Day of Wonder

Today is one second longer than yesterday.

Fresh snow to celebrate the lengthening of days.

The winter solstice yesterday means we are on the way to longer days, minute by a minute or so until the buds, the blooms, and the greens burst exuberantly into summer decoration.

To us, it is all part of the magic of living in this climate of four seasons: white, brown, green and yellow/red.

Four days before Christmas and we have fresh snow. We are all white again and I see the forecast promising a wee bit more. Warmish too.

This is all so different to what Lois and I experienced just one year ago when a New Zealand visit gave us sunshine, big heat, refreshing surf on sandy beaches, and picnics in the parks.

Calgary City Council in its infinite wisdom has declared this day as the final day in the transit route that saw buses 16 and 84 end their run along 98 Avenue SW.

The (almost) final Route 16 bus to visit our stop on 98 Ave SW.

The sign says these routes have been rerouted. My interpretation is canceled, discontinued.

We will miss the chattering school kids though, crowding our driveway, sitting on the steps as they wait for their ride home. We’ve had up to 18 junior highs gather here.

Passengers from this section now walk across to Southland Drive, where they can hop aboard Max Yellow, or catch a bus to the Southland LRT. Alternatively, we can hike a block to Palliser Drive and join the bus to the LRT.

Life is always changing and always interesting especially so when green Future Bus Zone signs have replaced the blue Transit Stop signs.

This means the council is keeping its options open in case this route is restored sometime down the road.

The good part it is now legal for cars to park there.

With the bus route extinct, I wonder if we have seen the last of  plow and sand trucks around these parts. The funny thing about this comment is that I cannot recall our little corner of this big city ever being so popular with the grader crews as it has been so far this winter.

I wonder . . .

I love this picture of our great granddaughter Eleanor Lois Fukuda, down on the farm at Patricia, Alberta, north of Brooks. It says so much.

The wonderment of a one-year-old’s perspective, a wee tot who has discovered her ability to stand on two legs. Tiny steps on tiny feet. Maybe the thrill of grabbing the sill and hoisting herself up for a new view of her world.

I wonder what she sees? Is it just a frosty morning, fresh snow on the trees? Are there birds finding sanctuary in the branches? Is there a deer, a bush bunny, hare, or even a dog?

I wonder how we might view our world, near and far, with open eyes?

I wonder what this week will bring for our family, at Patricia, in Calgary, AB, in Sooke BC, in New Plymouth, New Zealand?

I wonder what our friends and neighbours are up to as we countdown to the shortest (or maybe longest) day of the year, Christmas and New Year.

I wonder what our politicians are up to, civic, provincial and federal?

I wonder about the poor folks involved in New Zealand’s tragic White Island eruption?

I wonder at the effect of the Trump impeachment process on Canada?

I wonder at the impact of UK politics?

I wonder about marketing and sales of my new novel Beginnings at the End of the Road? I wonder who might read and enjoy the story?

I wonder how I might write and finance the new book gradually taking early shape in this computer?

Yes, I wonder what the 2020 will bring, that hope and faith we have, a new respect and tolerance for each other.

Thanks, Eleanor, that I might look out my window. What do I see: the missteps of days gone or the new steps as I pace into this day that I’ve been given by the grace of God.

I wonder . . .

Who’s a happy camper?

Call out the band! Roll out the red carpet! Dance and sing!

It is here. A few copies of Beginnings at the End of the Road are in my hot little hands. Woot, woot, as my grandson says. Congratulations say my granddaughters. Roar, say a couple of dinosaur-stricken great grandchildren.

Best price I have seen in Canada is through Chapters/Indigo and in New Zealand/Australia through Fishpond. In the US Westbow Press is best.


I am deeply grateful and appreciate all the goodwill and encouragement I’ve received on this novel, especially in this past year.

Anticipation

My word for today (and the preceding week) is anticipation. The days seem to get longer yet the calendar tells us otherwise.

The little flutters of expectation stem from expecting a shipment of Beginnings at the End of the Road to arrive on my doorstep via Purolator. I might have been less anxious if I’d not received a week’s notice from the shipper. I know the books will be here in my hot little hands anytime within the next 24 hours.

