Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Extra Time at Clear Sky

I was having so much fun at Clear Sky and they were having such a fun time learning from me that my teacher begged me to stay on. He said my post-meditation, post-travelling mentality combined with my can-do farming/gardening/building skills was just what we needed around there and he suggested I stay till the end of the summer.

Without much thought, I sent Richard and Adrian home on their own for the final road trip back. They later reported that not only did Richard successfully do the drive alone, but they even camped every night as we'd planned and drove 14 hour days. They didn't stop much or see much besides the view out the window, but it was a good bonding experience for them nonetheless. They also arrived home one day earlier than planned and surprised Josh and his friends, who'd been house sitting for 2 months, necessitating a quickly orchestrated clean up of the place.

But as for me, I moved into the main house and just worked harder, without my family around for distraction. I found more time for meditation, I sold more jams and jellies, and passed off the saskatoon berry product making to the next generation of learners - a true sign of letting go and making myself redundant. I got into tool organizing, and whipped the not-so-organized guys into shape.

And most of all, I just enjoyed being on my own. I hadn't realized how much I missed thinking of myself as a single person. Not necessarily single, but not first thinking of myself as a mother or a wife, or even as a manager. Everything implies "other". I like just being Linda. It reminds me that I truly feel satiated as a wife and mother, and the missing part is the Linda part. So I introspected, I slept alone, and I enjoyed this final month on my own again.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Summer at Clear Sky

We arrived at the Clear Sky Meditation and Study Centre to hugs from Richard and the rest of the gang. The members there have become my second family after my 2 month meditation retreat in the spring. Without further ado, we got to work and started helping out. Unlike my quiet solitary experience in February, this summer was spent with non-stop work. Much of July was spent in the kitchen cooking meals for upwards of 25 people, with Adrian as my primary assistant cook. Richard kicked into building mode and organized a 2 day building course to teach totally inexperienced men and women how to build a garden shed. They then applied this learning to building a 2 story root cellar. Everyone appreciated how talented and patient Richard was with all the new learners, and he enjoyed plaing boss and educator for a change.

Within a few weeks, the saskatoon berries began to ripen, and I became animated Saskatoon Girl! From never having seen this berry before to being its biggest advocate and marketer in a week flat. I started surfing the web and found countless saskatoon berry recipes, particularly jams and jellies. I spent a couple of weeks fighting public health beaurocracy and eventually got permission to sell these "value-added products" at the local farmer's markets. The picking season lasted barely 3 weeks, but we were out every day picking and then processing. All in all, we sold over $2000 worth of jams, jellies, juices, pies, and a quickly-famous chutney with this glorious wild berry. I even made a lovely cordial from this berry, and put in a gallon of wine for sipping next summer, just to test out its alcoholic properties.

Richard, Adrian, and I rented a lovely 3-room cabin just 10 minutes down the road, and were able to have a little family time at the end of each day. Sometimes we played guitar, sometimes we built campfires and ate marshmallows, and sometimes we just collapsed into bed, tired and happy.

Adrian had a wonderful summer alternating between hanging out with the adults, spending time alone in nature, and helping out with tasks like cooking and jam making. When nothing else was happening, he'd escape to the linen closet on the 3rd floor under the eves and play computer games on the internet or watch Corner Gas episodes. He calls it his best summer ever for seeing animals. While out on walks by himself and the dog he got to see 2 wolves track down a deer, a mother grizzley bear and 3 babies, and a daddy grizzley, not to mention countless deer, elk, mountain goats, mountain longhorned sheep, and some beautiful birds which he meticulously looked up in books and learned to identify. While not the most social time for him, he did get into the Cranbrook Skatepark weekly and hung out with the local kids a bit. And he learned that it's rude to wear his hat at the dining room table, something he had never quite learned at our house.

All in all, we enjoyed good family time, and despite the hard work, we were all relaxed and happy and had plenty of time outdoors. So it was a good summer.

US National Parks

The next leg of our 12 day trip took us through breath-taking scenery and into some of the real jewels of the American landscape. Not that the midwest was boring, but it's more familiar to me and therefore less interesting and beautiful. We carried on south till we came to the Grand Canyon, a place that loomed high in Adrian's imagination, he says, without a real vision. He just knew it was important, but didn't really know why. As we drove in from the east, we stopped in for our first views, just before sunset. The views took our words away, and we just stood there hugging each other and saying nothing. It was awesome, inspiring, and just plain beautiful. The next 2 hours were less than awesome as we looked for a campground with availabilities, one day before the July 4th weekend. All of the closest campgrounds are first-come-first-served, with no reservations. We got sent away by 2 campgrounds, and eventually got sent back to the farthest one, close to where we'd seen such lovely sites 2 hours before, feeling less than gratuitous, but at least fortunate. The next day we woke up early and trekked down the infamous Angel Trail following mule treks and countless other hikers. We took plenty of water and laughed at all the signs warning illprepared hikers about the dangers of acting tough by trying to hike in desert conditions without sufficient water. We made it half way down (4.5 miles) and back in under 4 hours. Adrian left me behind in his dust on the way back up, as it was getting hot by then mid-day, and I was holding him back with my adult sluggishness. (That little boy has so much trekking energy, he just races up mountains like a mountain goat!) A few more hours of canyon gazing, a couple more sunrises and sunsets, and Adrian was ready to be back in the car again. One of his high lights was seeing all the wildlife along the canyon, including tons of yellow-bellied marmots and even several male deer with racks larger than 4 feet tall!

