thus, what he missed. His next few months can be made comfortable and, hopefully, before he dies Copper can come to understand and accept love and affection.

There is much I could say about Copper's former owner but I won't. It would be easy to hate but that is not the answer either. He has accumulated some heavy karma. I am glad it isn't mine to work out.

Horses, dogs, people. All animals are the same. We are all the same. We all want the same things. We wish to be happy and we wish to be free of suffering.

And yet the world we live in is an immense ocean of suffering and given that, how can we treat any living creature with anything but kindness?

May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be, whether moving or standing still, without exception, whether large, great, middling, or small, whether tiny or substantial,
Whether seen or unseen, whether living near or far,
Born or unborn; may all beings be happy.
Let none deceive or despise another anywhere. Let none wish harm to another, in anger or in hate

(Originally posted to Multiply June 15, 2008)

Buddhism in a Fairy Tale

Do you remember the story of Goldilocks and the three bears?

Goldilocks tasted the first bowl of porridge and it was too hot. She tasted the second bowl of porridge and it was too cold. She tasted the third bowl of porridge and it was just right so she ate all of it and it was all gone.

She sat in one chair and it was too hard. The sat in the second chair and it was too soft. The third chair she sat in was just right but when she sat in it, it broke.

After all her adventures Goldilocks was tired so she looked for a place to sleep. She tried the first bed but it was too hard and then she tried the second bed and it was too soft. When she tried the third bed it was just right but as soon as she fell asleep the three bears came home.

Life is like this. Things are either too hot or too cold, they are too hard or too soft and even when they are just right there isn't any more of it, or it breaks, or someone comes home. Nothing ever satisfies completely and nothing ever stays the same.

Now, if you have read the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and understood it, then you also now understand The Second Nobel Truth of Buddhism.

That wasn't that hard, was it?

(Originally posted to Multiply on June 12, 2008)

A Lobster Pig Out

The tradtion in my family these last several years is to have a lobster feast in the back yard on Father's Day. We thought we might have to cancel this year as we were having difficulty getting any crawlers but at the last minute things came together and on Saturday evening forty lobster will have made their trans continental trip from Halifax to here.  I will post plenty of pictures of the pig out with lobster and butter to make you all jealous. For those of you who do not like lobster, please do not try to get around your hangups. May your tribe increase. The more people like you means more lobster for people like us.



(Originally posted to Multiply June 12, 2008)

Could Have

Some time ago I received an email from my cousin in Maine in which she went on at length about how poor her relationship at been with her father for years and years after he had divorced her mother. She then went on to tell me how in the past few years (before his death) she had driven the hour up the Interstate to his home each Sunday and how they would retire to the cellar, the only place in the house he was allowed to smoke, sit in the lawn chairs he had taken down there, and spent the afternoon reading stories, poems, and articles to each other from The New Yorker.

This was the poor relationship she had with her father? Someone to spend her Sunday afternoons with who shared her intellectual passions? Cry me a river!

I thought of Elizabeth and this story she had told me last night after I had heard two beautiful poems and was suddenly filled with a deep sadness, and a touch of self pity, that I had no one to share them with. No one in my circle of friends and family who would see the art and beauty. No one I could share these with who would understand.

The moment of sadness passed, of course. It always does. I am used to it. It has been that way all my life. I have always marched to a different drum and never met the other members of my band. I know they are out there. After all, The New Yorker sells millions of copies each week. Harper's and The Atlantic Monthly sell millions of copies each month. Other people read and are, supposedly, moved by what has been written. Certainly I am not the only one purchasing the highbrow, award winnings books from my local book store. I see the other copies disappear from the shelves. I just never meet any of these people. Our paths never cross. It is like I am alone in my own intellectual universe and sometimes it is a lonely, lonely feeling.

Only once in my life have I had a friend, a lover, I could share things of this nature with and, sadly, the relationship didn't last. (It has been nearly twenty years and there are times I still miss you, Debbie (even if you were crazier than a hoot owl at times). And, so, most times I walk alone.

