Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lake of Fire? No, Hell is Cold and Wet.

Today I fulfilled an obligation that I had agreed to a while ago. Gaylene had asked if I would be a linesman at one of her soccer games. (In return for dinner and beer, I'm not so altruistic.) The game started at six but I was to show up early and I didn't really fancy the drive to another quadrant of the city in rush hour traffic. I decided to take my bike and I was glad that I did for I was able to speed past traffic stuck at a standstill.
I arrived at the game in good time. Before the game even started I put on my sweater for there was a cool breeze blowing. After maybe twenty minutes or so, the first few drops of rain began to fall. The wind picked up a little bit and then it was even colder. A while later it began to rain in earnest and that's when I began to hope that the ref would call the game. I saw two lightning strikes, fairly close by, but our ref was a trooper and the game kept on.
Thankfully the rain let up and it was only chilly because I never got completely soaked. As the game drew to a close though the clouds burst forth with a drenching downpour. I got on my bike and started for home, about a thirty minute ride. Less than a block into the ride I was freezing, my hands feeling as if they were submerged in ice water. It was pretty miserable to be sure, but I wasn't too bothered for I was mentally armed, I have memories of enduring for far longer in far more miserable conditions. I used to tree plant.
For many Americans, July 4th 2002 was a glorious holiday, with fireworks, parties and friends. For employees of Hi-Rise Contracting, July 4th 2002 will forever be remembered as Hell Day.
We woke up early that day. There was a long drive and since we were taking a helicopter the last few kilometers we couldn't be late. Part way through the drive though the trailer with the tree boxes got a flat. It was a typical tree planting flat, the whole tire disintegrated. In typical tree planting fashion, the spare was also flat, perhaps in worse condition than the tire that had just given up. We got out and started doubling up the boxes, twice as many trees in each. Loading the boxes precariously onto the roof rack of the van we continued our merry way. We went to meet the chopper but when we arrived at the staging area it wasn't there. I can't remember exactly how it went from there, I know that we had to go to the other crew's block for a bit and then to another block where we left Clint and Justus to plant. We returned to the staging area, now a couple hours later than the time we were supposed to fly out at. Our radio consistently was calling, "Heli-Bob, do you copy?" with only silence for reply. It wasn't just do to the fact that the pilot's name was Lin, not Bob. He was nowhere to be found. Finally our foreman spoke those sweet words that I'd been secretly hoping to hear for a couple hours, "Alright, let's go home." I swear, it was less than a minute later and our radio blared, "Hi-Rise planting, do you copy?" Heli-Lin had arrived.
We did copy, and it was off to work we went. The helicopter ungraciously deposited us on the side of a a mountain, not too far below the tree line. The cut block was heavily overgrown and the leaves of the undergrowth were quite wet. Although it wasn't raining, it only took about five minutes of walking through the brush before I was completely soaked. I didn't have rain gear, actually I did but it was back at camp. I naively assumed that if I got wet and cold I would just plant faster to warm up. How foolish I was. So there was I, wearing nothing more than a light shirt, the cold, wet fabric plastered to my skin. I had essentially no protection from the elements.
I have planted trees in May, June, July and August and I have planted in snow in each of those months. The mountains have a scornful disregard for what summer weather should be. On this day there was no snow, but there was rain and later wind. A brisk breeze in two degree weather while soaking wet on the side of a mountain while planting trees is about as unappealing picture as I can imagine and that was my life for at least eight hours. I had never ever been so cold before, and have never been so cold since. I've waited for buses in minus forty weather and it wasn't even close to how miserable I felt that day. I had a sweater but I put it under the cache tarp because I wanted something dry to wear for the two hour ride home. Since we started later, the helicopter was due to come later. I kept on planting, with fingers so cold that they would just buckle the instant I tried to put a tree into the ground. The day dragged on and on, each minute more miserable than the rest. I turned on to autopilot, plant tree, walk, plant tree, don't commit suicide, plant tree.
I remember how happy I was checking my watch and realizing that I should finish up my trees because the helicopter would arrive soon. FINALLY!!! I arrived to find the cache all cleaned up and ready to be slung out by the helicopter. My "dry" sweater, previously sequestered under the cache tarp lay sitting in the mud, exposed to the rain. Luckily I arrived in time and it wasn't too wet. I think there was a bit of an argument about who had the unenviable task of hooking the sling to the helicopter. The wind from a helicopter hovering overhead is intense and wind against a wet body sucks heat away in a flash. This was one time I was happy to be a rookie, hooking up helicopters is a responsibility reserved for the veteran planters.
The helicopter arrived and I gratefully took the flight back to the road. There was no warm truck waiting there like I had been dreaming of for the last several hours. The truck finally arrived and we headed back to the other block to pick up Justus and Clint. We had too leave the warm truck because, predictably, the quad was hopelessly stuck. Getting vehicles unstuck is a trademark planting pastime and I understand that Justus and Clint had spent a good portion of the day doing just that.
We arrived back at camp at around nine, if my memory serves me correctly. It was, the most physically miserable day of my life. Nothing else even comes close. It was a bad day all around. Clint and Justus had been digging out stuck truck, we had frozen our asses on the side of a mountain as had the other crew planting another block, though not a helicopter fly-in. Adeit, always a bit of a sissy in the cold, had actually collapsed from hypothermia at the side of his piece. He was raced back to the trucks on the back of a quad while being held in place by John, aka Spaceman. (He was far-out, smoked a lot of pot even by planter standards.) Adeit received some good natured ribbing about having the lovely Sara as a "nurse" on the ride to the hospital. If he had collapsed on his piece though, he likely wouldn't have survived. If I had collapsed, and I think I must have been close, I would have died. The only radio we had was good for ten kilometers. The nearest road was ten kilometers away and there certainly wasn't anybody sitting there waiting for out distress cry.
I've had other miserable days planting, not quite so bad, but far worse than anything I've experienced anywhere else. For those miserable days I came up with a mantra that I would repeat in my head over and over. "This too shall pass." I knew that at the end of every bad day was a meal and a warm bed. I just had to make it through the day.
Today, although my hands were as cold as they have ever been, I didn't even need the mantra. I save it for really bad days, the type that occur with startling regularity while planting.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds...