Meanwhile, I liken this to waiting for a letter, not the window kind but the handwritten “how-are-you-doing” kind. No emojis, no text, no email, just a good old-fashioned letter, postcard or snappy greeting card from near or far.

To pass some time, I visited the www.ritewhileucan.com letter writing social down at the Good Earth coffee shop at Glenmore Landing, Calgary, Wednesday night. I was so keen to see this social in action I turned up on Tuesday evening, much to the barista’s amusement.

Typewriters sit on the empty tables waiting for the expected eight letter writers to show. It was a bitter night at -15C, plenty of new snow, and a modest wind. Chilly, as we say here, yet in they stamped, shaking off their boots, shedding coats, scarves and hats and taking up their station at the keyboard of choice, all supplied by Barb Marshall, the entrepreneur behind this endeavor.

To top it all off, I got lots of oohs and aahs when I showed off my fountain pen, crafted locally by Ralph Sears at http://www.justwriteink.ca. It’s a beautiful instrument and probably the only writing tool I use for notes and writing. It’s amazing to write with and so soft and comfortable in my hand. I have a matching roller ball version as well for field work.

Now I sit and wait and watch out the window for the big white van.
It’s like sitting round the Christmas tree seeing the eager faces of the little guys waiting for the next round of wrapping paper and color ribbons.

Ta Da

Big, bright and beautiful. A nice new banner to herald my new novel. Terrific artwork by Lois to fit the story. I’ll have an excerpt up as soon as I can figure out how to add it to this website. This banner was created by the designers at my publisher Westbow Press.

I’ve checked a few online stores and Beginnings (hardcover and paperback) is available online at Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Fishpond, Abebooks and MightyApe. Varying pricing. Not sure where the ebook is yet, but it will be available soon.

Dashing to the bookstore

I love calm sunny days. I love the warmth and the smell of the garden. This is how my new week should start out but instead I feel like the leaves on the lawn, tossed to and fro, up and down by the gusting winds. And today, buried under piles of fresh snow.

Silly isn’t it.

Front cover that includes artwork by my favourite person, Lois.

Woohoo! Beginnings at the End of the Road, my third novel  is now available in all online bookstores around the world (such as Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Fishpond and Barnes and Noble). I’m excited, nervous, pleased, tense and all that emotional stuff that goes with getting a new novel out on the street.

Whew! Been a long ride. I think of the family and friends who have helped with solid advice and encouragement. I mentioned to a good pal the other day that the writing is easy (ahem), the marketing tough, and paying the bills really, really rough. Within days the novel will be available in every online bookstore around the world. Amazing and scary that almost three years spent creating, drafting, editing, worry, stress, rewriting and enjoying the intricate and close fellowship of my characters will bloom in readers hands.

Ya-a-ay, I say. T’is done. And my publisher Westbow Press has it out in time for Black Friday, Christmas shopping, winter reading, and summer beach time.

Here’s a peek at the back cover blurb, that place we flip to for insight into what is contained in the 370 pages.

 Brandon Silverberry was an eleven-year-old stricken with polio when he rescued a man from drowning. Although it has been thirty years since the event, Brandon still remembers it like it was yesterday. When he receives an unexpected gift from the man, Brandon’s ordinary life as a master baker is turned upside down. Now he must undock from his stable, sheltered existence and discover the call this endowment has placed on his life.

Overwhelmed with a beautiful home, large property, and hefty bank account, Brandon does his best to adjust to a new life. Buoyed by God’s love and the indomitable spirit he gained during his years battling polio, Brandon vacillates between unexpected reality and memories of bullies, loss, and physical limitations. Now, as his journey leads him to meet a disparate group of characters all seeking to belong, Brandon’s life comes full circle as he realizes the inspirational symbolism behind a vintage bicycle.

More about all this when life comes back to normal.

 

Novel thrills

I thought about writing this entry a couple of days ago. It did not happen. Too much stuff in this wobbly brain of mine, like all this strange election babble, having a dog around the house for the first time in about two decades, and biggest of all, the surge of excitement and anxiety in having my new novel Beginnings at the End of the Road reaching a new milestone in the pathway to production. Oh, and one other, a visit to the dentist for a simple thing like a cleanup. Major anxiety!

