October 3, 2018 By the beginning of October we have already had 4 snow falls. Although not really deep or heavy, it has been unusually early this year. Even now there are still many trees that have not shed their leaves.
I am hosting a friend who is visiting from Montreal, but soon he too will be returning home. He has been a welcome visitor and has been able to assist me in a few physcial tasks that I would have been unable to do on my own.
That being said, I have been much more able than I have been for any time in nearly two years. The early snow was a reminder that outdoor tasks could no longer be postponed.
Because my friend is returning home one day before Thanksgiving, I have planned for a Thanksgiving meal at Friendly Forest for October 6. My guest list seems to be settling at 22 people. I have taken advice and grown in some wisdom from last year's efforts, to declare this a pot luck gathering. Even clean-up will have to be shared as my dishwasher died about a month ago and a very tight budget means that I will have to delay the replacement of what I consider a virtual necessity in my home... On reflection I think that my severe aversion to washing dishes comes from my childhood where those clean-up tasks ususally fell on me and my younger sister. A family of 9 and no hot running water presented real issues that were usually compounded by my procrastination. Frequently, when everyone else was in bed I could be found standing at the dishpan on top of the stove washing dishes and loathing every minute of it. Yeah, that is likely why I still hate washing dishes and want to get a new dishwasher as soon as I can afford it!
Because I will have two additional over-night guests for a few days later this week, I have reluctantly awarded them the guest bedroom. With my Montreal guest and my dog already taking up the main bedroom, I am now moved to the airlock and am sleeping on a chaise lounge topped by my large bison robe. I have not slept under that incredible covering for a few years as its weight created problems due to my back injury. I swear, I have had no greater feeling of luxury, comfort, warmth, and protection than I have sleeping wrapped in that bison fur. Thank you Creator and thank you bison for that gift.
August 26, 2018 The weather has cooled and today there is a bit of rain. However, last night the skies were clear for a while and Sister Moon was out if full display. Today is the day of Full Moon.
I still have a bit of prep work to do top be ready for today's Inipi ceremony, and some food to prepare for the feast after, but I am so happy with what I was able to accomplish yesterday.
Also, during the week I reached a milestone that in the past would not have even been noticed. About two months ago one of the large sprinkler heads on top of my house had loosen ed and had tilted over. It would have been an easy repair with jut a few fastening screws, but I knew I would not be able to climb a ladder and then up the steel roof to make the repairs. I did not want to enlist the kind help of my neighbours for such a small job ... yet one that was out of reach for me.
On Wednesday, it was warm and there were drying winds making the fire hazard high, and I wanted to use my fire protection system to wet things down. So, would I be able to take on that repair task?
I make sure that I had my CEL phone in a pocket, dragged a ladder to the house and propped it against the roof, and with a grocery bag with my drill and screws in my pocket, I climbed the ladder, grabbed the cable I have permanently anchored on the high point of the roof, and I made my way up. My roof has a steeper pitch than most roofs and the cable was a huge assist to keep my feet planted securely. I was able to make the repair and descend safely and it felt soooo good to have had that evidence of a return to more normal capacity. It is not that such a maintenance jog got harder, it is that my capacity had changed and then was returning. So much of the world is viewed through the different lenses we acquire by living the life journeys we travel. There is a good metaphor and lesson in this somewhere but it may take me more than the minute I have free right now to dig into it. Later perhaps... right now to a Sunday mass at my church and then further preparations for the Inipi. I will be joined by two guests who can help as well. I got a call from a friend this morning promising special prayers for me as well, and that he would be "lifting his pipe" for me as he is unable to make it out here to be with me directly. Mitakuye Oyasin!
August 1, 2018 To start off, a huge "THANK YOU" to all of the people who took the time to visit Friendly Forest during the 263 Art Studio Tour on July 21 and 22. For the most part the weather cooperated and I really enjoyed the time we had together. I also appreciated that many of you appreciated my work enough to make purchases. That will continue to encourage and fund my efforts over the next year.
The other good news for me is that the condition of my back continues to improve and I am able to do work unthinkable even a month ago.
The bad news is that we had a strong wind during one of our storms and that wind topled the largest Spruce tree on my part of Friendly Forest, and when it came down it took with it at least 6 or 7 large Cottonwood and Aspen trees ... all of which landed across part of my main trail to the North. I was attempting to do long-over-due trail maintenance when I discovered the huge barrier across the path. I got out my chain saw and over three days I was able to cut up the fallen trees, and while it may take another few days of careful working, I should be able to clear that and open it enough to get through to other parts of the trail. I hope that I do not encounter other such tree-falls.
But to the good, I am trying to slavage some of that wood for turning bowls in my shop. With sputtering rainfall yesterday encouraging indoor work, I was able to turn two pieces... one from a dead and relatively dry trembling aspen block, and another from a very water-logged cottonwood block. The cottonwood had its deeply furrowed dark bark and creamy ivory coloured sapwood, and reddish brown and figured heartwood. Turning it was a beast however. The fibres of the Cottonwood, like its close relative the Balsam Poplar, are tightly interwoven and it takes a very sharp lathe tool and great care to work the wood .. .especially when doing end-grain work. After that, it was the use of my two large microwaves to gradually dry out the wood and hope that it did not develop any check cracks along the process.
Summer is also the time for friends to drop by for visits and to share food. Sometimes it is me sharing food with them and sometimes it is friends bringing me food and sometimes both and sometimes it is an invitation to a barbecue supper. ... good things .... good friends ....blessings from Creator coming through each other.
July 12, 2018 The days are shortening already. I notice it in the early morning as I am usually up shortly after 04:00. Being conscious of this seasonal change makes me all the more determined to appreciate the incredible wonderland that is this forest in the summer.
We just had about 50 mm of rainfall over the past day, and that is keeping things lush green. I am preparing things for the 263 Art Studio Tour visits and sale on July 21 and 22. Moving furniture to accommodate my display shelving reveals window panes with nose markings from Thrum and dust that had managed to escape the vacuum cleaner on previous passes. Over the past year and a half I have not been able to move things around and last summer required the help of a fellow artist to bring my display tables up the stairs for me. This year I can do so by myself!
