September 29, 2004

By the light of the moon

Tonight, Chris Campbell sent around a picture he took of the harvest moon last night. It was one of those jaw drop inspiring pictures. It was also taken by a professional with a professional quality camera. That alone should leave me intimidated to pick up my camera of choice (I joked to Chris, in an email, that the Rebel was now hiding in a drawer, feeling hopelessly inadequate). I stuck Chris' harvest moon on my desktop as my new wallpaper, and then I teased the Rebel into coming out.

I didn't haul out a tripod. I didn't get a good moon shot. But I've developed a bit of a tractor obsession of late, and now, I have a tractor by the light of the moon shot. Instead of a tripod, I used plastic buckets, with a pair of snips to hold up the lens, and then self-timer. Very professional, me.


After that, I went for a walk through the paddock to the sunflower patch - when I saw that the yellow by moonlight came out, I wanted to take sunflowers by moonlight. But the sunflowers were in moonshadow (and if I ever get silly enough to write a poem, that will be in there: the sunflowers were in moonshadow), and I couldn't quite convince myself to root through my carefully put together so nothing avalanches out closet of doom to look for the tripod to get a silhouette. Sloth wins out over restlessness.

I am restless tonight. The last months have not been what I would like out of summer: I've gone on barely any trips. I've bailed on more than at any other time in my life. I don't want to go because it's raining, I'm too tired, I have another commitment. All true. But I also know that, two years ago, that wouldn't have mattered. I wouldn't have been too tired or too afraid of getting wet to go. And as for other commitments? I'm such an ass, I even bailed on a friend's *wedding* because it fell in the middle of a long weekend.

And now? I'm too tired, too busy, it's too wet. I cancelled a trip just yesterday. I don't know what it is with me - aside from the obvious busy times at work. It's not just backcountry stuff I'm a weenie on - I only made it home once this summer. I want to go on the trips, I want to go to Amogla, I want the life I was so good at having a while back. I just don't have enough energy. I think this will pass, once I manage to leap over a series of hurdles I've foolishly put in my own path.

And I still love it as much as ever, when I'm actually out there! I think I need a trip planner: somebody who plans the trip and gets the gear ready and packs the food and all I have to do is help load the boat. Actually, some of the time, I'd settle for having boat-loading help. Or a way to store the boat that I could drive my car under it, lower the boat, and unload it similarly. I've heard of people who built their garages with this in mind. One day, I will be one of them.

The moon is messing with my head.

(I uploaded the tractor picture last night, at home. I called it up on my work computer, and it was hideously dark. Now, my monitor brightness is fine, so I'm confused. Now I've done a quickie brightening the photo up shot so it looks like it did at home, but I'm not sure... no doubt it looks crap somewhere else!)

Posted by Johanna at 10:53 PM

September 27, 2004

Essential Geo-geek

Every now and then, the access logs on my pages go nuts. I get a very high number of visitors who depart instantly. It's an indication that one of my brothers - who both link me - was slashdotted.

No technical hacks here. No home-made pipe organs, wasp-sucking machines, cartoons of Commodere PETs, DIY scanners or digital cameras, utilities along the lines of jhead, or anything else of any interest to the average slashdot reader. Sorry. See you. My entire geek status as far as the slashdot reader is concerned is based on 1. this guy is my brother and 2. this other guy is my other brother, and 3. they both read my blog and they both link various parts of my site. It's not genetic. I need them to help me with even simple tasks, like building a loft in my apartment, changing a DNS entry, or replacing a broken PC card modem. I'm too lazy to do a real design on this page, but if I did, I'd need help - Chris had to explain css and declarations to me when I did one on the other site. No, you wouldn't find the other site interesting either.

Me, I can't talk about a technical hack with you: I only have the vaguest idea what a technical hack even is! I would, however, happily engage in discussions of organic agriculture, the books of Ursual Hegi, perennials, the Canadian Arctic, Fred Eaglesmith, sea kayaks, the impact hypertext has had on the way we write, the role wilderness plays in our collective and individual identities, the Vinyl Cafe, my theories on Tim Hortons coffee cups, and general rants which go along the lines of "If I ruled the world". I could also happily talk about how I feel living within the commuter zone of a city I have nothing to do with, the relationship between what language I'm speaking and my personality, and Lawren Harris. I can even natter on about never deluding myself into anonymity on the internet, or that I think the statement "everything happens for a reason" is a big crock of cop-out.

