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Does He Remember Where The Deer And The Antelope Play?

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fun fun fun

And she’ll have fun fun fun

I was aching to crank up the tunes in the car … the T-Bird that my Daddy had been threatening to take away since 1964 when Brian Wilson surfed the radio waves and FUN FUN FUN lit the highways of North American youth.

The world cried out for a smile after JFK’s gruesome blood-spattered demise the previous year.

We always need a smile cloud when a grey gloom hovers and smothers.

But it’s not 1964 anymore, and my vintage T-Bird has become a Chrysler 300S rental with more buttons and dashboard lights than Meatloaf ever envisioned rounding third base, coming in hot for home, throbbing stick shift in hand.

It’s 2017 and the prairie highway is as pancake flat as my abs might be if they weren’t layered over with an ounce (or pound) or two of early-senior adipose.

I could be Chris Columbus sailing in my ship towards the unknown sunny amber horizon, dreaming of untold riches in the mirage at the far reaches.

Saskatchewan is a place I love to visit – I don’t really think I’d want to be a permanent denizen because of the harsh climate – there’s a warm mantle that settles over me like sitting on the front porch on a rocking chair, cheery crickets chirping, on a balmy summer’s eve.

Saskatchewan pours relaxation into my pores like thick Saskatoon Berry syrup.

It’s a lot of things: the people, the prairie culture, the landscape, the animal life, the wide-open skies, the tiny towns and modest cities.

The drive south and west on Highway 7 towards the cousins’ farm in Dewar Lake draws my eyes to the towering cloud patterns stretching layer-upon-layer into the far reaches like lake ripples at sunrise.

I have to remind myself to pay attention to the road; there’s a mesmerizing resonance in the patch-quilt cloud ornamentation held aloft by warm updrafts and the many V’s of Canada and Snow Geese traversing the landscape.

Golden stubble of just harvested wheat and durum lines the sides of the roadway, leading my eyes away to the windrows of caragana and a lonely farmhouse silhouetted against the pale blue background holding the landscape to the earth.

Sask clouds.jpg

A couple of days later, driving along the flat expanse, my mind returns to the main purpose of this prairie journey, a visit with my older brother.

My brother whose grey matter is losing it’s fine-honed edge.

And though much has been lost already, he’s still in the here and now, still my brother.

He sits next to me, a willing, cheery passenger, as we ply the smooth highway leading northward on Highway 11 to Prince Albert.

Our destination, just slightly north of PA, is the cemetery where, one day, he’ll share a small plot of lumpy prairie soil next to his recently lost wife of almost 50 years.

Today our quest is the Spruce Home Lutheran Cemetery.

My brother’s daily journey of bewilderment brings me visions of the books I’ve read, the movies I’ve watched over the last few years: Still Alice… Away From Her… Scar Tissue.

There’s a bittersweet treasure of books and movies I can remember that tell the story of a family member who bit-by-bit… can’t remember.

The eye-appeal of the rural landscape on this day’s drive is shaded somewhat by the dwindling capacities of a loved one whose chief sense of pride, whose main claim to fame in life has been his mental acuity.

I don’t think I’ve been up this way before“, he innocently repeats 4 or 5 times along the route that he’s likely travelled dozens of times over many years.

It’s a melancholy feeling of irony when I think of how the map of the land of grain fields crisscrossing our path is laid out in such straight well-laid sections, while the map of the world inside my brother’s head is convoluted, filled with a confusion of crooked roadblocks and dead-end roads.

But the sun is shining and his sense of where we need to go, need to be, is intact today. His focus, his humanity, is unimpaired.

clouded mind.jpg

As a group, we use our combined skills of inner navigation combined with gps systems, adding in multiple stops at gas stations, diners, and private farm houses.

Still, we’re having minimal success at locating the cemetery.

I’m driving north-south-east-west down dusty roads and asphalt flat highways and nothing … no cemetery.

The occasional deer and pronghorn antelope we come upon look at us with some confusion too as if they’re saying, “we haven’t seen a human out this way in quite some time“… the animals speak with a slow prairie drawl which somehow seems appropriate out here.

We’re concluding that the confusion we’ve encountered in tracking a small plot of gravestones is not attributable to any loss of mental functioning.

This cemetery has been purposefully hidden in the occult back-section of a plane of plains. Even the locals have no real idea where their neighbours’ remains rest.

It’s some small solace.

The sun is settling closer into a hug of the western horizon when a farmer’s hint to us from the cab of his truck gives us hope. It’s a hint of the possible existence of a cemetery just beyond the slough up a neighbouring side-road.

That hope turns to elation when we turn into a well-hidden grassy lane leading through a grove of birch trees. The shading birch trees bring us to an opening and a circle of trees that surrounds a charming patch of land. An iron gate in front of us reads, “Spruce Home Lutheran Cemetery”.