I finally gave in to the frustration I was having with my old prescription eye glasses and have a new set waiting for pickup today. I had hesitated as one of the side effects from one medication was a change in vision. I did not want to spend good money on a prescription that might be obsolete when I stop the medication. I will trust my doctor's advice that it should be OK to get new glasses. During the examination I had some good news; there was no evidence at all of Macular Degeneration, a situation that afflicted my mother as she aged. I was told that if I had the genetics to develop that disease of the eye, it would have manifested some time ago. It was a concern that was always lurking in the sub-conscious, and it was good to hear that examination result.
Now, if there was some way to restore hearing to my right ear and my back injury went away entirely, I might be tricked into thinking I was a young man again ... until I stood in front of a mirror that is .... LOL
July 5, 2018 My physical progress continues and that brings many smiles to my lips these days. It just about seems like Christmas morning every morning.
My early seeding of tomato plants this spring is paying off and I have been having fresh tomatoes off the vine for a few weeks now.
I think I may have inherited two traits from my parents that can be problems; from my father the trait of never throwing anything out, be it a bent nail or a short piece of wood. From my mother, the over-stocking of food in storage lest next season not yield its expected crops and the resulting loss of some excess food to waste , freezer burn or even loss of interest because variety wins out over eating the same thing too many times. There must be a way to design freezer units so that there are no back corners where food hides and is forgotten over time till a major cleanup. Maybe these appliances should be built like cylinders with shelves that move one position to the front on each door opening... such silly issues when so many die because they have neither freezer nor food to stock it.
One of the older beaver stealing its lunch. They virtually ignore my near presence. and as long as Thrum is on the deck, they have learned to ignore her urgent barks as well.
Summer light and shadow,on shrubs near my home in Friendly Forest.
This Canada Lilly, a gift from a neighbour, opened its petals on July 1.
June 28, 2018 Today Sister Moon is in opposition to our Sun and so she can reflect, to the fullness of her capacity, the power and goodness of the sun.
I can take this as an apt metaphor for many things in my life and in the lives of many others. We are called to be that reflective surface that brings light into a place of darkness. Recent happenings in my life remind me that this is not as easy as it sounds, and is not a passive posture. Even with the metaphor, there are three areas of operation that have separate capacity and responsiveness The Sun is not a constant as we have learned by studying it, and its relative position to the Earth also varies, not only with the Earth's orbit around the sun, but even over long times with movements of planets in the solar system. Likewise the moon, in its relationship to the earth varies. This past year we had several months of "super moon" where at the time of full moon, the distance between earth and moon was at the least. But probably even more critically in this light bounce , is the nature of the darkness on the earth that receives the moon light. Yes, it is the changing nature of our spirits that limit and define how the goodness of our Creator is able to come into our places and times of darkness.
Because today is the Full Moon, I am attempting to do an Inipi / Sweat Ceremony.
Initially it seemed that I would have a companion willing to assist with the wood and rocks. That did not work out, so I decided to see if I could manage on my own. My back situation has been improving, and trying to make adaptations to the physical nature of the tasks, I thought I would manage. I have started the fire and the rocks are being heated as I write this.
I have found that in lieu of a pitch fork to carry the rocks into the fire pit of the lodge, I am able to place a few rocks into a steel pail and drag that pail into the lodge and tip out the rocks into the pit. It is not as elegant as carrying the rocks one at a time on the fork, but it accomplishes the main objective. The use of steel pitch forks for this task is certainly an adaptation to using forked branches or sets of deer antlers to move the rocks. Instead of carrying a pail of water down to the lodge, I dragged a hose down there and filled the pail with the hose.
Once again, I am thinking that these adjustments that I am making for this event parallel adjustments I need to make to live other parts of my life journey.
These past weeks have shown me other things as well. I have been given many blessings in my life. Even as I make my best efforts to be open to sharing my gifts with others who may lack what I have in abundance, that is not so simple to do. I also need to have the humility to know that my perception of what others may need of me may not be what they truly need. Along with those lessons, I need to have the trust that the love of my Creator is the same love that is offered to all, and poured out for all, and even if I cannot see it, it is still so.
Our art tour and sale is nearly upon us.
Click on our logo to go to our web site to see tour artists, sites and information.
I have been able to make a few new things. Click on this image to go to the Recent Work page:
June 8, 2018 With rain in the forecast for Sunday, and my grass topping the 40 cm height, I got my lawn mower going and also my brush mower. The work I did last fall to prepare them for winter paid off and they started on the first crank. While the lawn mower works where the grass is shorter, the brush mower was made for tall and heavy vegetation. I did about two hours all told, and that represents a a huge advance in my recovery.
Also, this week I was able to complete several wood projects in my shop. It is a huge boost to my spirit to be able to do this, to stand in the midst of lathe shavings, even to breathe in some of the black walnut sawdust as I fine sanded some of the completed items.
Even though it is just the beginning of June, many things seem like summer. I have been using my fire suppression system when things were dry. I have the water in the pond, have invested good money in quality equipment, and so using it to keep the areas around house and shop wet makes a lot of sense, I have a bit of difficulty dragging he fuel tank down to the motor and pump, but I manage and when the large sprinkler heads spurt out the water there is a sense of psychological security that is hard to find in a forest during the beginning of spring and summer. We had some rain and the wild fire burning in the National Park just to the West of Friendly Forest has been contained and the fire fighters are dealing with hot spots that could flare up again of not put out. The nearly Province-wide fire ban has also been lifted, but when it was in place at the beginning of the month, I cancelled the Inipi ceremony that I would normally have conducted at the end of May.
This spring the conditions are such that there are few mosquitoes ... at least not yet. But there are many dragon flies, and they are very efficient mosquito predators, so perhaps the balance that normally does not happen till late July, may have come early to the land. Well, I guess I can hope that this is the case. We will see,
April 21, 2018 It seems that I was too optimistic about the improvement in my mobility and decrease of pain. I had a wonderful Easter with 12 of us seated at the dinner table. We had good food and enjoyed the company of all. I had help in completing the food items for the menu and all dishes seemed to go together well. However, it was the starter Thai Shrimp soup that seemed to get the most positive reaction. The flavors in this soup are great and to those accustomed to mainly Canadian / Western food flavors, those simple elements that made the soup, were a real treat.