Poetry is intensely personal and says different things to different people. Every poem has the clear meaning the poet meant and usually a more obscure meaning. Then each reader gathers their own meaning from it. Therefore, even when you find someone to share something like this there often isn't really a conversation afterwards. Just a tacit understanding that you were both moved.

So, I present the poem for you to ponder.

Could Have
It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.
You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. The left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.
You were in luck -- there was a forest.
You were in luck -- there were no trees.
You were in luck -- a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . . .
So you're here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn't be more shocked or
speechless.
Listen,
how your heart pounds inside me. (1)

The author's name is Wislawa Szymborska.

(1) View With a Grain of Sand, trans. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1996)

(Originally posted to Multiply June 10, 2008)


Book Review: Against the Stream

Genre:  Religion & Spirituality
Author: Noah Levine 
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Levine's no frills book is one of the best basic introductions to Buddhism I have ever read. His clear, no bullshit approach to karma, impermanence, suffering, celibacy make for easy reading and understanding. An appendix has instructions for a variety of meditation techniques.

An excellent book for those who wish to know more about Buddhism and meditation. It is indeed a manual for spiritual revolutionaries.

(Originally posted to Multiply June 7, 2008)

Hot Fun In the Summer Time

Summers are fun but they can wear a girl right out. Sometimes you are just too tired to even pull the lollipop from you mouth.

Granddaughter Sharleigh.


(Originally posted to Multiply June 1, 2008)

Book Review: The Last Lecture

Genre:  Biographies & Memoirs
Author: Randy Pausch
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Many of you have seen or heard of Randy Pausch and "The Last Lecture" but if you haven't, you owe it to yourself to spend an hour watching it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo

This book is not a transcript of the lecture. It is a book on how the lecture came to be, of things Randy didn't get to say in that lecture, of things he still wished to say to his wife and to his children and to us, the reader.

Amazon said, "A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave--"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"--wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come."

Randy, thank you for writing this incredible book. When you go, part of us will go with you. When you go, part of you will stay with us.

(Originally posted to Multiply May 30, 2008)

Old McKen Had A farm

When the girls were young we moved out of town to twenty seven acres of woods, fields, springs, and creeks at West Creek. We lived in a big, rambling farmhouse surrounded by outbuildings: workshop, garage, woodshed, chicken coops, storage sheds. Except for the cluck of chickens and the oink of pigs, the occasional bark of a coyote, the buzzing of insects and the whispering of the wind in the trees it was dead quiet and when we turned out the lights at night it was pitch black.

Our days were busy but never frenzied. There were animals to feed, gardens to tend to, berries to be picked and wood to be cut, spit, and stacked. The girls took part in what chores they could and played endlessly, romping through the fields or woods.

We would raise one or two piglets a year which we would turn into chops, bacon, and ham come fall. In spite of their impending demise they lived pretty high off the hog, so to speak. Once they were old enough to come off hog starter they were fed organic whole grains, oats, barley, corn, from neighbor John's ranch as well as the usual assortment of table scraps: a crust if pie, leftover mashed potatoes and peas, the children's uneaten scrambled eggs from breakfast, a couple of apples with brown spots, the two day old milk. Once slaughtered those chops and hams tasted nothing like the shoe leather they try to pawn off as pork in the supermarkets.

We had chickens for laying eggs and chickens destined for the freezer. The laying birds gave more eggs than we could possibly eat. The excess were traded with John and Betty for fresh milk which they had too much off. The milk was delivered in gallon mason jars. Wife would skim off the thick layer of cream and churn it into butter. Our beef was bough for a pittance from John and Betty who ran a 400 acre cattle ranch. A brother-in-law made sure the freezer was always half full of sockeye salmon poached from the river.
The father-in-law and I would go 'halfs' on a bunch of turkeys, usually twenty or so. In forced confinement they would grow to thirty or thirty five pounds before slaughter day. The girls were required to pick three plastic garbage bags full of greens from the fields each day and feed them to the gobblers. On slaughter day we would usually have to cut our share into half turkeys. Thirty pounds was just too big. Our turkeys bore no resemblance to the cardboard you find in the grocery store.

