Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Mexican Parka

Photos: with Ros Oberlyn on the Malecon, La Paz, Mexico & Crag Lake parka
During my brief stint as an inn keeper in Baja, three winters ago, I had one of those amazing Yukon coincidences.  One of my neighbours said there was a woman who liked to winter in La Paz who also had a Yukon connection.   So when she walked past the inn a few weeks later, I had a vague recollection of her smiling face.  For anyone living in the Yukon in the late 1980's, Ros Oberlyn would be a familiar sight since she was a CBC TV reporter.  Turned out she had an apartment on the next block from me.  Most memorable all those years ago was Ros' outside winter stories because she wore a stunning purple and red beaded parka.  This may have been one of the first things I asked her once I found out that soon she would take up permanent residence in Mexico "What will become of your parka?"  We negotiated the repatriation of the parka back to the north under a polka-doted palm tree while eating rose pedal and corn ice cream.  Quite a surreal and lovely memory.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Soiled Glass

The sun has returned to us.  Living in this deep valley has it's dark sides literally and for a few weeks in winter we don't see the sun directly.  But lately it's been blasting in, showing us all the accumulated dust on the logs and surfaces.  Who has time to address that, I figure, especially since our vacuum is indisposed for the moment.  I'd much rather admire the light shinning thru what my friend Wendy calls, my 'soiled glass' window.  It's an inspiration of hers that I adopted last summer and now I reap the rewards.  She says she can't afford a real stained glass window, so instead she has a collection of coloured antiques and thrift store finds at her window.  She uses these items regularly and rotates the colours to change the mood and the style of her entire kitchen.  I really like that idea of function, creativity and environment combined.  For up to 2 hours a day now, the southern exposure of the sun shines directly and I'm not wasting such a warm bath on dust but capturing it ever so briefly in old soiled glass.

Each piece hold a souvenir too; the old Sprite bottle discovered in my brother Pierre's yard while digging for the new landscape on Vancouver island.  The small red pitcher from Rob on my 50th birthday, a fancy hand blown antique; the broken red measuring cup that Wendy couldn't part with after the tragedy; the odd purple bottle from a huge antique shop in a barn in Ontario near the farmhouse Rob grew up in; the glass chicken from my Memere's kitchen in Cocagne, N.B.; the amber '70's vintage candy bowl from a garage/estate sale, another reminder of adventures with Wendy.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Flaming Vacuum Cleaner

Photo: Label quilt #1, produced as a form of meditation while in college, 2004 - 2006
On New Years Eve, Rob was eager to welcome the warmer weather so he could clean out the wood stove.  It needed a thorough scrubbing from the roof as well as below.  In his estimation, this requires a vacuum cleaner but in winter it's a bit more challenging with the odd errant ember.  Soon the cabin was filled with thick smoke, cussing, and the scent of burning dust and plastic.  The funny thing about this flaming vacuum cleaner, after the initial rush to get the thing outside and the place aired out (again thanks to above zero temperatures) is remembering that we originally rescued it from the dump 11 years ago, when we first moved here.

And now, back to -30 C, we watch the ice form again on the inside window sills and the hinges on the door.  Billows of frosty air wafts in every time the door opens.  Everything outside has an extra crispness to it and the cabin makes loud creaking thud sounds.  Once in a while, the lake too will give us satisfactory groans, pings and moans, while it adjusts to it's new colder environment.  It's hard to explain why we love this life really.  It's not an intellectual thing but a serious matter of the heart.

Like most cabin dwellers in winter, we read adventure, gardening and cook books, and experiment with new exotic recipes.  We keep fit by shoveling, skiing, and snowshoeing.  Rob likes to feed sunflower seeds to his critters at the feeders by the windows.  In their excitement, the grouse beaks and chickadees throw the seeds on the ground, feeding a lively colony of squirrels that have dug tunnels under the snow.  We could watch this action for a long time.

For me winters is a creative time when I take on wild projects like hand sewing a full size quilt made entirely of clothing labels.  I also made one out of doilies but it wasn't as satisfying.  I'm now finishing up a second label quilt and I'm seriously scrounging for more labels.  Any assistance in this matter would be hugely welcomed.  Labels are fading out, especially the embroidered ones I cherish, which I'm told are mostly silk.  Imagine that, I'm able to say I have a silk quilt that cost me nothing, just thousands of hours of labour!

Add garlic, chocolate, our own blend of Crag Lake coffee and global music blaring (the latest favorite is "Pacifika", a juicy Latino/Canadian blend). Well, there you have it, our formula for a sweet life on a frozen Yukon lake.