Top excitement though is reserved for the book. I’ll hear in a couple of days about the cover blurb and I’ll post that heads up as to what the novel is all about. The actual design is then about three weeks away. I’ve submitted a painting Lois has created. We are keen to see what a book designer might do with that.

Man’s best friend

We’re having a good time with Dakota around the house. She is a bit needy and as we enter the second of her three-week stay, she shows all the signs of settling in to her temporary home. I’m accustomed to the new term of a doggy bag as we move around the yard or go for a walk. She follows me around everywhere, does what Lois tells her to do, and lets us know when she has to go outside. Dog people are familiar with all this stuff.

Golden gal and golden leaves.

This autumn weather is enjoyable, being out walking in the wind amongst the rustling leaves or raking up the yard. The air has a special claim on the senses and quietly prepares us for the months ahead. We move from deciding which tee shirt to wear to which coat or jacket is appropriate.

Laptop dog

As for the jolly old election, I just have to shake my head. I took the time to write to a dominant candidate in our riding expressing my dismay that as far as the media was concerned there only appeared to be half a dozen heads involved, ie nothing local. “Would I just hold my nose and let the pencil drop where it might on voting day?” I asked. My note did not solicit a candidate response. I asked about party vision for this amazing and diverse country. If there is one anywhere it has been lost in the barrage of point scoring. Enough about all that though. We’ll head over to the polling station, make our mark and see where all the rhetoric leads us.

A major highlight of the week came when our neighbour dropped over with a box of tomatoes from his garden. Man, were they ever delicious and so flavourful we will keep some seed and grow next season. I swapped him with a fresh as fresh loaf of my busy bread.

 

Dakota days

We have a dog!

Dakota’s arrival on our doorstep is the latest development around our place of a most exciting week. We’re into the fourth day with our four-legged friend and she seems to be settling into her new, and very temporary, digs. We do have to be careful where we step as she follows us everywhere, bathroom included. 

This hitherto outdoorsy dog in now a very indoorsy pal. The walled garden is not to her liking. She likes to let everyone know where she is, hidden in a gated landscape. When not snuffling round the lawns she sits on the back deck and woofs at pretty well anything that moves: cyclists, vehicles, pedestrians, school kids, dog walkers, and yes even leaves hustling along the roadway. 

I’m sure we’ll get used to her. She’s quite lovely to have around and has decided the best place for the night is on her cushion bed in a corner of our bedroom. 

Two birthdays — my 79th and granddaughter Veronica’s 30th — meshed with Thanksgiving festivities at the weekend. 

That exciting, companionable time followed Friday’s news that my new novel Beginnings at the End of the Road, is now in design phase. I expect more news from my publisher as soon as the end of this week.

And if all that is not enough excitement for this household, we see today the results of  our neighbour’s adventure into a total revamp of their street frontage. 

“OK, Dakota. I get it. Walk time!”

A trip to the city

The elderly lady stands outside the big glass door. Round and round it goes. One side in and one side out. Round and round. It’s new for her. How to negotiate such a beast? Better off crossing a field with a herd of steers than attempting this one.

She counts. One. Two. Three. She watches the briefcases enter the right-hand side and whisked into granite intimidation.

My, my, she thinks. A portal to a new world she has to penetrate. Is this for her? What is on the other side? Crossing over. A great divide; crossing over to the other side.

Through the darkened glass she sees a woman with a stroller negotiate the left side. The glass gate whirrs and she spills into the sunshine. Victorious. She smiles at the observer.

The elderly lady takes a massive breath and rises to her full 61 inches. She steps timidly into the gap, a whoosh of air, a whap, whap, and she stumbles into the high ceiling ogre’s castle. Glass and granite surround her. Suits, a briefcase in one hand and a coffee in the other, scurry across the polished tile floor.  Ants on the patio, she thinks. Her one-inch heels clack-clack as she makes her way to a large counter, centre stage underneath a giant wall of polished igneous rock emblazoned with an equally giant brass numeral 2. A burly 75-inch uniform stands behind the glass-cased counter. Moustache, unsmiling, bored, the mid-morning slump.

