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This will be my last post from Newfoundland, as I head for Halifax tomorrow. It’s been a grand trip. Today, wanting to the make the most of the final hours here, I got up early and made the trek up to Signal Hill…this time by way of a Parks Canada trail instead of the road. The fog was thick, which meant I couldn’t get a sense of the view, but I was actually glad of that because it allowed me to focus on the things right in front of my nose instead: the gorgeous wildflowers, the large intricate spider webs hanging heavy with dew, and the dozens upon dozens of snails crawling across the trail. In some places I had to pick my way carefully along to avoid stepping on any of these creatures.

This afternoon, Ted and Griffin joined me and others from the conference on a whale watching trip. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any whales, but we did see an amazing iceberg, and hundreds of sea birds.

I ended my day with Ted’s two children while he and Kathryn spent some well deserved time together. I’m very fond of both little ones and I will miss them. I’ll miss the big ones too!

Cardinal Rule Number 1: when you go to a live theatre performance, never, never, NEVER take a seat right in front of the stage. You’re just asking for trouble. However, after a long day of meetings, with my brain in a bit of a fog, that’s just what I did tonight as a group of us from the conference went to see When Larry Met Sally the Girl From the Bay, a musical comedy put on by Spirit of Newfoundland.

At the time I didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until I had devoured my bread and was well into my salad, and the cast of the show was wandering around chatting us up and asking our names, where we were from, etc. that I thought, “Oh oh!” I had seen enough of what goes on with the Frantic Follies to know that they weren’t just idly asking names and that any information shared would later become part of the show.

My fears were confirmed when, a few minutes into the performance, ‘Miss Yukon’ was asked to stand up and take a bow. “OK,” I thought, as I sat down after my best attempt at a theatrical bow. “That was my contribution. Now I can just sit back and enjoy the show.”

I giggled as a female performer sat on the lap of one of my male colleagues. I grinned as another cast member ran her fingers through the hair of a man at my table. But then, the performers started to do the mambo, and I heard, “Miss Yukon….come on up.” That’s how I came to be on stage, looking anything but sultry and sexy as I stumbled through some rudimentary mambo steps. Step, rock, close, pause; step, rock, close, pause. “Hold on to your men, girls. It’s Miss Yukon the Mambo Queen.”

Dear Lord. Or, seeing as how I’m in Newfoundland, should I say, “Jesus, Joseph and Mary!”

No need to waste money on the video…just walking around this city, with its steep hills, should be enough to give anyone hard rock buns and thighs!

This morning I made an early start of it. After breakfast, I packed a sandwich and a couple of bottles of water and headed up Signal Hill – UP being the operative word. It was well worth the hike though….amazing views of the city, the harbour and beyond. I think there may have been some whales out there too…at least I saw a boat racing to a site and then it stopped and just sat there. But what with the fog rolling in, I couldn’t be sure.

I stopped at the Battery on the way up, with its narrow windy road and now upscale houses (it used to be the poor part of town). Coincidently, later on in the day I went to The Rooms – a museum, art gallery and archives all in one – and they had an exhibit on The Battery and how it has changed over the years. Really interesting stuff.

Here are a few photos taken from Signal Hill.

Overlooking St. John’s Harbour

The Narrows

Fife and drum band at practice.

I’ve just spent the last several hours wandering around the streets of St. John’s. I love this place, and can understand why Newfoundlanders are perpetually homesick when they leave the Rock.

I snooped about in the Gerald Squires Art Gallery, a place that is a home as well as a gallery and has a yoga studio on the top floor. Squires is one of Newfoundland’s gems. Luz, you might be interested to know that he apprenticed with Carl Pappe in Mexico. Anyway, I digress.

I then took myself off for a bite to eat at ‘The Sprout’. Good food, friendly service, and a clever way of dealing with leftovers. They provide a plastic container for a fee of a dollar. Then, I can either return the container and get my loonie back, or I can bring it with me and use it the next time I come. Great idea, and one that will prompt me to take my own container when I eat out at other places too.