The garden provided fresh greens. We would eat from the garden as much as possible and can the rest for winter. In season we would gorge ourselves silly on wild strawberries, raspberries, saskatoons, and blueberries and preserve gallons of those for the winter months.

We only received one TV channel so when the television broke we were in no hurry to fix it. We and the children entertained ourselves with classical music, reading, swimming in the creek, walking the fields and forest, picking berries, or going to visit a neighbor or having them visit us. Every Sunday afternoon John and Betty showed up with a pie purchased at a bake sale and we would put the coffee on. We were never bored. Life was good.

The lessons of life at West Creek must have stuck with daughter Chris. She and new husband Ace just purchased an eight acre hobby farm twenty six kilometers from town. They have bought pigs, chickens and quail and are busy putting in their garden and getting in the winter's wood supply.

I wish them well. They are embarking on a life far more satisfying than a city-dweller will ever know. I envy them. If I could, I'd do the same thing again.

(Originally posted to Multiply May 30, 2008)

Environmentally Friendly War

An article in today's news says that scientists in Germany are developing environmentally friendly bombs that produce less toxic gas and pollutants and back a bigger punch.

I don't know about you, but it will be a comfort to me to know that our soldiers won't be beathing in dangerous fumes when they are getting their arms and legs blown off.

Seriously, is the human race as a species becoming terminally stupid?

(Originally posted to Multiply May 27. 2008)

Day Three Smoke Free

"There are two kinds of suffering: The suffering that leads to more suffering and the suffering that leads to the end of suffering. If you are not willing to face the second kind of suffering, you will surely continue to experience the first." ~~ Ajahn Chah

In another hour I will have the first 72 hours, 3 days, behind me in my quest to quit smoking.

Yesterday evening was the hardest. I really wanted to smoke and could have cheerfully knocked someone's teeth down their throat for merely looking in my direction but today, thankfully, has been much easier and I think I way be over the worst of it (he said while knocking on wood).

The hardest part seems to be figuring out what to do. "Okay. Dinner is over. Know what the hell do I do." Or, "Okay. I am finished reading. Now what do I do." A cigarette was always the thing to do no matter what it was I was doing. After my walk this evening I found myself thinking, "I guess I will go to Timmie's for a double-double and a smoke." And then, of course, "Doh! Maybe just a double-double."

I know in time that will pass as well. It is just learning new habits.

A big thank you to all who have expressed your concern about my use of Champix. I am aware of the issues surrounding this drug. My G.P. had a long talk before he prescribed it and I know what to look for. So far there hasn't been any problems and I do not think there will be any. It made me a bit drowsy in the beginning but that has worn off. I am having very vivid dreams but they are pleasant with the added benefit that about fifty per cent of them are sexual. I am not concerned about this drug. There is always an uproar when a new drug comes out. Here's the thing. Quitting smoking is hard. Very hard. And quitting really messes with your brain chemistry and with your metabolism and with your hormonal balance all of which can cause the same problems that are being attributed to Champix.

I will also extend a big thank you to all of you for your encouragement and support. It has been appreciated. I think if I can get through this weekend I will be on the home stretch. I will have it beat. I will continue to take the drug for the duration of the prescription but that seems merely prophylactic at this point.

Yesterday was the last day of walking the river front trail for a while. Flooding had cut it in four places, three of which I could detour. The fourth had me wading up to my ankles in ice cold river water. A couple of hours later the city closed the trail entirely (although about a one and a half kilometer stretch along the Fraser River is above water and people are still sneaking in walks there, as I did tonight, to watch the magesty of the high water). I have had to look for a new route and I found one this morning, an 8 kilometer trail down the hill and into the city.

It isn't quite as nice. For 3 kilometers it runs beside the highway with all that noise and pollution, but for a a long way it meanders back and forth a long series of hairpin turns as it snakes it way down Dragon Lake Hill through a lovely section of woods. I will walk that for a while, cutting across town at the end, and then take a bus back home. Yes, I know, it sounds silly to take a bus at the end of a walk but there is no way I have it in be to turn around and walk another 8 kilometers up hill to get home.