In the days following Easter however, I noticed that my back and leg were presenting problems. I decided to give them several days of nearly full rest to get back to how things were before Easter. My body had other plans, and for the past three weeks I have been losing ground. This scares me because I do not know what is really happening. I am a slow learner, and I think what I might be experiencing is a reduced effectiveness of the pain medications I have been taking. I have been pushing things there to take the absolute minimum of those medications, and that may have been a mistake, If I can not get things stabilized and on the uptake soon I will need to get some professional advice about what could be happening. I trust that things will get better, and I only need to reflect on where I was a year ago; in hospital, unable to even touch my right leg to the ground. Now I can walk and do regular household chores, albeit with great care. Things are much better. It comes down to a matter of perspective I guess.
I have finally completed and filed my taxes for 2017. I have been using Turbo Tax, small business and home version. For my general record keeping I have been using Simply Accounting for nearly 20 years now, and it still works well for me. Last year I tried to add the 2016 version of Turbo Tax to my Windows computer, and I got the message that I needed to upgrade to Windows 10 to load the program. Finally my old standby, a Dell Latitude with Windows XP Pro loaded, would no longer perform that one critical task, even though everything else was working just fine.
I usually avoid Windows and work nearly exclusively on my Mac computer. But there are some programs that will not work on that OS. Last Spring I invested in a Windows Laptop that was on sale and seemed to meet my basic requirements, and , indeed, it does what it does well enough. However, when I was moving my Simply Accounting Program over to the new laptop, the transfer seemed to go just fine, but I was never able to have it find the opening file even though I knew it was there on the computer. After several days of irritated frustration, I actually looked closer at what I was doing, and I had mistyped one element of the file name, and of course, the computer could not find it! Once I corrected that error, things have been going well.
With the long winter I needed to see some green so I planted some seeds. Those efforts have been going well, and the tomato plants are even forming buds. I have been able to harvest some of the Basil leaves and my Giant Blue Hyssop plants seem healthy and are starting to grow a bit more. The mint is also reaching for the sun but the Thyme and Rosemary really have been stubbornly slow. I had saved Sweet Grass seeds a few years back and decided to see if they would germinate. An article I had read told me that I could only expect about a 5% germination rate. I found that nearly every seed germinated and I have a good plantation of Sweet Grass waiting for their time to be planted out in the forest where they can find new homes. Natural habitats have been largely destroyed and if I can restore some of this wonderful plant I will have done a good thing.
I have also contacted an Elder from Whapeton First Nations and invited him to examine my book collection on topics of spirituality and ritual and history. I have read these books and I know that most have very good material that is hard to find. I have offered it to him for their school or Band Office library, so it can be shared by more people. Most of the material relates to the Lakota peoples who form the majority of the people at Whapeton
March 25, 2018 This final week of March is coming to us with a big traditional snow storm. It decided to come with two good snow dumps separated by a day of sun and warmer temperatures.
Next Sunday is Easter and I am expecting a table full of dinner guests to help me celebrate this day. It is especially good to plan for this because last year I was unable to do so. Holy Saturday is also the second Blue Moon of the year and I am planning to host a minimalist version of a Sweat Lodge Ceremony / Inipi. I will be careful and use some of the adaptive techniques that I evolved at the beginning of March to get red hot rocks into the centre fire pit of the lodge.
For me this coming week and weekend represent a convergence of two culturally different, but remarkabley similar experiential spirtual experiences. The deep inner spiritual experiences speak to me of the wonderful ways that our God and Creator has entered into connection with human beings in very diverse parts of the world and into diverse cultures. Indeed, we have much more in common than those who have a more narrow view of the Creator - Creature interface would want us to believe. For all who hold either cultural expression and tradition, I wish you a deep, profound, and life-giving experience.
I am also able to take increasing time in my shop to resume the wood work projects that were halted for more than a year. Re-introducing myself to some of my shop equipment seemed a bit strange, but a very good thing to do. I just have to be very alert to not put strain on my back by carrying heavy boards or pushing into a lathe tool. When I plan it well, I find that a board can get from point A to point B by dragging as well as by being carried.
March 2, 2018 The ever-lengthening days and some moderation of temperatures testify to the coming of Spring and Summer. Today is the day of full moon, and for me it has been a very special day. For some weeks now I have been considering various modifications I might make to holding the Inipi at my place on the full moon. Over the past year the opportunities have been few and required the help of an able-bodied assistant.
I came up with some variations on process that affirm that necessity is the mother of invention. I took several days to prepare the fire and found a safe way to transfer red hot rocks into the centre of the Lodge. I had decided that I would do a minimalist version and only aim to do two rounds instead of four. The ideas, some of which appeared to me on first waking in the morning, did work, and I have returned to the house safely. When I went out it was cloudy and snow was starting to fall. When I had finished, the sun was shining in a blue sky.
While I am thrilled at the success of this undertaking, I am not about to tempt the limits of my body any further today.
... I just thought that this achievement was worth noting here on my blog page....
February 1, 2018 This morning the thermometer declared a - 32º C, but there was no real wind so it felt much better than it did when I cleared Tuesday's snow from the road and yard on Wednesday morning. When the wind blew into my face it was cold. When I came back in the house I had ice on my moustache, even on my eyebrows and beard as well. I have a set of thermal underwear, and putting them on under my jeans and under three layers of upper body clothing, I was rather warm. I am so happy to have such effective clothing, and I remember being a child on the farm without such clothing! Frozen fingers and toes were an annual winter situation. What I most remember though is sitting in a classroom with my toes itching and inflamed and driving me crazy. I wanted to rip my shoes off and scratch the skin off those toes. The skin was recovering but the time before was agony. What made it worse was that often before it was fully healed it would get frozen again.
When people dream of living off the grid and living off the land, that is what we were doing back in the 1940's and 50's. We had no electricity and other than a few staples like sugar and salt, what we ate came from the farm animals or the canned produce of garden. That fare may have fed us reasonably well most of the time, but it was not really exciting food either. There were the other times when eggs from our farm chickens would not be available to us as they had to be sold for a few cents per dozen so there would be some cash coming into the home. The cream that came from the milk from the cows we milked went into metal cans and were delivered to a creamery in Humboldt ... again to bring in some cash for things like the kerosene that lit our lamps for work outside and inside the house. The sole source of heat in the house was the kitchen cook stove. On really cold Saturdays when we were working outside getting feed for cattle and cleaning barns and the like, when we could we would rush into the house, grab a chair and place it near the stove and stick out cold stockinged feet into the baking oven to warm them up before we headed back out again.