That’s it!“, my brother cried out with relief and excitement.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of happiness that envelopes us while wanting to locate a bunch of dead folks. It’s a contradiction that somehow feels just right in the moment, like an oxymoron that perfectly describes an indescribable thought.

The stark beauty of the prairie landscape too is like an oxymoron compared with the deterioration simultaneously going down inside the head of my brother.

We wandered the dry earth, reading the names and dates on the headstones, quietly absorbing the memories and peace of the moment. A small tear coursed my brother’s cheek.

Pulling away from the prairie cemetery as wheat-toned golden sunlight dwindled into twilight seemed symbolically appropriate when set against the slowly dimming existence of a bright mind that has enjoyed brilliant summer days and wide open skies.

His smile, his appreciation, his love, are a part of the artistic landscape of the relationship we’ve shared for many years.

The dwindling map-work of my brother’s mind is a sip of sadness… but for a few brief hours under the Saskatchewan skies, our day’s drive along the prairie blacktop filled with smile clouds was FUN FUN FUN!

wide open sky

 

 

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The Day I’ll Tattoo My Ass

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Bad-Ass-tattoo

… ink, pieces, skin art, tats, work, tramp stamp…

Ubiquitous. Universal. Inescapable.

Everywhere I look, everywhere I go… TATTOOS

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have none… yet.

When I cook a meal for guests I like to make the presentation of the fare over-the-top beautiful. Lots of garnish and exotic flare like colourful Bhangra dancers.

Sure, it’s delightful when my Rogan Josh or Chicken Cacciatore looks sumptuously appealing, but the down-deep real reason I want it to look appetizing is … well… my culinary flavour creations don’t always connect… make the grade… you know, taste good.

But if my food looks sensuously ravishing, there’s a small chance, a wee opportunity, that it will fool the unsuspecting nosher into thinking I’m an amazing chef.

Smoke and mirrors a là sous-chef.

Many of us get taken in by smoke and mirrors all the time. I do.

The whole concept of buyer’s remorse is based on a clever marketer convincing us that something is better, more useful, tastier than it really is. When was the last time you ate a Big Mac or Olive Garden entree that looked like the one in the TV commercial?

So I’m thinking along the same lines when I consider the notion of having my ass tattooed (this has absolutely nothing to do with flavour!).

It’s about cheeky smoke and mirrors.

superman tattoo

My friend Sam says she’d never get a tattoo because, in her words, “who in the world would put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?”

But I’m getting older and my “bumpers” are less solid and stolid than they were when I was a young pup, despite the innumerable squats, deadlifts and lunges I ply my way through in the gym … my vintage gluteal folds are beginning to fold in on themselves like an origami crane.

Yes, my once Ferrari-hot ass (some prefer to describe it as a VW Beetle) is aging alongside me.

I need more concealing smoke in my mirror.

The thought of having some ink art on my backside royal real estate could be just the thing to restore the curb appeal to this sagging classic.

Idea… I could return some long-lost lustre to the old castle cheek-turrets: how about a nice long Martin guitar neck sloped diagonally from my upper thigh across my butt cheek to my lower back, some Nashville harmony in my rearview mirror… or perhaps an Ironman logo with a playful water splash atop a Tour de France-style cyclist would add a robust perkiness to my backside, do you think?

guitar tattoo

All of this is a possibly creepy aside to a discussion my wife and I had the other day about tattoos and the lack of creativity our society exercises with the potential uses of body art. When you think about it, we squander some great tattooing Idea Sex possibilities.

Just a few thoughts that cropped up about the potential of tattoos – and please feel free to add your own inventive thoughts to this – were:

  1. Transplant Tattoo – tattoo removal is growing in popularity at the same time that tattoo production is flourishing. Why remove and lose that amazing art when tattoo skin grafts could be lifted and shifted from one person to another. When Jennie splits with Mark, why not have the romantic blossoming rose emblazoned with Jennie’s name surgically excised away from Mark’s bicep and delicately moved on to her new “forever” man Arjit’s torso.
  2. Funeral Tattoo – when we draw our final breath and no longer need the physical shell that sustained us, should the art that adorned and decorated, the craftwork that colourfully spoke of who we were, just decompose or go up in smoke along with the rest of our epithelial wrinkles? Of course not… Michelangelo’s been gone for centuries and still we droolingly visit Florence to admire his artistic power (and maybe the pasta and gelato!). Why shouldn’t we memorialize ourselves in perpetuity by removing the artwork of our outer rind, cure it like a buffalo hide, frame it decorously in memoriam and voilà … we live on shining with the stars that grace the evening skies long after we’ve departed.
  3. Baby – Micro Tattoo – this is really a no-brainer and long overdue. Many new parents have their infant’s ears pierced in the hospital nursery before excitedly heading home with their precious bundle. It’s a statement about their culture and belief system that brought the child into the world. So why not infant tattoos? It surely can’t be more traumatic than a circumcision, and it provides you the parent with an unequalled opportunity to give the wee bairn the tattoo YOU wanted to have but never grew the balls to adorn your own outer surface. BONUS OPTION: you choose the tattoo that YOU want THEM to have. Beware of teen angst in coming years!