Next it was off to the liquor store for a bottle of wine for tonight’s dinner at Ted’s, and a few presents to take back home with me. A relaxing stop at the park to take in the harbour view, and back to the hotel to catch my breath before heading out again.

To those non-gardeners among you, forgive me, but I am going to use this blog to keep a record of what has grown in my garden this year and how it has done. Keeping track of the good, the bad and the ugly will hopefully lead to an improved garden in future years. The ugly currently is that there seems to be something terribly wrong with my potatoes. While they should be a good six inches high by now, they are barely breaking through the ground. I tested the ph of the soil, and while it is neutral (and potatoes do best in acidic soil) it’s not that far off the mark that they should be behaving this way. Maybe they just need to be neglected, and they’ll get that chance this week as I head off to Newfoundland.

Now for some of the good: my garden ‘yellows’.

I couldn’t resist posting something from Sanctuary’s performance tonight. I have some short videos too, but blogger isn’t quite ready to handle video yet (they say they’re working on it and it should soon be an available feature), so stills will have to suffice for now.

I have a new toy….Corel Paint Shop. Just look what it can do. First, the original photo:
Now, with a few clicks on my keyboard, look at this:
Or this:

Or this:

Or even this:

The possibilities are endless. Too much fun!

You have got to check this out!

I know that Summer Solstice is celebrated in many parts of the world, but perhaps no one marks the season more than us northern folk. The scarcity of light for several months of the year makes the abundance of it in the summer all the more precious. Here, summer solstice stretches over several days.

For me, the celebrations started yesterday when I attended an outdoor performance by LINK Dance Company. The backdrop for the event was a part of the Whitehorse Clay Cliffs at the north end of town…very majestic. The theme was ‘generating energy’ (our company partnered with the dance company to put on the event). It was really quite wonderful, and has changed the way I look at that part of the city, and those cliffs.

Today, from noon onwards, there are musical performances taking place all day at one of the parks in town. Alan’s band Sanctuary is playing in the early evening, so Joe, Jamie and I (Iris has to work) will go see that.

The festivities will go into tomorrow as well, with the celebration of St. Jean Baptiste Day.

I love summer!!

Check out this art project, the brainchild of the Dawson Arts Society in Dawson City. A very large mural was designed on plywood — drawn but not painted or filled in. Then it was cut up into about 400 pieces. The pieces were sent to different artists (professional and ameteur) to be decorated. I think it’s a great idea. Too bad I didn’t hear about it earlier: I think Jamie or Iris would have gotten a kick out of finishing one of the pieces.

Dawson, by the way, has a new accredited school of visual fine arts, which is to open full time in the fall. People from all over the place are registering to study there. It’s the setting that is the main attraction of course, but I’m told that the instruction will be quite good as well, and its courses are transferable to other arts schools, including the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, and the Ontario College of Art and Design.

I’m not much for carefully tended flower gardens. Give me wild and overgrown any day. I also prefer my gardens to be full of wildflowers; not cultivated ones. Wildflowers offer no apology for what they are nor do they pretend to be something they’re not. They don’t make unreasonable demands of me. In fact, they thrive quite nicely without me, thank you very much. And their beauty, in my eyes, far surpasses anything found in the florist shops.

Hmmm. Come to think of it, the above qualities are all things I like in people too.

But back to my garden. The flowers are just starting to show themselves. This week it’s wild roses, wild geraniums, languid ladies, alpine poppies, wild lupins, forget-me-nots, yellow cinquefoil and some kind of fuchsia coloured plant (I think it’s a member of the pea family). Next will come the wild irises, wild delphiniums, yarrow, fireweed, daisies, wild asters and a few others too that I used to be able to identify but have since forgotten.

Here are a couple of shots from one of my backyard gardens. In posting these, I realized they show lots of foliage but few flowers. I’ll do better next time! And yes, in spite of what I just wrote, I did break down and buy a few violas for an extra bit of early colour.

Ah, Monday morning. It has come way too fast. The week-end was busy but rewarding for the most part. Saturday Joe rode Leg 1 in the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay. I had planned to come along to ferry bikes and people back and forth between legs, but we had a staff golf tournament that I had to help organize, so I stayed put. Golfing isn’t my thing, let me tell you. But the meal afterwards was great (lots of king crab donated by our lawyer) so it was worth it.