Our next stop was the Great Salt Lake, otherwise known to Adrian as the stinkiest lake on the planet. The dead fish and salt smells were noxious, but didn't stop me from sinking my body into the salt water for my tourist photo op. Adrian obliged to be photographer, but wouldn't even touch his toes in the stinky water. I remember swimming there as a child with my family and enjoying the salty feel on my skin, but don't remember the smell quite so much. Maybe it's changed a bit, or maybe I just have a kid with a hyper-sensitive nose.

Our final park, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, had the most impressive wild animals of the entire trip, as well as photographic bubling mud displays. The spontaneous bubbling mud baths of various colours and sizes bubbling up throughout the park were more impressive than the predictable Old Geiser, which was smaller in size and all in one place. Adrian took lots of photos with the changing sunlight and walked around dazelike. But then the animals. Within minutes of entering the park, we saw our first bison, also known as the great American buffalo. They are big, hairy monsters that look like something from your nightmare when you meet them on the road. We were close enough to touch one, but fortunately were in our car, and could choose not to touch him, and just take his photo instead. One of Adrian's highlights was a horse trek through the park one morning. He got the ornery horse and had to ride in the front, because his horse kept trying to wander off to eat. We rode through a herd of over 200 elk and deer, including lots of babies and their mothers. Have you ever heard the sound that distressed elk make? It's something like a cross between a coo and a groan. We also saw mule deer with droopy ears, a coyote, 5 more bison, and an American bald eagle on its nest. Stunning wild life everywhere!

One more night spent camping at a KOA in Missoula, Montana, a few hours from where I was born back in 1964, and we arrived in Cranbrook, BC. We'd covered 6000 km in 12 days, and averaged 500 km per day, and spent not a cent on car repairs. Not bad for a mother-son team and a 12 year old car. We also listened to Adrian's iPod for 4 complete cycles of all his tunes. I can sing along with all his Billy Talent alternative rock songs, and sound vaguely cool with the teenagers. Adrian and I really grooved together, except for that 24 hour period around his 12th birthday when he got mad at me for some silly reason and cried himself to sleep that night and wouldn't talk to me for the next whole day. Welcome to the land of teenagers, even though he's only 12. An offer of an extra large chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard at Dairy Queen seemed to break the ice and restore normalacy. Looks like I might be visiting there again in the near future.

Cross Country Trip

The last few months have FLOWN by, but I'll try to catch up over the next couple of weeks, for those of you loyal enough to checking to see where I am. After a short 5 days at home, I dropped Richard off at Pearson Airport to fly to BC, and Adrian and I loaded ourselves with camping gear and the same clothes we trekked across Asia with and headed out. We headed out with an 11 year old car that was almost turning 200,000 km, and hoped for the best. We spent for the first 2 nights in Goshen, IN visiting my parents. Mom was apalled that we'd left home on a road trip without any food in our cooler, so she promptly emptied her fridge into our cooler, and we ate her bread, jam, fruit, buritoes, crackers, and cheese for the next few weeks of our trip. Gotta love Mom!

Our next night was spent just off the highway in Iowa City, Iowa visiting with an old high school friend of mine, Dwight Schumm. Not only was this a convenient stop, but Dwight makes the best Indian food outside the Indian continent and we swapped travel stories with his family regarding their recent family trip to India.

A full 14 hours later, we'd seen countless hours of cornfields and wind turbines, and finally made it through both Iowa and Nebraska. A huge accomplishment in itself. Adrian settled into the road trip, and we listed to our first complete runthrough of his iPod tunes. We crossed just into Colorado and stopped at an RV park just off the road with a great heated pool and free firewood. Adrian was ecstatic. Our first night of camping was smoothe, and we discovered how delicious buritoes over a fire could be, and replicated many more roadside meals like this for the rest of the journey.

The next day we drove a reasonable 5 hours and included a trip up a cog railroad to one of Colorado's many "14,000-ers" (i.e. peaks over 14,000 feet). We hadn't booked in advance, of ourse, so when we showed up, we were on standby for 4 hours, and then finally got on the last train up for the day, only to be told that they'd accidentally overbooked that train by 1 person. Oh well, they had our money, so we insisted they take us, and they did. The train was an uneventful 1 1/2 hr trip, but the top was unfogetably cold. We'd planned ahead with fleece, but our cold legged shorts were freezing, with the temps below 0, even in the middle of summer. We found a classy RV park to camp at that night in Colorado Springs, and even had WiFi, a pool, and free computers, all for the price of a hotel room and our highest fee of the trip, although later I'd heard that Colorado Springs is the national Republican's headquarters, and wished we'd just driven off instead.

Next day brought us to Alburqueque, New Mexico and the home of my sister Kathy. We arrived exactly 2 days before her move to Waterloo, Ontario, but just in time to enjoy her sisterly hospitality and my own bed! She and I stayed up drinking G&T's while Adrian enjoyed flaking out with his computer and being generally anti-social like the teenager he's turning into around others. We skyped with my brother-in-law Roger and video cammed with him in Colorado (or was it California?) as if he was there in the house with us. A lovely meal and a great respite before we headed off to the national parks, relaxed and revived.