Good ideas, don’t you agree?

But ultimately, I think I’ve decided against having my buttocks bruised with needles.

In the end, it may be my buttoned-down upbringing – the Protestant ethos “To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity” – that holds sway.

Or, while I like to consider myself an amateur artist, or at least having an artistic bent, my artistic leanings are less visual and more in the musical and written end of the artistic spectrum.

For the time being, I’ll avoid making an ass of myself and forestall any skin colour stylings with my sleek (ahem) Ferrari physique.

 

old man tattoo.jpg

School Bells Sing … Are You Listening?

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Remember when the music
Came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire
And as we sang the words, it would set our minds on fire,
For we believed in things, and so we’d sing.”

Harry Chapin

school days

DAMN! I’m wondering if this is the fire and brimstone of Old Testament lore shitting down on the Okanagan Valley (and maybe your locale too) with floods, fires, and the worst global pestilence of all – good ole boy Donny-John Trump!

The only ones truly thriving in this plague are the chosen ones – comedians…

Summer 2017 – again – has melted away like a deliciously sweet Pralines and Cream ice cream cone licked madly on the Penticton beachfront, the escaped drips available on the front of your T-shirt to sample later.

The diamond glitter of sunshine on the balmy lake water, tropical scents of sunscreen, electric bursts of music and kids’ laughter are, alas, diminishing.

The smoke from surrounding forest fires that’s languished over the Naramata hillside for most of the past month is nowhere to be seen today. Yesterday’s wheezy cough is today’s soothing clear inhale of September joy.

It’s the perfect Okanagan Valley summer day. Or has autumn already descended?.

I scan down the line of parked cars along the sandy beach strip and already there are fewer Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington and Oregon plates… the British Columbia home-grown ones suddenly predominate, something not seen since mid-June when floods, not forest fires were the threat du jour.

And I’m sitting here on this first, beautiful day of September reminiscing about the many many September 1st’s and new school years that rotated past as my kids were growing from toddlers to school-age to tweens and adolescents and then, like reaching the end of the carnival Fun House – half exhilarated, half terrified – stopped.

Stopped dead like a healthy heart in mid-beat. The music went quiet.

summer end.jpg

School day 1, 1990 – I vividly remember standing outside the portable of my 5 year-old daughter’s kindergarten class, gathering her up in my bursting-proud Daddy arms, she in her little white and pink polka-dotted dress, and kissing her so long.

She wanted my hug but she wanted even more to begin this new escapade. “Dad… Dad! Mr. Lambert’s ready for us!“.

One last little squeeze and I released her like a dove winging away, free in the breeze.

I felt a squeezing in my throat, wetness welling in my eyes as she skipped away.

She was so excited to be a “big kid” and entering the classroom with the Oshkosh group of little moppets, most of whom I would watch proudly stroll to the front of the stage in tux’s and ballgowns in 13 years to pick up their graduation diplomas.

She was so little, so pleased, so ready to begin this new adventure.

I don’t remember my parents seeing me off to school on my first day, so this is a treasured memory for me that resists the chalkboard eraser that has wiped away so many other precious moments.

……………..

Remember when the music
Was the best of what we dreamed of for our children’s time
And as we sang we worked, for time was just a line,
It was a gift we saved, a gift the future gave.

……………..

Suddenly, the kids were grown. The long chapter ended.

All of the Back-to-School crescendos and decrescendos, all the adolescent fire, rain and sun whipped and flung in a thousand directions over time, dissipated.

Now it was time to load up the van or the car or the plane (vehicles morphed over time, like my grey’ing hair colour, to accommodate the friends and the sports or dance activities of the time) and fly off to deposit kids and their boxes and computers in university or college dorm rooms.

I wore my Dad jeans up and down dorm stairs and hallways, hauling boxes, taking in the young adult excitement and smell of new freedom hanging loosely in the air. The aura of sexual tension was the wallpaper that lined the hallways filled with crop tops and short shorts and muscle shirts.

And just like elementary and high school times, the post-secondary years blew past.

Scary fast.

Formula One racer fast.

end of university.jpg

Yes, my mind wanders through time and space.

There’s a colossal pod of starlings making a huge sound like a rambunctious swarm of cicadas outside my window this morning.

The grand cedar tree across the street is bathed in early sunlight and coated in the grey-black birds as if they’re auditioning for a new remake of some classic Hitchcock film.

The warmth of summer lingers.

But soon, the BC smoke and flooding will be a mirage in the rear view mirror.

Soon, new school clothes will wear out.

Soon, sweet flirtations will erupt in the playground.

Soon, notebooks will fill with pictures and poems and sums and quotients.

There’s a shift, a mental refresh, a reshaping  that occurs when the calendar strikes September… and the universe’s cycle continues its relentless spin.

To every thing there is a season.

……………..

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

autumn okanagan