Joe got in around midnight, looking none the worse for wear. In fact, I think he really enjoyed himself. Although he is not a competitive person, he did get a bit of a kick out of the fact that his time was faster than that of Alan’s former (and much younger than Joe) soccer coach.

Sunday morning the two boys got up and made breakfast for Joe. We then went off to visit Grandma Sophie, and when we came back Jamie took his dad out for coffee before heading off to work at Dairy Queen.

Iris finally stirred around lunchtime, and she and Alan took Joe’s truck to get it washed. She also gave him a beautiful card with a photo of her and Joe dancing together at her prom. We ended the day with a barbecue – the first time in ages we’ve used our picnic table. Rain threatened, but we got through the meal without much more than a drop or two. Dessert (strawberry shortcake) came later, once we were back inside.

Later in the evening, I tackled the job of aerating one of my two rather large compost piles. My back isn’t very happy with me this morning, but my gardens will thank me once this stuff is ‘cooked’.

I am very excited. Six months ago I put in a request for a laptop computer, instead of the clunky desktop model I’ve been using since I started this job. For various reasons it took forever for the laptop to come, but it’s here now and is being installed today. Yippee! I’m happy that I’ll have it to take with me on my Newfoundland trip at the end of the month.

The wife of an old friend of mine is having her first art exhibition in Canada (she’s from Mexico). I just took a look at the exhibit via the web and I am blown away by her work. It is exquisite!

I have told Peter that I am going to start a savings fund so that I might one day be able to purchase one of her pieces. Wow!!

This is one of my favourites. It’s titled To Nilaya (Nilaya I believe means ‘adobe in the sky’, or heaven.)

Surprise! Yes, this is the same blog…just a new look. I’m still struggling with a title that works for me. The first one, apparently, was too pretentious. Anything else I’ve come up with is just too cutesy or gimmicky for my taste, so for now this will remain untitled. Any and all suggestions are welcome.

I’m just about done with planting my garden. It’s taken awhile….the dirt was hard and full of weeds, not having been tilled for a couple of years. It’s amazing what a bit of peat, loam, manure and muscle power can do. Now let’s see if it actually yields food. I chose simple things that are usually forgiving of poor soil: potatoes, turnips, carrots, peas, green beans, lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, broccoli, radishes and herbs. Here are some before and after shots.

It’s been an interesting 18 hours or so. Last night was Iris’ second prom. Below are a couple of photos. All of us other than Iris left fairly early, Mom and Dad in hopes of getting a good night’s sleep (something that has been rather lacking of late). However knowing that Iris was going to an after-grad party made me restless, and I kept waking up, wondering if she had gotten home yet. Thankfully she checked in, told me where she was and that one of the Dads would be driving her home shortly.

At 3 a.m. I heard two bangs, and some giggles. I thought it might be Iris coming home and got up to look. Instead, there was egg running down our big picture window in the livingroom. Joe, who wasn’t sleeping either, got up with me and we took a drive around the neighbourhood, hoping to get a glimpse of whoever had done this. All we saw was an empty egg carton in the middle of the road.
We did come across two teen parties. At the first one, bare-chested adolescent boys were locked in a tight embrace on the front lawn. At first I thought they were having sex, but it turns out they were wrestling instead. The music was blaring, and a neighbour was out in his housecoat, yelling obscenities at them for disturbing his sleep.
After talking to the host of the party and being assured that no one from there had been egging houses, we came back home, pulled out the ladder, and by 3:30 were washing windows. By then the sun was coming up, so there was lots of light to see by. Then a police car zoomed by, headed for the party. No indeed, there was no lack of excitement on our street last night!
This morning I checked with the neighbours, and it appears we were the only ones egged, which means we were targetted. I will keep an eye out for anyone who might wander by our house today in hopes of seeing their handiwork.

It’s not often that I really lose my temper. In fact the older I get, the more rare it is. However when I do, it’s not very pretty. Let me set the scene for you.