Summer heat also presented challenges to us, especially with regard to keeping food from spoiling without the support of refrigeration.
When I found the location of Friendly Forest and was considering building my home here, I well remembered those years of living without electricity and all the things that electricity provides for my life. I really like a warm shower every day. I like to keep food from spoiling too soon by being able to freeze or refrigerate it. I like a warm house and I like warm clothing. So, while I designed my home to be very energy efficient in many ways, building it to R2000 standards, I do not live in a primitive manner. Trekking out to an outdoor privy on a winter night might be OK during a short period of winter camping, but it is not the kind of thing that I care to have in my life ... especially the older I get and the limitations on my mobility and capacities that I have been experiencing this past year.
And yes, those limitations are finally receding. I am able to do most things for myself now and I have even started to return to work in my shop. It has been a long time, but I am ale to look to a return to the old "normal" ... or at least close to that .
January 12, 2018
When I make an entry for a new year it creates a moment of awareness and retrospection as well as anticipation.
Outside we are in a second really cold spell and it is best to remain indoors as much as possible. I am fortunate in being able to do just that.
When this cold front moved in we got a good dump of snow and then bitter cold with wind. On Wednesday morning I woke at 04:00 and looked outside and took a short walk into the snow in the yard. Thrum wanted out but also wanted back in just about immediately. I was expecting a freight delivery later in the day and I considered whether a truck would get stuck in this snow, especially because of the slope of the road down to the house. Should I wait till later and call my neighbor and ask him to help me again to remove the snow with his skid-steer, could I use my car and try to pack it down as I had done with several lesser snows over the past weeks, or might I be able to operate my snow blower and clear things for myself. I had attached a magnertic block heater on my snow blower the previous night, and I hoped I could get it started despite the - 39º C temperatures.
I waited for a while till about 07:00, and I dressed for the outside and tried to start the snow blower. It hesitated but eventually it did cough and powered up. I would be able to use it to clear my sidewalk that was buried under a large drift at least I reasoned to myself. I would use a low gear and I could keep up with that.... I could and I did, and after a while I found that the snow was still loose and no matter where I directed the snow exhaust shute, the wind blew the snow where it intended it to go . So I planned a clearing pattern that would take advantage of the wind to blow the removed snow into the trees. I was doing well, and was able to keep my face out of the direct wind as well. Long story short, I was able to complete the entire area out to the highway within about two hours. I was cold and I knew my back and leg would hurt later, but just being able to do this task for the first time in 11 months felt so good for my spirit that I was happy and grateful. In fact, the resulting pain was much less than I anticipated, and I had a second reason for gratitude to Creator.
A very kind and helpful driver for Jay's Transport was able to deliver the heavy containers with the unassembled wire shelving units and back his unit out to the highway. I had not anticipated that he would be coming in such a large semi. The skills of those drivers always amaze me.
In the past I would likely not have even considered purchasing steel wire shelving, opting to make them from wood for myself. Remembering the cause of my back injury nearly a year ago, however, has given me more pause to consider altenatives that do need me to lift heavy wood or other objects.
It is a good beginning to a new year!
And outside of my window another story unfolds. It is bitterly cold outside but two coyotes need to refill their stomachs, not having a reserve food supply as I have. So they have left their den and are looking for prey, The smells coming out of the breathing hole on the beaver lodge is very tempting. Besides, the extra elevation provides a good scanning view of the pond shore in all directions. It is a good place from which to detect any movements in the cold forest.
The female says: " I told you we would never be able to get those beavers in the middle of winter. The ground is frozen and so am I. Come on, let's go and try our luck in the trees. We know there are some rabbits and deer somewhere .... come on..... let's go!
"Hey, I think I saw something moving in the window of that house. I wonder if there is any food over there. No, he never leaves anything out for us. Come on already!
I'm going. It is cold and I am hungry!
"Now where is that partner of mine? What does he think he can find that I could not?"
"What can you do with such a stubborn one? Well, I am going to lie down in the snow and tuck my feet under me to keep them warm. I will just have to wait ... and wait .... and wait for him to come down so we can finally get something to eat."
Forest Happenings 2017
December 25th, 2017 letter to friends:
Friendly Forest, December 25, 2017
Best wishes to you on this very cold morning. The thermometer shows - 31º C with wind chill to -42º C. My home is warm and it is from my heart and home that I reach out to you with my greeting.
As you likely know, my 2017 did not begin well. In late January I had a mishap while carrying a sheet of plywood into my shop. Something in my lower back was injured and I have been dealing with the impact of that ever since. I was able to park my wheelchair and crutches at Thanksgiving time but still use the support of walkers in the house to reduce the pressure on the spine. Each week there is slow progress and I can do more tasks with fewer limits . Lifting things still presents a major challenge.
As you would also know, this kind of limitation created issues about living here alone with my dog Thrum. During the worst times my sister Carol fostered her, and after that exposure, Thrum totally prefers Carol to me. As a matter of fact, that fickle girl seems to prefer just about any visitor to me … and if that visitor is another dog, I am totally out of the picture. It has been the support of many good neighbours and friends that is seeing me through this time of limits, and to all of them, for prayers and much practical help and such good food packages, I owe my survival out here.
The medical support I received from my physician, from the staff at the Victoria Hospital, and from the Physiotherapists at the Spinal Pathways in Saskatoon and at the Prince Albert Co-operative Clinic, are supporting the physical recovery and deserve my many thanks as well.
I had long dreaded an eventual time of incapacity and loss of independence and saw it as a time of spiritual crisis as well. I am happy that my recent experience of physical incapacity has actually helped me to grow spiritually, and for that special gift i give full credit to the Creator, who not only supports me, but inspires so many others to be my support as well.
So, long story short, in balance, it has been a good year, a time of much learning and many blessings in many forms.
My shop work had to take a recess, and I eagerly wait for the day (I hope soon) where I can return to the shop to undertake wood working again. I had enough items to offer for our 263 Art Studio Tour event and I really enjoyed the many visitors as well as the sales made. I had a huge pile of books I wanted to read but because of the effects of pain control efforts and a much longer time engagement in basic living tasks, that pile has actually grown in size. So many good thoughts to encounter … I have much to look forward in that regard as well.