So, sorry to disappoint. Me, I think I'm interesting enough the way I am. I'm all cocky like that. And unless I'm convinced otherwise, I'm going to keep believing that I'm plenty interesting.

Just don't come here looking for a wasp sucking machine. Though I wouldn't mind a wasp sucking machine myself.

Posted by Johanna at 04:11 PM

September 08, 2004

Dog and Pony Show

0908_7.jpg"I will if you will", Marlene said. How many dares have started that way, anyway? But it was a rainy Sunday morning, and the two of us had hopped into my car to listen to the new Fred Eaglesmith CD while we went for a drive (no working CD player at the camp!). I had parked the car on Old Mill Beach, and we got out. There was nobody on the beach, though the nearby cottages had people on the porches.
"Let's go swimming", Marlene said.
We thought it would be cold, but for the first summer in a long, long time, I hadn't done any skinny dipping. Labour Day weekend likely would be the last chance, so in no time flat there was a small pile of clothes...

0908_9.jpg0908_13.jpgI went home for the long weekend, and so did all three of my siblings. Lots of people love where they come from, and lots of people come from cool places. But not many have as cool a place to call home as I do! The "camp" is a housekeeping cottages sort of operation, meaning my parents own eight cottages plus a guest house. They live in one cottage, they rent out seven. We, as a family, built all of these cottages (replacing the original cabins one at a time). When we lived at home, during the early years, it was not uncommon to spend a Saturday clearing brush and the last week of summer shingling a roof. All the summers I lived at home, I spent Saturdays cleaning cottages. Many hours went by on the riding lawnmower, too, and then there were seemingly endless (and hated) jobs like taking nails out of boards of demolished cabins in order to be able to recycle the boards for new construction (in a particularly hated phase of thrift, we were also forced to spend part of our Christmas holidays straightening the nails we took out).

0908_14.jpg0908_15.jpg0908_22.jpgIt wasn't, of course, all work. We also scrambled up the surrounding cliffs countless times. When I was 12, one of the kids staying at the camp and I created our own "kingdom" at the far end of the beach, complete with a capital and a buried "constitution" (the most exciting part, though, was mapping our territory). My brothers and I each had our own map of Rock Lake, where we recorded our travels by rowboat. Later, Marlene and I got a rubber dinghy and took it to the island. Not having oars for it, though, meant that we were dependent on pushing it with our legs, our upper bodies on the boat. Once, the wind stranded us out on the lake, and one of the camp guests rescued us. Later still, Fraser stored his canoe at our camp, and we taught ourselves to canoe. On Sundays, I'd often go "fishing" with my dad, which really meant that I'd lounge in the bow, sometimes with my rod in the water, and my nose poked into a book: I liked being out on the water, my dad liked that I didn't talk his ear off (though he did complain that I didn't actually put any effort into fishing. I'm sure he would have complained more if I'd managed to snag all of his good lures - I did lose two red devils). I was 10 when I learned to use an outboard motor, and buzzed along every yard of the lake. When I was 14, I set my all-time record of cottage to top of cliff in 13 minutes. My toes still have scars from the dozens of clam cuts I got over the years. I wore the butt of several bathing suits threadbare, sliding down the rocks of the swimming spot on Black Island that Marlene and I adopted when we got tired of cutting our feet and swimming in front of the camp.

0908_5.jpg0908_11.jpgThat place, more than any other, is home. We only spent summers there, but for me, it's a place I'm far more connected with than the farm ever could be. It was a good place to grow up, and it's a wonderful place to come back to. Unfortunately, running a camp like that is also a lot of work. My entire life, my parents have fallen into the "self-employed" category: first as farmers, then building furniture and running the camp. When you're self-employed, there's no such thing as a fixed retirement date. My mind has translated this to, they will never retire. So, even though I know that all that work is too much for them, and even though I'm terrified of losing that home, I know the days I can spend at the camp are numbered. Owning without operating is not really an option, so the writing is on the wall. All of that only makes me more aware of how much I love the rare weekends at home, especially the ones when we're all at home.