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending Brian and Rochelle's wedding. (I know that there are a lot of girls out there who had their eyes on Brian but it's too late now and if you're willing to settle then I'm willing to play second fiddle.) There's a bit of an unwritten rule that masculine guys shouldn't like weddings so sometimes I pretend that I don't really like them but really I do, in a "thank God it's not me" sort of way.
Colour me a hopeless romantic but I love the idea of two lives becoming one, the symbolism of marriage, the reception with friends and family and if they're good, the speeches. (A bad speech though, is, I agree, horrible.) One of my favourite parts of the wedding is when the bride enters, everyone stands, the groom stands at the front with a foolish look of love, awe, joy, maybe a bit of fear, and the dad walks his daughter down the isle trying to hold back the tears. Beautiful.
I was thinking about weddings a lot on Sunday and in my head I started composing this blog. I didn't have time to write it though so I started this evening but the only thin I really remember is the joke about playing second fiddle so unfortunately this blog kinda sucks. I will do better next time I promise.
(Lately while analyzing the quality of my most recent blogs I've been wondering if my blog's entered what historians will eventually dub, "Ed's Declining Phase.")

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Car Whoas!

It was just over a month ago that I bought my new car. As you may remember, I didn't want to buy a new car but some vandals forced the decision upon me. I ended up with the choice of a cheap and probably fairly reliable Plymouth Acclaim or an expensive but very nice and probably fairly reliable Honda Accord. I bought the Accord, who can argue with heated leather seats? (Many people complimented me on my new car, thus the "Whoas" in the title of the blog.)
The cliché money can't buy happiness is likely due to the fact that with every new purchase the novelty eventually wears off. How long does it for the novelty of a new car to wear off? Just over a month. Now I really like my new car but as nice as it is I've come to the conclusion that I can't afford it. Although it's true that any bank would merrily give me multiple times as much money as I still owe I feel that I can't afford it.
When I owned the Tercel I really didn't have much stress when it came to my car. I knew that if something on it broke, I could have it fixed and not really miss the money that it cost. Now however, I have this debt hanging over my head. I wanted to pay off my car before the year end but I don't think that it's possible unless my roommates decide to cover my part of the rent for the remainder of the year. (If you did guys, I would do all the dishes.) I also realize that I should get some winter tires so there's another several hundred dollars.
It's not only that, I also worry about the car. The airbag light is on (and I would like to think I learned my lesson about ignoring warning lights) so I should probably get that looked at. Now I worry about what the repairs would cost. There's also a little rip on the driver's seat. I rub it every time I get in and out making it worse all the time. I would like to get it fixed before it gets worse but that's no doubt an expensive repair. If I don't fix it though, I worry about the resale value. Actually I fairly regularly worry about the resale value which is stupid with cars because the hard fact is that they depreciate rapidly.
Christmas is also coming and the last couple of years I've spent a fair bit of money on gifts through the World Vision Christmas catalogue. I would like to do the same this year but I don't want to be stressed out about it either. I'd feel bad if I spent less this year just because I'm driving an expensive car especially since I'm earning more.