Thanks to great efforts by my sister Carol, her children and another nephew Bryan, the kind help from my brother Henry to pick me up and bring me back home, the Regnitter clan was able to gather for a weekend reunion in Saskatoon on the May long weekend. Just about all of the clan was able to make it for most of that time. While I still curse the horrible impact of the kind of carpet on the floors of the Hotel on driving a wheelchair on that floor, it was a great time. Morgan, thanks so much for arranging for those photographs. I even received the commitment of two nieces to take charge of the archival materials that I had assumed after the death of my mother Clara some years ago. Karen and Nicole, I look forward to your plans to take this on.
It was in late July that I was able to safely get behind the wheel of my car again, and the first major test of my recovery was when I loaded up my wheelchair, drove to Saskatoon’s City Hospital, unloaded the wheelchair and got to the Spinal Pathways Clinic on my own .. and then was also able to get back home again. While it took every ounce of reserve I had, it was a wonderful support to my spirit that also built confidence in the promise of the Physiotherapist that I would be able to shovel my own snow this winter. (Still, I am glad that a neighbour is willing to use his Skidsteer to do the heavy snow removal work for me when needed)
2017 also was a year where I mourned the loss of good friends and former colleagues. Obituary reading now becomes a habit and I much better understand my late mother’s tales about the many funerals of neighbours that I never knew or barely remembered from my childhood. When the people who were our closest companions on this life journey take the path to the other side and leave us here for a while longer, our lives are diminished by their deaths, and so is the larger community … even as our lives and that community were enriched by them when they were still here. What we most loose when they die are their gifts of spirit, not their earthly power or wealth. There is a First Nations prayer that goes something like this: “When you were born you cried but the world rejoiced. Live your life honouring our ways, and when you are reborn to the Great Spirit, the world will cry and you will rejoice.” … from a Lakota ceremonial prayer.
If you are reading this message it means that we are still on that life path and are still challenged by that prayer. May every moment of 2018 be a wonderful opportunity to receive the blessings of Creator. May the message of Christian faith illustrated at the end of this message remind us that the Incarnation has happened in history, is still present to us, and requires us to be transformed into Christ present in the world. Our God has deemed us to be worthy of that task, so we should have the confidence that we are up to it. Be blessed and be blessing to others,
Gerald at Friendly Forest
Waiting table guest Dec 25, 2017
November 4, 2017 I have processed a few of the images I have taken of the changing season over the pond at Friendly Forest. Because my mobility is still limited I have not been able to go out onto the forest trails, but the eye-candy is also right outside of my windows or off my deck. For images of the autumn in the forest from previous years check out this link or this link .
Here are some thumb-nail images from this fall. I believe it will help you better understand my own spirit formed by this land. BTW, the snow scenes are actually full-colour images. That is what happens with our winter light and snow landscapes.
October 28, 2017 We have had our first snow of this season, and though it is melting today, tomorrow the forecast is for a drop of temperatures and more snow. At least it held off till now. This reprieve has given the beaver that share this forest with me, even more time to add to their winter pantry. The two main adults are now huge, and I guess at about 90 pound body weight ... and that is from a close up view of a few feet distance. Earlier in the week at about 04:30 I heard a crash of sorts and assumed that bear had jumped onto my deck and probably tipped over my barbeque. With lights turned on I could not see any disturbance on the deck. Other views from the windows did not show anything out of order either. Then I opened a door where there were no windows and I saw the issue; a tree had fallen and the top landed on my roof and the beaver was busy chomping to cut off the top so it could drag it into the pond. when I yelled at it it slowly ambled off, to return a few minutes later .. Five additional attempts to chase it off, even using my .38 caliber starter pistol, it eventually seemed to say away for a bit. When things got light outside I surveyed the damage. It had taken down a tree so far from the house I had not considered it a danger to the building. I guess it had grown since I had made that calculation. Over the next few days they took down about an additional 8 or 10 trees, with all of them falling directly toward the house because we were having a persistent north-west wind that helped topple them in this direction. So, more chain saw work than my body really permitted. While I was able to do this, and there was no additional back pain while I was cutting and tossing aside the blocks, the rest of the week has proven the poor quality of my decision to do this myself. I am hurting again and having to take a higher dose of my pain meds than I wished to be the case.
I guess I have been wanting to get to full function so badly that I was over reaching.
I had done the same on Thanksgiving day. My initial goal was to host a dinner for those friends and neighbours who had been my lifeline over the past months. My initial count of about 10 guests ended up growing to 24 by time October 9 arrived. I can not tolerate turkey meat so I had settled on a Greek menu for the meal, and with a lot of planning, things seemed to be coming together. However, I also began to see the limits of my body and called on a few good friends to come early and help me with the final details. The skills of these friends got the large amount of pork back ribs barbecued, the table set, and appetizers out and guests welcomed in a manner I was unable to achieve. Pending chaos turned into a well ordered evening for a house full of family and friends. By the end of the meal I was hurting and needed to crash on my bed for an hour. When I arose the tables had been cleared, extra food stored and dishes mainly washed and stacked. The final greasy pans were being scrubbed.
What this has taught me was that while it is good for me to set goals and work to realize those goals, I need to remember that the ultimate success of those goals will depend on the good will and support of many family and friends ... of my community. It is a good lesson to remember especially given my propensity to try to do things solo.
We have had a glorious fall with good temperatures and good colour in the forest. Even though I still cannot venture to walk my trails, a good neighbour has taken his chain saw and cut out the deaf fall and beaver fell to make the trails walk able this winter. We had a few really strong wind storm that knocked down a lot of trees, the beaver dropped many across trail that came near the pond, and the different direction of some of those winds took trees that otherwise would have been sheltered by their companions.
I took some photos the other morning and will process and post some of them. The nature of light and the forest at this time renders what we see to nearly black and white imaging. The frost, snow and grey skies but still unfrozen pond water, creates some really spectacular sights. Too good to not be shared.
September 18, 2017 Bear was here last night. I have a Dolgo Crab tree growing near the house and the small brilliantly-red apples met their fate last night . I would not have minded that so much, as I know Bear needs to get ready for winter as well, but in getting the apples, Bear also broke off the main stem and left it shredded and dangling. I tried to prune it more carefully and hope that no disease will enter that wounded area. There was also a wild apple that had grown out of the base root of another apple tree that had lost all of its grafts. Many of those apples were also taken down but since there were still others left on that tree, those bitter and sour apples were less to Bear's taste than the sweet Dolgo variety.