0908_3.jpg0908_4.jpgThere is a seemingly endless array of stuff to do at home. Depending on the time of the season, and the year, you can, for example, pick berries. It's been yet another lousy blueberry year, and the raspberries were mostly done, but Marlene, Matthias and I ventured out to find blackberries. We walked up the hill, and then along the Voyageur Trail. In past years, this has been a berry bounty, but this year, not so much. For a while, not having berries to put into it, I wore my berry bucket on my head. We did eventually find some ripe blackberries, but never more than our mouth capacities. The buckets mostly stayed empty.

0908_1.jpg0908_2.jpg0908_23.jpg0908_24.jpgThe best berry haul came from the MacKenzies' driveway. Because the camp, of course, also has interesting and fun neighbours. Ian, Nancy and Aurora spent one Christmas day a couple of years ago showing Lee, Jim and me how to dogsled, and dropping by Crane Harbour Farm (that's what the sign says it's called!) is one of the things I always look forward to when I 0908_6.jpgcome home. Currently, the MacKenzies is much like a petting zoo: there were tiny, tiny puppies (their eyes weren't even open yet!) along with the usual assortment of full-grown huskies and the slobbering hound named Chum (isn't chum something you use for shark bait? I'd be tempted, if only we had sharks!). There are the house-huskies, Kachena and Raven. 0908_12.jpgThere's Smudge, the kitty. And four miniature goats and two minitature horses! When we got there, Ian was just butchering a cow (for dog food). After that, we sat around, drinking beer, eating pistachios, and watching Chum eat the pistachio shells. It's the sort of afternoon every summer should include. Well, minus the cow carcass and blood-stained t-shirt, but you get the idea (minus Chum slobber too, but now I'm just being picky). Our own petting zoo this past weekend was also quite good: there is a family of very familiar red foxes.

0908_19.jpg0908_20.jpg0908_21.jpgMarlene and I, all excited by the lake not being numbingly cold, also took my ancient canoe out to an old favourite swimming spot (the one we'd been visiting when we got stranded during one of the dinghy adventures). After that, we decided to climb up a rocky promontory that we all call "windsock rock", because there's a windock up there (and it gets replaced every year). That of course made as sweaty, and scratchy from walking through too much juniper, so we went swimming again. And then we went home and drank the beer that Andrew had provided (he has yet to clue in that if you say you are going to town, do you want anything? to a Wandel, you might get a list! And what was Andrew doing 0908_10.jpg0908_18.jpgthere anyway? Stopping in for a night, on the way to the West Coast in his Honda S2000, which is car-speak for fancy expensive sports car, I think) while playing Scrabble. I won the Scrabble game, by the way, but I should add that I was trailing badly in the next game before deciding that Scrabble is boring.

0908_8.jpg0908_17.jpgIt was a quick weekend. On Monday morning, after getting my parents to dig a bunch of perennials out of the garden for me, I left to join the surging masses on the Highway. I don't suppose I'll ever not be bitter about the fact that I don't want to go *to* cottage country, but I have to battle its traffic, and I don't live *in* Toronto nor do I want to go there, but Toronto traffic rules my patterns too. That's the biggest downside of living here: you can't get out of it without either leaving the country, or somehow going through the Toronto-influenced traffic mess.

Oh, and of course I stole most of these pictures from my siblings. I have no shame.

Posted by Johanna at 12:34 PM

September 02, 2004

Consequences of the Summer

This morning on the radio, there was all this talk about how it wouldn’t rain for four days or something almost unprecedented this summer. Indeed, the sun was coming in my windows. On the spur of the moment, I decided to bike to work.

Now, biking to work is not that big a deal. In other years, when I lived in Guelph, I’d frequently bike to the farm, goof off a bit, and bike home again – and all of this without feeling particularly hard-core. This past spring, even, I biked in a few times when I had stuff I wanted to do in the office on a weekend, and I scarcely noticed then either. It’s not that far – maybe 25 km, with a few hills tossed in for fun. It takes about an hour.

