Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve 2015

Gentle thoughts, sweet memories, the first kiss of the new year, the whisper of love renewed, - and what of this new year that I must fill with enthusiasm and energy.......while Auld Lang Syne slips into evening hours...

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn't.
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn't do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Burning of the Old Year
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Monday, December 28, 2015

Y is for Yale

ABC Wednesday
December 29th, 2015

The letter is Y, and Y is for Yale as we slide towards the end of Alphabetic Towns in British Columbia.

A little town with a racy past.....

indeed - it was said to be "the wickedest little settlement in British Columbia"

in it's heyday, at the peak of the Gold Rush -

and the "largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco".

The town was founded in 1848 by the Hudson's Bay Company as Fort Yale.

It played an important role in certain events of the gold rush period which threatened
British control in the region with annexation by the United States,,
However, the Governor came to Yale during the crisis, and later
Matthew Baillie Begbie, (the hanging judge)  arrived to take control of matters, and the Fraser Canyon War didn't amount to much.

Located on the Fraser River just south of where the Fraser Canyon begins and at the end
of navigable waters, the town had a busy dockside life as well as a variety
of bars, restaurants, hotels, saloons and 'various services'

Although it declined in population after the Gold Rush days it retained some prestige and such sophistication as had grown up within the rough gold town.  It was as familiar to early provincial high society as were New Westminster and distant Barkerville.

It was the location of All Hallows which was ranked as one of the main society
schools in the colony and continued to operate for decades, even into the 1920s.

There is a sweet old church,  (St. John the Divine) which I am particularly
drawn to, it having the same name as the Church I have attended for the past
sixty years - and a Museum associated with it. 

Travel on the river and the Cariboo Wagon Road was the key to Yale's success,
and when the construction of the CPR railway destroyed parts of the
Cariboo Wagon Road it cut the town off from dockside transport.

After major reconstruction of the Cariboo Highway in the 1950s the difficult old canyon stretch of the route achieved highway quality and Yale boomed once again.  However
with the opening of the faster Coquihalla Highway in the 1980s 
Yale's economy and population fell off once more.

Today most of the population are members of the self-governing Yale First Nation,
and All Hallows is a campground.

There is a great adventurous river rafting company...

the fishing is stupendous

 and every summer the town and its spectacular natural landscape is visited by an
historical re-enactment group to celebrate the Royal Engineers
 who worked on the Cariboo Wagon Road, 
served during the 'wars' and were an integral part of Yale's life
from the gold rush to the end of the 1870's.

How to get there?  Just go up the river from Vancouver until the
sternwheeler won't take you any further!!!!

You might keep an eye out for the Sasquatch who is said to inhabit the hills.

 Visit here for more interesting Ys at ABC Wednesday
with thanks to Roger, Denise, and their kind helpers.

Monday, December 21, 2015

X for Xat'sull Heritage Village

ABC Wednesday
December 23rd, 2015

The letter is X for Xat'sull Heritage Village

The Xat'sull (Hat'sull) First Nation community invites you to visit the Xat'sull Heritage Village.

Located in the Cariboo on the banks above the mighty Fraser River (the river which has played such an integral role in the life of the region), the Xat'sull is the most northern Shuswap tribe of the Seewqeperine Nation.

They followed a hunting and gathering lifestyle centered in family groups and focused on the River and the salmon.   In the winter they prepared for spring time excursions to gather staples and handicraft materials.  In the summer it was a time to gather roots and to anticipate the arrival of the great Chinook salmon, and after that the Sockeye.  The time for reaping the harvest had begun, and with drying racks and the collection of berries life along the river became alive again.

The fall was the time for hunters to test their skills and accuracy.  They hunted in the Cariboo mountains, families spreading out, preferring different areas,  rotating their hunting and practising a management which strengthened their culture and maintained a harmonious relationship with the land.

This  spiritual, cultural and traditional way of life of this community can be experienced in this National Award Winning Heritage Village through visiting with the Elders, and taking part in tours, educational and recreational activities.

There is overnight accommodation in either a Tepee

or a pit house (kikule house) which was the traditional home of the Xat'sull.

There are demonstrations of crafts, sweat houses, for cleansing of the body, mind, and spirit, a summer hut, a picnic area, an opportunity to share a meal, dancing and celebrations.

A wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the old ways of British Columbia, before the Europeans arrived. and I understand the hospitality is great!

You know how to get to Williams Lake (from the previous posting for W) and just a few miles from there you will find this great Heritage Village.

If you click here you will also find other great Xs, at ABC Wednesday, with thanks to Denise, Roger and all their eXpert helpers.

X, you will remember, is also a monogram of Christ,

 and a perfectly acceptable way to write Christmas, 
so I will wish you all much love, and peace, and the merriest of  Xmases.