Thrum was beginning to resemble a bear lately, and a few days ago I got her reluctantly into the shower and gave her a good shampoo and wash. She tolerated that well enough but was not too pleased with the noise and wind jet from the dryer unit. Well, today was to be the day where I took out the trimmers and scissors and brushes. The last time I tried to do that for myself was back in March, and I was unable to complete it even over a three day period. My body allowed me to do it this time with minimal discomfort and awkwardness. I can walk some and even stand in position for a while now. Simple things give a great deal of pleasure. I do not think I will ever take the importance of a good back for granted again.
While far from whole, my body is headed in that direction and I am thankful.
My sister gave me my mother's walker to use out here. It makes movement easier within the house but the smaller wheels do not work well on rough ground, so I am limiting its use to the inside of the house. Along with crutches and collapsible walkers and the wheelchair, I am essentially mobile again.
I am setting targets for myself. My latest one is to prepare a Thanksgiving meal on Oct 9, and inviting family and friends over to express my appreciation for the support they have been for me. Since I am unable to digest turkey meat I leave that traditional item off my menu. There are many other good foods that we will be able to enjoy together. I am warning my prospective guests that if a week before I am having second thoughts about being able to do what I have set out to do, my invitation might quickly be changed to be an invitation to a "pot luck" gathering.
August 12, 2017 For those who read this blog page, and have wondered about my physical recovery; I am doing much better and I can see the prediction that I will be shoveling my own snow this winter, to be a real probability.
While I am still on pain medications and anti-inflammatories, I am cutting back on the amounts and doing well with those reductions. I can move with more confidence and am able to perform most basic tasks around here without distress. I have much to be thankful for .
A message to those who have been so kind to me and have been offering help and bringing food ... I appreciate all of that, but I take back my promise to pretend to need help beyond the real need in an effort to keep the good things coming my way ... LOL There are so many good things happening that I do not need to fake incapacity to see these gifts all around me.
The biggest gift however, is the gradual return of capacity of my body. I do not know the long term prospects yet, but right now things are looking good!
While I have been nearly glowing in the realization of good people and good things happening in my life, I am also aware of the hatred that lurks in the hearts of way too many of my fellow citizens and the citizens in other parts of the world. This weekend the Alt-Right marches in Charlottesville Virginia USA, and the injuries and death that have happened there ... the extreme vitriol that spewed out of the hearts of so many when the Canadian government settled out of court with Omar Khadr, with its very thinly disguised Islamophobia, the ugly reactions after the arrest of a farmer after he shot a young man who came into his yard last year ... and on and on and on. There is a darkness inside of us that fears those who are different, that resents those who seem to be doing better than us or who are perceived to be gaining goals we do not see ourselves reaching ... that darkness may be more apparent in those who demonstrate in the streets of our nation, more apparent in those who troll the comment sections of news articles that seem to take a stand that resists bigotry or xenophobia or simple racism ... but that darkness really resides inside of all of us. It seems to be part of the very culture that we absorbed as children but which often has lain hidden or latent until we perceive our "skin to be pricked" or we are goaded by others into expressions based on fear or expression of that negative spirit that is given permission to parade in the middle of our public streets when formerly it was only whispered to others in dark alleys and private spaces. If you or I do not see that also inside of ourselves, then we are also blind and are are not a solution, but rather a part of the problem. If we cannot look into our own fears and see darkness there we will not be doing what we need to to bring light where there was darkness.
When our civic leaders take up the cause of darkness and use it to exploit others to gain power and votes, that is especially reprehensible. Canada has had its own versions of that ; consider the 2015 election campaign and even the tour of Andrew Sheer recently, and the public positions of those of his Party who went to the USA to go on right wing talk shows to declare their solidarity with the islamophobia in the USA and in its leadership. No, we are not immune to that darkness, and the challenge is very much before us. Those who never believed the Nazi and Fascist movements would ever gain ground and take power before WW II are like so many of us now . But we have the Trump win in the USA, we have the Harper years in Canada to tell us that history can repeat and that we must find darkness wherever it resides,and bring it forward to light.
July 29, 2017 I am now one week past the 263 Art Studio Tour event at Friendly forest. I appreciated my guests immensely, and thank all for coming to see my work and especially a thank you to those who saw fit to purchase one or more of my items. When others express appreciation for my work by word or purchase, it provides a validation to my efforts that sometimes is lacking when I am the only one appraising the work. One's own eye needs to be the best critic of my work, but another's eye can also provide a way of seeing things that I did not have. Thank you all!
My back situation is significantly on the mend and I am able to undertake movements and activities totally out of reach even a few weeks ago. I have been able to pull back on the amount of pain medications I have been taking and I hope to keep that reduction going as the pain lessens. I am so happy that the medications I have been using do not produce the addictive effects of the o[opioids I really wanted to avoid them even if I had to endure more pain.
I have had to ask others to cut my grass for me and my sister and a niece undertook to do a good part of my trails as well. I just wish I were fit enough to be able to walk them at this time. But that too will come as I am promised by the people at the Spinal Pathways Clinic in Saskatoon. They even tell me I will be shoveling my own snow this winter.
In large part we have had very good weather this summer, and there has been little danger of forest fires so far. For that I am also grateful. This Spring I considered the issue of getting my fire suppression system up and running, and then realized that even if I hired someone to run the hoses and set up the pump, if there were an emergency, I would not have been able to make it down to the pump to get it started, and perhaps not even be able to get to my car and drive away. That was somewhat scary but Creator was able to take care of my concerns as well in that regard.
The VW TDI scandal has hit home for me. The 2010 Golf that I have is one of the affected vehicles and I am in the process of arranging to accept the Settlement Offer and do a trade-in for a 2016 Tiguan. It seems like a real shame that a perfectly good car (except for the emissions issue) has to be junked like that. I am sure that the car is destined for the wrecking press. My turn-over date is in mid August.
In my deliberations I had to consider my increased age and my limited finances. When I bought the 2010 TDI I envisioned that to be a car that lasted me for many years to come. The costs of a new vehicle could not be justified and I wanted to get a car better suited to our winters out here. The impact of my time of incapacity this past winter weighs heavily on my considerations these days. I wonder of the sales people had another customer whose first consideration was to take out a tape measure and measure the cargo and back seat areas to see if a wheelchair would easily fit into the vehicle. Then the issue of how easy or difficult it would be to enter and exit the vehicle came into consideration. Leather seats and a sunroof were no longer possibilities for me this time. I will just need to have a durable cover for the seat for Thrum to ride. I have found dog tethers that latch into the seat belt buckle that would work better than the method I have used in the past.