So, I put my stuff in my backpack and got on my bike. Fifteen minutes into the ride, my legs and I started a conversation:

Legs: What are you doing?
Johanna: Biking to work, what do you think I’m doing?
Legs: Well then not what, but why? What’s wrong with that shiny red car?
Johanna: Nothing. The bike was feeling neglected.
Legs: Oh, we’re worried about the bike’s feelings? What about us?
Johanna: Huh? What’s your problem?
Legs: Think about it. All summer you ignore us, along with the rest of your body except maybe your beer drinking arm. And now, now you decide just like that, you’d like us to be there for you.
Johanna: And?
Legs: And. We’ve done nothing but sit and get fatter for four months now. What the?
Johanna: Oh, suck it up. You’ve done this ride a hundred times.
Legs: Of which maybe twice was in the past four months!
Johanna: Shut up and push.
Legs: No.
Legs: Fine. But we don’t like it.
(bigger pause, during which the butt – which has so far diplomatically remained silent – is thinking that the legs have a point)
Legs (seeing a massive hill coming up): No way.
Johanna: Look, work is on the other side of that hill.
Legs: Like, 8 km on the other side of that hill!
Johanna: Yes, and we can’t get there if we don’t go over it.
Legs: No.
Johanna: Yes. Push.
(now the legs resignedly push, but start griping to the feet. With the effect that when the legs decide to mutiny and walk the rest of the hill, the feet are none too swift about clipping out and Johanna is forced to do a bizarre wobbly bit).
(25 minutes later, at my desk)
Johanna: See, that wasn’t so bad.
(Legs continue sulking. They’ve already figured out that in a few hours, they’ll have to do it all over, in reverse.)

And that’s the bugger about September. You have to face up to the fact that you’ve done nothing but drink beer and eat burgers all summer. It’s a rude awakening.

Despite the complaining legs, the ride in took only 5 or so minutes longer than it used to, and there was no tailwind to blame that on. And if my legs get too whiny on the way home, I will threaten them with a 10K run in the near future!


Despite the promise of four days of sun, I've definitely already adjusted my mindset to fall. The other night, while waiting for Rebecca in the coffee shop, I grabbed a napkin and scribbled a list of things I urgently need to do (this turned into three napkins now decorating my desk). It's hard not to feel stressed, when you work on a campus that is gearing up for a massive influx of students. If I could get away with it, I'd be on vacation next week to avoid all the peppy frosh week stuff. I'll have to settle for the weekend, though...


On an entirely different note, I've been thinking a lot about judgement, skill and luck (the triumvirate of factors that determine success or failure of a wilderness expedition, according to Jim Mark. "Failure" defined as losing your gear, serious injury, or worse). One of the reasons I love adventures with Lee is the way he/we goes/go about risk management and decision-making. In all of the adventures to date, we have had virtually no moments of "holy shit, we got lucky there, that could have ended badly". And we've had a multitude of times when we've aborted something because one of us wasn't comfortable, or changed course because one of us questioned the navigation and we then stopped to figure it out. There are people whose enthusiasm infects me with the "oh hell, let's go for it" barge-on-ahead mentality, and those who actually bring out a more responsible version of me than when I'm alone (I've had two holy shit moments this summer, both were during solo day adventures). Interestingly enough, the latter approach is no less challenging physically, and requires more mental energy. The former relies on adrenalin and luck.

So, having said that... there have been times - like on the Mingan kayak adventure - where I realized, after playing it safe, that we could have done much more because luck (the wind, the waves, the sun, whatever) would have been on our side that day. But we can't count on luck. All sorts of people can do challenging adventures with luck. You just can't rely on it. There's pushing your limits, and blithely ignoring them, and they're not the same thing.

Jim's luck-skill-judgement approach can be applied to the tale captured in Andrew's latest trip report. I've always liked Andrew's pages, but these ones are heads and shoulders above the rest.

(I've also always like the concept behind Six Degrees of Separation. On those pages, you have my brother's friend Andrew going to the Torngats with the son of my parents' friends to look for someone who was an undergraduate student here, in this department, during my time at the University of Guelph.)

Posted by Johanna at 11:51 AM
visitors since August 16, 2005.