It was the end of a busy week. I had gotten about three hours sleep the night before, having been out until after 3 a.m. driving kids home from an after grad party. The kitchen was piled high with dishes from last night and this morning, with no way to wash them given the situation with our hot water heater.

I don’t usually think of ordering pizza for dinner: the ones you get up here are almost always too greasy, with too much stuff on them. I much prefer to make my own. But I didn’t have the energy, so I phoned up one of the pizza joints in town and placed my order: two large – one vegetarian and one for the meat lovers in the family. They told me the food would be ready for pick up in 25 minutes.

Twenty five minutes exactly I walked in the door to pick up the pizzas. After a rather long wait, I got to the counter, only to find out they’d lost my order. They had a slew of questions for me while they hunted around for my food: what kind of pizzas had I ordered, when had I ordered them, what was my phone number….questions that were punctuated with, “No, we don’t have any orders like that.” I asked them to check again. I told them that a woman had taken my order and asked the only two women who were working if they remembered me calling. They both said they couldn’t be expected to remember every customer.

An offer was made to place my order now, if I would wait 20 minutes. No I would not! I was already late for picking Alan up from work, and I was peeved at their screw up. I said never mind and left, drove up the street, ordered two pizzas from the competition, picked Alan up, drove him home, and drove back for the pizzas.

I had almost arrived back home when I got a call from the first pizza place, asking me in a rather aggrieved voice when I was going to pick up my pizzas. I started to laugh, and said I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I explained that I had ordered the pizzas but they had lost my order so I had gone somewhere else.

The woman tried again. “Well the pizzas have been sitting here for quite some time. When are you going to pick them up?”

I took a deep breath, and asked if she didn’t remember talking to me about the fact that they had lost my order. She denied knowing anything about that, and was getting more and more irritated with me.

Suddenly a sort of switch went off in my head and I yelled into the phone, “YOU PEOPLE MUST BE ON DRUGS!!!”

There was a short pause. Then, flatly, “We are not on drugs. Don’t come back here again.” CLICK.

I felt somewhat like I had been pulled down the rabbit hole and been forced to have tea with the Mad Hatter. No, I shouldn’t have made the drug comment. It was rude and I know I should call back and apologize. But I’m not done stewing yet.

And the pizzas from the second restaurant? They were greasy with too much in the way of toppings. Next time a bowl of cold cereal might be the better option!

It was about six o’clock last night, and we were just finishing up dinner and about ready to head off to Iris’ cap and gown ceremony. I heard the sound of water…like when a toilet keeps running. At first I didn’t think too much of it. When I finally went in search of the sound, I discovered that our hot water tank had burst and water was running all over the floor of the boot room. We cleaned it up, shut off the water main, and resigned ourselves to a good 18 hours or so without water, until plumbers could get in there today and replace the tank. Thank goodness there is a gym near-by where some of us went for showers this morning.

Luckily the incident didn’t put a damper on the evening. The cap and gown, while long, was great. The guest speakers were kindergarten teachers who had taught these graduates 13 years ago. As you might expect, they had lots of very funny stories about these kids. It was then the valedictorian’s turn, and she did her classmates proud. Next some of the students sang and played musical instruments. At one point, one of the graduates was singing a ballad and several of his classmates (my daughter included) joined him on stage to dance along with his music. The spontaneity of it was quite touching. Here are a couple of photos:

My friend Lucca is in the process of watching one her of friends die of cancer. On her blog, she writes about feeling some excitement at his imminent passing. While some would think that strange, it makes perfect sense to me.

Passages, whether they be a birth, a child leaving home, a marriage, a divorce or a death, all carry a promise of things to come. Perhaps it’s the optimist in me, or perhaps it’s my belief in the ‘afterlife’, but I don’t regard death as a tragedy. It is just the next step in the journey. And while I have no intention of leaving this earth any time soon (there’s still way too much I want to experience and do), I must say there’s a hint of excitement in some corner of my brain about what might be in store for me when I do leave.

Of course this is easy for me to say at this point; not so easy if someone close to me were to leave ‘prematurely’. But should that happen, I hope I will be able to look beyond my own grief to find the celebratory wonder in the passing.