I ended my day by sneaking in a mindfulness walk along the (closed) remaining kilometer and a half of trail. The temperature had dropped suddenly and it was quite cool. There was a very strong wind blowing but the perfume of the Cottonwood trees was still heaving in the air. The river was churning, rolling, and roaring just inches from the edge of the trail. It was a beautiful and extraordinary few moments: moments I thought I was being completely mindful of as my mind remained mostly focused on the feel of my foot falls. Then, suddenly, someone on a child's scooter that had been motorized, barking and snarling and puking out smelly exhaust. My mind immediately said, "Asshole" followed by the real truth of the situation: a mindful walk but not so mindful that I still didn't have the capacity to be entirely judgmental. Then in the next instant a real laugh as I realized the entire walk had been judgmental - judging not just the "Asshole" but judging the moments before that as being "better."

We all have our preferences and there is nothing wrong with that. It is when we cling to them that the trouble starts; when we cling to better or worse or good or bad or the entire array of dualistic thoughts we hold in our mind. As soon as we cling we merely prolong the suffering and when it comes to suffering it is better to be suffering the solution than it is to be suffering the problem.

I hope you all have a weekend free from suffering.

(Originally posted to Multiply on May 23, 2008)

Book Review: How to See Yourself As You Really Are

Genre:  Religion & Spirituality
Author: His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

The Amazon blurb for this title says, "According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we each possess the ability to achieve happiness and a meaningful life, but the key to realizing that goal is self-knowledge. In How to See Yourself As You Really Are, the world's foremost Buddhist leader and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize shows readers how to recognize and dispel misguided notions of self and embrace the world from a more realistic -- and loving -- perspective. Through illuminating explanations and step-by-step exercises, His Holiness helps readers to see the world as it actually exists, and explains how, through the interconnection of meditative concentration and love, true altruistic enlightenment is attained."

I have to laugh when I read that. I have seen this book selling in Wal Mart, Costco, and supermarkets along with much more popular titles. Marketing at its finest, I suppose, and I am glad for any exposure the writings of His Holiness gets. However, I wonder how many people purchased this book and then actually managed to read it.

This is not an easy read and in this book H.H. is not always easy to understand as he tries to illuminate some of the most difficult teachings in Buddhism.

I quite enjoyed this but I think that perhaps his books should come with a warning that they are not for those new to Buddhist thought.

(Originally posted to Multiply 22, 2008)

No Smoking - The First 24 Hours


I have completed my first 24 hours without smoking with the help of Champix. It was a little rough this morning as I slept in and when I woke up the pill had worn off and the craving was a bit intense but I quickly took one and then went for a walk to kick in some endorphins to tide me over.

When taking Champix one picks a 'quit date' between the 8th and 14th day. I originally had chosen the 8th day but when that rolled around I knew it was too soon for a number of reasons. I also knew I had to get by my weekend with Tess before I started. So I wound up choosing the evening of the 13th day - last night.

Champix works by turning off the nicotine receptors in your brain. I believe it doesn't accomplish that totally as the craving can be intense some moments but perhaps that is related to something else. Smoking is more than just the addiction to nicotine. It is the taste, the smell, the feel, the hand to mouth action. It is just after dinner here now. The cigarette right after dinner was one of my favorite of the day so I am at a bit of a loss at the moment. I am substituting Laura Secord 85% Cacao dark chocolate. It is good but not the same. I'd rather have a cigarette.

But, all in all, it is going okay so far and I am sure it will get better as soon as I can find a bell tower and a high power rifle.

The river continues to rise. On my walk this morning I noted that it was up a quarter meter since yesterday. I went for another walk late this afternoon and it was up another quarter meter since morning and now sits at 9 meters. I will have to find a new walking route soon. The river front trail has been cut in two places and their is a long section of about a kilometer that is only about three inches above the water level right now.