Over the past week or so I have been able to spend more time outside on my deck. I can not do the work things that I would like to be doing, but I might as well enjoy the warmer weather and the sun and the view and the sounds of my forest companions. I am always impressed that my deck is so insect-free. Usually there is a slight breeze coming off the water and toward the house and that makes blood tracking difficult for the mosquitoes. Besides, they seem to gather near the ground in their blood search and ignore potential food that sits higher up.
For my friends who are still awaiting email replies, I will do so yet. I have found that my =ability to sit at the computer and compose coherent thoughts is limited l, and if you are a friend, you also know that a short message just seems to be beyond my capacity at the best of times. A man of few words when I sit at a keyboard=hard I am not. Please, I ask for your patience.
June 25, 2017 Just a quick update; there is not just one bear here, there are two. The second to be sighted is a larger brown-haired bear who has been here at least twice over the past 12 hours. When yelled at, he did leave but was back early this morning again. In my experience bears are rather territorial so one of the two will likely be chased off to other places. Unfortunately this means I will have at least one who frequents this place for the rest of the summer. It seems to have no fear of human habitation and likely has learned that houses means food in some form or other.
June 24, 2017 Thrum, my dog, has a variety of bark types. Some are directed at me and even make a kind of talking bark. However, she is very territorial and does not want other creatures to invade what she considers her space. she has alert and warning barks that differ depending on what kind of animal she spies or hears. There is a frantic and angry bark for invading squirrels that seem to know they can taunt her, especially from the other side of a window. Rabbits get a louder and deeper bark as they are clearly prey she wants to chase. but this evening, there was a different bark that was louder and deeper and more aggressive than the others. so I went to look. it was a bear walking through the garden area. The bear had heard Thrum from inside and was walking away though looking back at the source of that noise.
As indicated earlier. I had seen signs that a bear had been by the house but this was my first visual sighting. It was a two-three year old. I could not see if it was female or male. it could have been one of the cubs from a few years back who had boldly gone into anything they desired to explore as Mama bear was there to protect them. This one had a deep black and healthy and shiny coat ... not a full grown boar, but perhaps a young sow..
This sighting is a good reminder to use cautions even here in the yard area.
June 21, 2017 Happy Solstice! Happy Indigenous Peoples Day! May the gifts of Creator, wonderfully expressed in the life-giving presence of the Sun, continue to encourage the growth and development of the riches of the Earth so that we all may live in a good way.
Since the last post I am happy to report that with the kind support of my oldest brother and the rest of the family I was able to take part in a family reunion that took place in Saskatoon. All but three nephews and one husband were able to gather over the long weekend . Many thanks to all who made it happen, especially to my nieces and my youngest sister who undertook the main organizing effort to bring all of us out of our private burrows to remember our roots. It was a wonderful time for me and though I had to retreat to the hotel room frequently to rest my spine I was able to enjoy most of the planned events.
Back in the years when I was fighting with SaskPower to be responsible in how they planned a major power line in our area, I had various people refer to me as a "tree-hugger" and that not intended as a compliment. When we were being organized for the group photos initially the photographer set me up and located others around me in my wheelchair. I protested. I did not want to be pictorially remembered as the old guy in the wheel chair. A compromise was reached and I was positioned next to one of the larger elm trees in the park and, standing on my left foot and hanging on to the tree, I could pose for the photos. So I literally became a tree-hugger and that is immortalized in those family photos as well. SaskPower, do you want me to send you a copy just for old times sake?
I have had an interesting experience with a young man from British Columbia who indicated a desire to come to live at Friendly Forest while he engaged in adult upgrading and certification. In return for my support he would undertake the tasks that my bad back prevented me from doing around here. Unfortunately he was a religious fundamentalist and biblical literalist who, in the final analysis, was unable to be comfortable with my more inclusive and tolerant attitudes, and especially with my spiritual connection and prayer life in First Nations Traditional ways. To him this was paganism and something he could not accept, and in turn he could not accept me either. Although he had become a Catholic by adult baptism he brought with him the rigid fundamentalism of his Anabaptist background, except now anointed as an RC, he seemed to fill the old stereotype of the recent convert to Catholicism who had become more Catholic than the Pope. While I am sure that his decision to finally not come out to Friendly Forest was in the best interests of both of us, I had a first hand experience with someone whose views and outlook on the world was so restrictive that I wonder how much of God's wonderful plans for us might be shut out of his life. It also made me wonder how the unseen and unacknowledged views that I hold strongly are also likely limiting my own understandings that God would seek to have me discover for my own enrichment. I know it is always easier for me to see the limitation in others than in myself.
My physical recovery is slow and I need to measure the advances in small increments that are not always going in the right direction ... something my Doctor and the Physiotherapist at the Spinal Pathways Clinic remind of. I will need to have help to tend to outdoor tasks but I am managing indoors much better and I can even get to the car and undertake small trips such as a recent visit to the Doctor. What is really limiting is that I am unable to stand on my right leg and therefore, unable to walk without the aid of a wheelchair, a walker or crutches.
My limitations would have been catastrophic for my life out here if it were not for the thousands of kind supports from friends nd neighbours. They have been most helpful and I know I will never be able to repay those kind supports. Perhaps we do our acts of love for our human kin and the energy from that enters the larger realm of Spirit and is there to inspire others to do likewise. It is impossible to be cynical about the state of the world when I encounter such goodness all around me. This goodness grows and that will always be enough to overcome the darkness that also shares our life space.
On another theme, the Canada Geese who secured the nesting site on the Beaver Lodge, have had a successful hatch. Now they need to keep the land predators from finding the small goslings and making a meal out of them.
I have not been able to go out onto my trails to see if there is general bear sign. I did see sign of a bear presence near the house when I did find an old spruce block that had been ripped apart in a search for ants, and an entry into my wood shelter space where I have a freezer of food. Although there was entry to that area the bear did not get into the freezer but this does serve as a reminder to lock that freezer lid.
Enough for this time. Thank you to all whose kind supports are enabling me to be at home for this recovery period. I do not know what the future holds but I trust that what does happen will be for the enriching of my life just as my associations with you and your kindnesses has already been for me..