The other thing is that I realize that the only thing I really like about this car is the cd player. I love listening to music. Don't get me wrong, I like the sunroof, the leather, the keyless entry, and the myriad of other options, but I wouldn't miss them all that much but I worry that the longer I wait the harder it will become to live without them. The question is though, are they worth the extra stress? I think no. As my friend mentioned, you should own your car, and not let it own you. I also think that I am perhaps overly sensitive to being in debt, a trait that bothers me not at all.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Uh oh.

Just last night the painful topic came to the surface again. Cameron had spent a while in New York and learned that his friend is friends with a young, Japanese professional violinist. He wondered whether she was the same violinist, as he put it, whose career I was "following." This of course was a euphemism for "stalking." For those of you who haven't been following my blogs for long enough you might want to catch up with the following post: She's Playing me Like a Violin.
At the conclusion of the blog I wrote how I would be in an everlasting state of turmoil knowing that the moment I gave up hope my next email would arrive. This knowledge would prevent me from ever entirely losing hope because of her history of always surprising me after all hope was lost. Therefore I was stuck in a Catch-22 unable to give up hope that our friendship (a generous use of the word I'll admit) would continue, but needing to give up hope to receive the contact.
Well let me tell you, I was wrong. The last time I heard from her was months ago. I thought that I would go see her perform in Vancouver but I don't know if her concert was canceled or if I imagined it, I can find no news on a concert in Vancouver anytime soon. Her myspace page is gone, I've lost all contact and subsequently all hope. Despite this I've received no word from Ms. Gomyo.
Today for whatever reason, maybe I lied to myself when I said that I've given up hope, I did a search for her on facebook. I did this shortly after she deleted her myspace page but she wasn't there. Today however, I find her. So now I've the dilemma, do I contact her or not? (this question doesn't have to be rhetorical.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Gardens and Grandmothers

I don't know if I should feel guilty about not writing a blog for a while but I do. I had loads of time this past weekend having taking Friday through Tuesday off. However I didn't get around to writing a blog. I had a great weekend in Kelowna. I went to my Grandparent's house which is always a treat. I arrived to find, unsurprisingly, my Grandpa sitting in a chair reading and even less surprising my Grandma out in the garden.
My Grandparents have a lovely house, situated a block from the beach and overlooking the lake. It also has a huge garden. My Grandma loves gardening and I'm sure it at least partly explains how she is still so lively at her age, somewhere in her early eighties.
I went out to give my grandma a hand clearing out raspberry bushes. She has tons of them and they spread like weeds so she wanted to take some out to help keep her garden looking neat. With a stronger grip, I was better at cutting through the thick stalks but other than that I felt like more of a hindrance than a help. At least by now I know that "just a few more minutes" means about an hour and a half before we go inside. My grandma has a consistent habit of going out to do one little thing, say turn the sprinkler on, and then get distracted by something else and then something else and come in three hours later to her forgotten cup of tea, stone cold.
Although I am not a fan of work generally speaking, there is something nice about working in the garden. The earth is real, alive. There are worms breaking up the soil. There are plants, each one different and interesting. The raspberry bushes with delicious berries just asking to be eaten. Bees fly from flower to flower. It's a partnership with God. A little bit of planting, weeding, watering and then a garden springs up. Life, on countless levels. Plants and soil and insects and birds and humans sharing the same space. Symbiosis of beauty and life, and nourishment. Of course I prefer reading a book to weeding.