(Originally posted to Multiply May 21, 2008)

If I Were An American Beef Cow

If I were an American beef cow,
You can bet that I would be mad too.
If you make me a meat-eater,
Then what's a cow supposed to do?
You eat meat, I know it's true;
Don't make me a meat-eater too.
If I was an American beef cow,
You can bet that I would be mad too.


If I was an American beef cow,
Don't you know that I would be mad too.
I'm a sentient creature,
With feelings just like you.
My teeth are flat for grinding,
That's what they're for;
Everybody knows that I'm a herbivore
If I was an American beef cow,
Don't you know that I would be mad too.

If I was an American beef cow,
You can bet that I would be mad too.
If you feed me with my brother,
Well, what's a cow supposed to do?
I eat grass, until I'm full;
Don't turn me into a cannibull.
If I was an American beef cow,
You can bet that I would be mad too


If you were an American beef cow,
I'll bet that you would be mad too.
Brain stems and spinal cords,
Would mess your diet too.
Children of America, how does it feel,
To eat slaughterhouse scraps in your Happy Meal?
If you were an American beef cow,
I'll bet that you would be mad too. 
 


 (Spoken:)

Now I'm not a beef cow, I'm a Buddhist monk. But it doesn't take a scientist, veterinarian or a FDA inspector to point out that cows should eat grass. There's wisdom in the thought that I am what I eat. I think of a steak or burger, bacon or chops as my body, just one bite removed. These days the meat and dairy industry in a questionable cost-cutting strategy, dispose of their slaughterhouse waste by feeding it back to the cows, along with growth hormones, antibiotics, poultry litter and what are politely called rendered animal byproducts. Now if cows could speak, I'll bet they'd say, "For goodness sakes, please stop feeding us beef!"


If we were all American beef cows,
You could bet that we would be mad too.
What you put into your steak,
Comes right back to you.
Meat is our addiction, we crave for more;
The ol law of karma's gonna even the score.
If we were all American beef cows,
You can bet that we would be mad.
Bet that we would be mad,
Bet that we would be mad too. (1)
  (1) American Beef Cow words and music by Rev. Heng Sure

(Originally posted to Multiply May 21, 1008)

Flooding

With the snow pack 200% above normal, last year was supposed to bring record flooding. Fortunately, with a long, cool spring it never materialized. This year the snow pack in the mountains was around normal and there was no predictions of flooding the colder than normal spring has worked against us this year when the temperatures rose suddenly followed by several days of hard rain.

The Fraser River is already way over its banks.

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This picnic table is not supposed to be at the water's edge!

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Where did the river front trail go?

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Hell, where did the road go?

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Can't go here either. This part of the trail is flooded also.

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The Quesnel River is almost as high as I have ever seen it.

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The river gauge is reading 8-1/2 meters. That is up half a meter since yesterday. Full flood, when the entire lower half of the  city will go under water, is at 9 meters.

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The Fraser River this afternoon. If anyone has a spare ark, please send it.

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(Originally posted to Multiply May 20, 2008)

Champix - The Breakfast Of Smokers

I have never been one of those halfhearted, chicken shit smokers who go around whining that they wish they could quit smoking or that they would quit smoking if only they could. I enjoy smoking. I enjoy every cigarette I smoke from the first one in the morning until the last one at night. I like the rush. I like how they smell. I like the taste and I make no excuses for my habit. If God didn't want us to smoke he wouldn't have made tobacco.

Having said that, however, the time has come to make the attempt to quit although I am quite certain I am not quitting for the right reasons. I am not making the attempt for my health or to be politically correct or for any of the other reasons people give. I am going to try to quit simply and solely for the expense. I can no longer justify the financial burden of smoking. The cheapest I can purchase Players Rich is $8.66 a package and that in a drugstore in town. It probably costs a $1.00 in gasoline to drive there. In all other stores they average about $9.50 a package. At a pack and a half a day I am paying Imperial Tobacco over $425 a month for the privilege. That has become simply unacceptable.

I say I will "attempt" to quit and not that "I will" quit for obvious reasons. Quitting is very difficult and I freely admit that in addition to enjoying smoking, I am heavily addicted to nicotine.