May 10, 2017 Today a small victory and advancement; I tried and was successful in going down one flight of stairs and going up them again. After having been restricted to the one level of my home for two weeks that was a liberating experience. Next is movement down to the lower level of the house and the return of my best friend, my dog Thrum. Although she is likely better off in the care of Carol and Dennis, and might not be as happy back home, I think that three years of caring for her has earned me that benefit. Well, maybe not, but I want her back in any case. LOL
I pulled out a DVD of Leonard Cohen in his London Concert from 2008 and I was once again totally overwhelmed by the artistry that he demonstrates. The lyrics, the poetry and the melodies, even if he does not have the best voice to communicate those other things. In fact, whenever I have heard any good artist doing a cover of one of Leonard's songs, I thought they did it better than he did. But in Concert, and with the wonderful artistry of his musicians and back-up singers, the experience is an incredible treat to the spirit.
Trees are leafing out and the wonderful time of the year without mosquitoes is NOW, and I cannot really get out to appreciate it as I have in other years. Ah, well, that gives my spirit and body even more motivation to get well soon.
I am expecting the arrival of two friends later in May. It will be great to have them here ... again food for my hungry soul. Whenever I am in the presence of a good person I feel that their goodness permeates into me and I, in turn, become better myself. These friends are good persons. And speaking of good persons, I have to testify to the wonderful goodness and kindness of my friends and neighbours. I have had their prayers on my behalf, I have shared the good food they have brought, and the spirit-lifting conversations by phone and in person. Thank you all... it is so much appreciated.
May 4, 2017 It has been an interesting winter for me here at Friendly Forest. The injury that I had in January has persisted in its effects. On the Easter weekend, an attempt to follow a recommended stretching exercise seems to have resulted in either a new injury or a movement of the herniated disk to create a severe downturn in symptoms that landed me in hospital and now in a wheelchair and a referral to Spinal Pathways clinic in Saskatoon for specialists to assess my situation.
While from one consideration this is a very negative experience, I have not found it to be so. Rather it is an opportunity for me to experience life in a new fashion, with new limits but also with new insights into what human life and the human spirit is all about. The view from a hospital bed to the limits of a wheelchair forces one to re-evaluate a lot of things. I start with the firm belief that this experience will allow me to encounter new blessings and new opportunities to grow to be the person I am supposed to be. My Creator did not "do this to me", but rather it is a part of being a mortal human, and my Creator sustains my spirit and allows me to find new channels for joy and hope. It has always been that way in my life and I have no reason to expect any less this time.
This morning the frogs have started to emerge from the pond and the sounds of the frogs and the battling geese and ducks and the sounds of the wind chimes over my deck are a source of great joy, and since I am not able to be out there doing all sorts of work, I will enjoy the sights and sounds and smells to a fuller degree and with no guilt.
March 29, 2017 This entry is long overdue. The days between Jan 15 and today have been eventful for me at Friendly Forest. In January and through February I hosted a young man who was seeing if Friendly Forest might be part of his dream to find a way of living off the land in a sustainable manner with respect for the Earth. While his search for that special location continues it was good to meet a fine and idealistic young man and have him experience the hospitality of this special place.
It was also at the end of January that I did something stupid which resulted in a herniated / slipped disk in my lower spine that has been causing serious problems for me since that time. I do not even know just what I did, if it was a single event or a series of things that created the problem. I am awaiting word on when further medical intervention will happen to try to bring things back to some degree of normal.
Today is also the anniversary of the death of my father in 1988 and it is always a day of special remembrance and prayer.
A few days ago, in the midst of a heavy snow fall, I heard the return calls of the first pair Canada Geese. Today they found a few square feet of water that the beaver had opened up next to their lodge.
The 263 Art Studio Tour is coming together. I have been making updates to our web site. Have a look by clicking on our logo:
January 15, 2017 Happy New Year to all readers of this page. I have archived the 2016 entries. You can access this and other archive files by going to the Journal Archive Index . Click on the link at the end of this page to go there.
I have just come in from a good hike in the forest. The weather has changed and is actually mild. We have had a lot of bitterly cold weather through much of December and into the first two weeks of January, so it is very nice to be able to get out without watching my dog hopping on three legs after a few minutes. There is not a lot of snow cover (we got all of that at the beginning of October and then it melted in November) so there is no insulation for her feet. She loved exploring all of the animal scents that were not available to her except around the house and yard.
Someone commented that humans start the day with a coffee and perhaps a morning newspaper or more likely, a computer or smart phone, and learn about what happened in the world overnight. Dogs go out in the morning, do their business and use their noses to read the landscape to tell them what happened overnight. Judging from my dog's reactions, a lot of interesting things happened while we slept.
In early December I removed my wood burning stove and replaced it with a gas stove. I have found that the new stove is quite capable of heating the whole house even during the extreme cold. I had some earlier concerns about that as there is no real way of evaluating that until it is actually tested in situ. With a wood burning stove heat output is dependent on so many variables; kind of wood, degree of burn, damper settings etc. and output at high burn is significantly different than a low burn level. With a gas stove output is much more consistent. The new stove is also a cast iron unit which emits radiant heat into the living room space and heats the rest by way of convection. That experience of radiant heat was what I loved about the wood stove.
With the need of firewood in the house gone I no longer had need for the hoist system and wood box that had served me so well for nearly 30 years. After January 1 I started the dismantling of that system and then reconstructed the gap in the floor and repaired and refinished walls adjacent to that and finally added tiles of the same kind that I have on the rest of the living room floor. My goal was to make it look as if that space was always a part of the rest of the living room, and I believe I have succeeded to a large degree. A few visitors here after the renovations did not even notice that there was a change, so I assume my goal was realized.
The virus that had attacked me and still seems to be doing major damage to people in this community, seems to have given up its battle in my body to seek out more vulnerable souls. A gradual return of strength and a sense of physical well-being is really appreciated. I had nearly forgotten what it felt like to have this kind of energy and not always getting tired. I am also detecting a return of appetite, and that is one factor I plan to watch more carefully as the weight I lost during the period of illness is not welcome to return.
To all, I hope you are having a great winter and that the slow return of Father Sun / Wi to this hemisphere will bring greater light to our spirits as well.
Happy New Year from Gerald at Friendly Forest!