Friday, December 18, 2015

This and That, with a Christmassy flavour

Somehow I have found myself smack dab in the middle of Christmas-as-it-was.  The traditional Christmas open house for family on Christmas Eve - Beef Stew, Oyster Stew and Apple Pie and goodies; 

Christmas dinner right here at Grandma's and me, cooking the turkey (which I haven't done for years) getting out all the good china, polishing the silver, checking lists, doing the old familiar baking.  

It has made December deliciously exciting, and I have managed to keep ahead of myself with posting parcels, Christmas letters and the most traditional baking.

The paper whites are a foot high,  showing promising bud tips that assure me by Christmas Eve they will look like this....

And the white Cyclamen that friends at the Legion sent when Charles died is in glorious bloom.

The early Hellebores which were blooming so beautifully are now under a few inches of snow, and looking quite frail and shaken....

The house is decorated, the outside lights glow in the cedar tree that is finally the way Charles would have liked it, as result of a heavy snowfall last year that changed its design completely from a prim global shape to a free flowing home for all the small birds.  

At night it looks like this, with the reflection of the piano and the music and the house lamps on the lovely great balls the neighbour left with me when they moved.

Yesterday a dear granddaughter invited me to the morning performance of the Primary School Concert, - the performance where it seems all grandparents and great grandparents are present, - at least I saw all sorts of old (in the true meaning of the word) friends, and people who I thought should be parents but were, in fact, grandparents!  Oh, where is time going as it flies past so quickly.

Here is Corbin, our great-grandson, in the middle of classmates, singing the "Rag Doll Rock"!!

This was the theme of the concert.  "TOYS! The Night They Came Alive".  No particular reference to Christmas, or the true meaning of.....  Not a 'Christmas Concert" as I remember them when it was our turn to be parents, but still a great joy to see all the children, so full of vitality and excitement and it was a great gift to all those present.  Phones were raised high, - probably the most photographed and videod event in town this year!!!

So I came home from the concert and filled the bird feeders.  It was so nice and mild outside and the birds all came flocking and provided a nice show for me and for Callie...

Then it turned really nasty out.  A wild wind blew in from the west and swirled the snow around. 

I decided to make mince tarts, and small tiny tart shells for the lemon curd that Charles used to love so much.  And then I mixed up some butter tart filling, - just a tad too much so that the tart shells were TOO FULL and bubbled up all over the pan.  Well,  I got some of the tarts out in decent condition and they should pass muster on the plates, as long as there are lots of other goodies to hide their ragged shells, but the others have ended up as little round balls in golden candy cups, and who will know the difference.  They are delicious.

It was a toss-up as to what I should do this morning.  I thought rum balls would be fun, but then I opened a drawer and looked at the silver, and my more responsible side got the better of me.....

So I spent an hour or two making things shine, including the thoughts I was having about Christmases past, - the reminisence of the friends who had given us all this silver for wedding presents when electrical appliances and other wedding type gifts were not available at the end of the war, - and I remembered Charles buying me the sweet salt and mustard containers that were such a part of the Christmas table.  And the silver cups for salted almonds that were always a tradition at home....

Two hours well spent.....

It is lunch time now - a bowl of soup and then one of those recalcitrant  butter tarts!!!  And maybe I'll have a little nap....

Monday, December 14, 2015

ABC Wednesday
December 16th, 2015

The Letter is W
for Williams Lake

In our story about the towns of British Columbia we leave the south and travel to the Central Interior of the Province to Williams Lake, located in the region known as The Cariboo.

Williams Lake was named in honour of Secweperne Chief William, whose counsel prevented the Shuswap nation from joining the Tsilhqot'in in their uprising against the settler population.  The Shuswap had lived in this area for many thousands of years and were semi-nomadic travelers who followed the food sources during the differet seasons, returning every winter to their permanent villages and their sunken homes known as Akickwillie houses.

We go back to one of those infamous Gold Rushes that B.C. is so well-known for.  The area really opened up when thousands of gold prospectors entered the interior via the Fraser River valley in 1858, and for almost a decade the community grew and supported numerous prosperous businesses.

In 1863 a proposed road (the Cariboo Road) was expected to pass through Williams Lake, but the road builder, Gustavus Blin Wright, re-routed the trail through 150 Mile House, bypassing Williams Lake altogether and nearly destroying the settlement.  However, the railroad came to the rescue in 1919, linking the town to the rest of the province and Williams Lake prospered as a hub for cattle trade in the region.