I have quit four previous times in my life. I quit twice for one year. Both times on a bet with friend Scott. Both times I restarted the same way: in a bar drinking beer one night and thinking I could smoke "just one."

I quit for nine years on another occasion. I used to say it was eleven years but I recently looked at the time frame and realized it could only have been nine. It probably just seemed like eleven. I dreamed about smoking the entire time. I had promised my ex-wife I would quit when the second child was born but I didn't quite manage that until two years later when she was two.

I am always asked why someone who had quit for nine years would start again so I might as well tell you.
My wife was working

one Saturday and called me at home to ask me to bring her something from her dresser. While looking for it I discovered a half a package of cigarettes hidden away. I decided I would teach her a lesson, by God. After dropping off what she had asked for I stopped at the store and picked up a package for myself and then proceeded to smoke three or four of them to make certain I could do so without getting sick after all that time. That evening we were having company in to play cards. Both Bob and Sylvia were smokers.
That evening after we had played a couple of hands and Bob had lit up a smoke, I asked him for one, lit up myself, and started smoking. My wife looked at me in near horror before declaring, "That is going to make you sick." I looked her in the face, took a big drag, and answered, "If you can smoke in secret, I can do it in the open."

She turned as white as a ghost knowing she had been caught but as soon as she regained her composure she said, "Well, know that that is out in the open, Bob, give ma a smoke, eh?" We were both off to the races once again. I guess I showed her, huh?

I quit a forth time for about three years. I didn't want to. I quit for health reasons. I had a chest infection that had gone on for six months and had begun to cough up blood. My doctor told me the only way the infection would clear was if I quit and if I couldn't do it on my own she would put me in the hospital and put my lights out for a couple of weeks until I was beyond the craving. I managed to stop with the help of the patch. I stayed quit until my ex-wife sent my sixteen year old daughter to live with me. I recall I started smoking again a day after getting that news. That was twelve years ago.

I have attempted to quit twice since then using Zyban. The first time failed as it was new and the doctor gave me the wrong instructions. It just didn't work for me. The second time I tried it I know it would have worked. I ad no cravings to smoke but did anyway - right to the end of the prescription. I just didn't really want to quit. It was as simple as that.

When I decided to quit this time I went back to the quack again. I know myself well enough to know that I do not have a 'cold turkey' in me and needed some kind of assistance. That assistance is not just for me. It is also for the people around me. I turn into an instant asshole when I first quit. I asked for another round of Zyban but the doctor was reluctant to prescribe it again. Zyban is actually an anti depressant, Wellbutrin. I am bipolar and feeding me anti depressants is not always a good idea.

I was prescribed Champix. Champix is the latest and greatest in the anti smoking arsenal. It supposedly has a far greater success rate than Zyban and also has less side effects. Champix is actually a nicotine inhibitor. It is supposed to close down the receptors in your brain that lock onto nicotine and provide the pleasure of smoking.

For the first three days you take 0.5 mg once a day. For the next four days you take 0.5 mg twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. From day eight until the end of three months you take 1 mg twice a day and you are supposed to set a day to quit sometime between the eighth and fourteenth day of using the medication. Today is the beginning of day eight for me. I switched to the 1 mg tablet this morning.

I do not have a lot of faith in this. A lot of people supposedly report being able to quit in the eighth day when they begin the 1 mg tablets. I feel no such notion. Cigarettes still seem to give the same pleasure as before and I find myself wondering if this stuff works at all. I want to give it plenty of time to work, however, so I have set my quit date for next Tuesday, day thirteen.

Perhaps the issue here is in the way the drugs work. As I said, while A I did not quit with Zyban, I easily could have. Zyban took away all desire to smoke. Champix, so far anyway, doesn't seem to do that. Champix seems to take the conscious decision to STOP. That might be bad news for me.

We'll see how it goes. However, if I become a little angry and aggressive in my blogs, please forgive me. Quitting has never been easy for me and if it weren't for the price of smokes I wouldn't be doing it now. I love the smell of tobacco in the morning.

(Originally posted to Multiply May 15, 2008)