Today was another one of those days when I shook my head and said to myself, “I actually get paid for doing this?!” A class of grade 2 and 3 students had created a mural for the fishladder, and today we thanked them by serving them a pizza lunch, giving them a tour of the facility, and sending each of them home with a season’s family pass to the facility. They were a great bunch of kids. A couple of the teachers who came used to teach my own brood, so it was good to have a chance to catch up on news with them.

Every year at this time, the Yukon Fish and Game Association holds a fry release day at a near-by creek. Families are invited to come out and help release thousands of salmon fry that have been raised at Yukon Energy’s fish hatchery over the winter. It’s always a hit with the kids. Yesterday was this year’s fry release.

In spite of all my griping, the prom was actually quite nice. I am posting a few photos…none of them are great but I haven’t had a chance to raid Iris’ camera for better ones.

Iris with her grand march partner Jason. What a sweetheart he is. I think he really likes Iris – he showed up at the house with not only a wrist corsage but also a rose and a stuffed animal that he had designed and stuffed himself. Iris doesn’t seem swayed however. The only reason Jason took her to the prom was that her boyfriend was supposed to be out of town with his work. He turned up at the last minute but by then all the prom tickets were sold out.

Another one of Jason and Iris with her friend Leah. Leah graduates next week-end from another school.

Jason and the old lady taking a few turns around the dance floor.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, Iris has two proms, since she goes to two schools (one school in the morning; the second French immersion school in the afternoon). The first of the proms is tonight.

Already today, Iris and I have purchased a necklace and earring set to go with her dress, a tiny tiara (I really had a problem with that but couldn’t talk her out of it), fake fingernails, and now she’s at the hairdresser getting an updo. Her dress was purchased while we were on holidays in Argentina.

I must admit that I find all this a bit hard to stomach. I know it should be a special night for the grads. But so much money is spent on proms these days – it feels almost obscene to me. There are many families here who live close to the poverty line, and I can’t imagine how they cope with it all. I hate to sound like the Grinch, but I don’t think it’s that hard to create an elegant and memorable prom on a shoestring budget. For instance, why does the event have to be held in a convention centre? What’s wrong with getting the grads, or the grade 11 students, to decorate the school gym and hold the party there? You can make any space look beautiful with a bit of creativity and a small budget for art supplies, plus some donations from local families or businesses. Why is an expensive sit-down dinner required? Why not appetizers instead?

I tried talking to a few parents on the grad committees, and I quickly realized my views were in the minority. At one school, in an attempt to prevent the kids from drinking, the prom is going all night. The grads will be bussed to the swimming pool in the middle of the night for a swim, then back to the school where there will be karaoke, salsa lessons, and finally breakfast. Is it just me, or does any of this sound just a bit over the top?

Yipee!! I have the house all to myself. It’s such a rare thing, and I love it when it happens. Very precious. Iris is with a friend and then is heading off to work, Alan is at a soccer game (yup, he’s decided to take up soccer again for the summer!) and Jamie and Joe are nowhere to be found. I suspect Joe has taken Jamie to buy some clothes to wear to Iris’ grad.

In any case, I’m lovin’ it!!

Talk about a whirlwind week! I’ve been busy getting the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Ladder ready to open for the season. The ladder, which is the longest wooden fish ladder in the world by the way, allows migrating salmon to travel past our dam and return to their spawning grounds. We have a visitor reception centre with underwater viewing windows and cameras, displays and the like, and outside there are viewing decks, a wall tent that tells this story from the First Nation’s perspective, and numerous information panels.

We get about 30,000 visitors to the centre every summer, making it one of the most popular places to visit in Whitehorse.

Here are a few quick pics I snapped this morning, just before the doors opened.

Viewing fish using underwater cameras. If you look closely at the bottom left screen, you will see the tail end of a white fish.
The underwater viewing windows, that allow people to see the fish swimming up the ladder. Note the new flooring….salmon coloured of course!

A cedar carving of salmon, done by a local First Nations artist, and a poster produced based on his art work.
Display of male and female chinook salmon with their spawning colours.


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June 2007
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