So much excitement at the laying of the steel rails resulted in the community celebrating with a cowboy sporting event which was eventually organized into an official stampede, attracting the attention of competitors all over the country.  Today the Williams Lake Stampede is rated second only to the Calgary Stampede and has the best Canadian and US Cowboys competing.

and there is a statue in the town to prove it!

This is ranching country,

and the largest ranch in the area is the Gang Ranch, (now owned by a Saudi Arabian business man).

When our family who live some  fifty miles west of Williams Lake on a high Chilcotin plateau talk about going to town, this is the town they mean - Williams Lake....

It is a forestry town, and the pine needle bug left a trail through the country a few years back.

There are any number of sawmills in the town, as well as mining in the vicinity.

 It is a place of wild life and fowl, nature trails and campgrounds, and a wonderful country to visit.

A great number of years ago, 
the sheep Industry in B.C., and Charles, as a Director of the Company,
 played host here, in Williams Lake, to the AGM of the Canadian
Co-operative Wool Growers,
and we had a marvelous time!!

Some seventy miles away, just south of the Gang Ranch, is the
 Churn Creek Canyon, - a protected area.

pictures posted by Chris Harris

and stretching away to the west is the Chilcotin country with many small ranches, much wildlife,  and a wonderful solitude when you want it.  God's country I have heard it said.

Even closer is Scout Island, both a park and a nature area.  It consists of a beach, picnic area, boat launch and several trails through mainly natural environment.  Actually it is two islands that are connected to the west end of Williams Lake by a causeway.

There is a museum in town, and next time around I will tell you about the Xast'sull Heritage Village,
about twenty-three miles from Williams Lake.

In the meantime, click here to visit at ABC Wednesday
and learn more about the letter W

with thanks to Roger and Denise and all their WOW helpers.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

V is for Victoria

ABC Wednesday
December 9th, 2015

The letter is V

V is also for Vancouver, Vanderhoof and Valemont, but I chose Victoria because it is such a pretty city and has probably more history than any other town in British Columbia.

Before the arrival of the Europeans in the late 1700s the Victoria area was home to several communities of Coast Salish people, including the Songhees.

The Spanish and the British began the exploration of the northwest coast of North America with the voyage of Captain Cook in 1767, and the Spanish sailors who visited Esqimalt harbour, just west of Victoria in 1790.

In 1843 the Hudson's Bay Company was looking for a place to establish a fort and chose a spot on the western shore of Victoria Harbour, calling it Fort Camosun, after the 'camosack' a type of wild lily native to southern Vancouver Island.

Later he renamed it Fort Victoria in honour of Queen Victoria, that elegant and doughty lady whose long reign has now been surpassed by Elizabeth the Second.

With the discovery of gold on the British Columbia mainland in 1858 the city became a port supply base for miners on their way to the Fraser Canyon gold fields and the city grew from a population of 300 to over 5000 within a very short time.  However, with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway terminus in Vancouver Victoria lost its position as commercial center and began cultivating an image of 'genteel civility'.

The construction of the Empress Hotel by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1908 contributed greatly to that impression.

and the establishment of The Butchart Gardens in an old coal mining site

Sir Robert Dunsmuir, a leading figure in Victoria, constructed Craigdarrock Castle and his son built his own grand residence, Hatley Castle,  which is now the Royal Roads University after having been used for several decades as a military college.

Craigdarrock Castle

Hatley Castle

Victoria is home to two major Universities and famous for its many museums covering everything from Aboriginal culture to science and nature.

It is also the home of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia

Known as 'The Garden City' Victoria also has many historic sites and heritage architecture.

Brightly painted Victorian era shop fronts flank both sides of busy Lower Johnson Street - shops which were once home to hotels and stores supporting the gold rushes of the 1850s but which are now local boutiques and restaurants.

the biggest China Town north of San Fransisco

the inner harbour

and at Festival time

Yacht  races

and High Tea each day at the elegant Empress

Totem Poles

Whale watching

Lounging on the beach

A visit to the spas

A wonderful Pacific climate - what more could one ask!
I assure you, you will love it.  We were there many, many times
in our busy days,  mostly going to meetings and seeing government officials, 
but sometimes just visiting.

In these early days Charles was very involved with College business, 
and we were off to Camuson College, which was just being established.
It was a rush to leave home, the children and the farm, -
we were late getting the ferry and in arriving for our booking at the Empress.

The desk had let it go, thinking we would not arrive,
but when we did, at midnight, off the last ferry
they kindly gave us the 'bridal suite' up at the top of the Hotel!!

What elegance - the bathroom was enormous, all tiled with marble,
and the beds...pure heaven....

How to get ferry from Vancouver (a wonderful sail)|.   Or plane...

Come and be gently civil....

more great Vs here at ABC Wednesday, with thanks to Denise and Roger
and all valiant helpers.