She clutches her leather handbag in two hands against her chest and walks over. He looks at her. She looks at him, smiles, and from her bag retrieves a large manila envelope. He spots the address and with his pudgy finger stabs at the glass. 1701, elevator 3. No words.

She stares at the aluminium-framed notice boards in this 25-story cavern of commerce. The moustache points left to the elevators Clack, clack, clack, and she stands in front of a closed, lightly buffed steel door. Lights blink and she hears the rush of air. The doors whisper apart, disgorging passengers. She waits, breathes in courage and steps across the line. Like moths to a flame, a multitude wedge her in the back corner. What next? She peers at the list of numbers and buttons on the wall by the door. She shows her envelope to the suit next to her. “17”, he calls.

Automatic doors clamp shut in a whisper. There’s a shudder and the elevator glides up. Red numbers flicker on a digital display above the entry. There’s a stop at “7”. Suits out and suits in. The same at “12”. She’s now tight in the corner. “17” flashes. The box stops, the entry gapes open. No movement. She can’t move.

“Me,” she squeaks.

Suits shuffle and a half a gap opens at her timid alert that she wants to disembark. She smiles at the suit who now keeps the door open as she hesitates, before stepping across the slit, conscious of the void beneath.

Another granite gallery. Glass doors to the left and glass doors to the right. Another wall-mounted aluminum framed board listing names and numbers. Where is 1701? She compares the name on the envelope. Elevator doors slide open behind her and a young man emerges pushing a mail cart. There’s no smile. But she does. Smiles always win, she reckons. She shows him the envelope, and he waves his hand to the right. “Through there,” he says.

Funny place, this she muses. Even my chickens say hello to me in the morning. I wonder what that young man’s future is? Here is moving envelopes from floor to floor, from one desk to another. I wonder if people thank him or smile?
She has difficulty hauling and holding the heavy glass door open while she slips through. She’s not as strong as she used to be. Farm life made her strong once, but now, not so much. In maybe half an hour she will complete the legal documentation of her late husband’s wishes, her daughter will take over the big farm and she’ll settle into a modest life in the new cottage nearby. She crosses the shiny floor and steps on to the carpet. Passageways to the left and the right. People coming and going. Papers in hand. Worried looks.

“May I help you,” a voice calls. She looks around and sees the black-dressed woman who has emerged from behind a wall.

The elderly lady smiles and shows her the manila envelope.

Name, date and time of appointment. It has taken her three hours by car, bus, and transit rail to reach this emporium of greatness. Her homeward journey to her rural home will take the same, if not more time. She smiles again at the elegant greeter.

“Oh, dear,” the black dress says, her finger on the time and date on the manila envelope.  “Oh, dear, I’m so sorry, but he’s not in today.”

 

 

 

Bookshelves that surprise

The best surprises come at the oddest of times and in unexpected places, like the washroom I spoke of in my previous blog. I gravitate towards the used book racks in out of the way places on the off chance I’ll find a gem. That happened in Kaeo, New Zealand. It’s a fascinating little town, so full of history and for the traveller a good place to snag a ubiquitous kiwi meat pie.  

My soon-to-be-published novel Beginnings at the End of the Road is the story of Brandon Silverberry, a baker turned gardener who listens to God and develops his estate lands to help others.  The heart of the story grows from Brandon’s teenage days as a polio sufferer.

Imagine the size of my smile when I spotted Over My Dead Body by June Opie at the back of a very colourful local knickknack store. It was an instant buy ($3.00 I recall) of this 1957 long out of print book with its mellowed pages by a young woman widely known because of her illness.

Ms. Opie spent her early life just an hour’s drive north of where I grew up. Her story chronicles her arrival in London from a sea voyage from New Zealand in the late 1950s only to end up in a London hospital paralyzed except for one eyelid. It’s a sobering, yet inspiring read.

We spent a lot of time up at the beach at Mokau earlier this year. It is a wonderful getaway place, miles of sandy beaches and rolling surf. The village features a small museum that houses a feature on Ms. Opie and her family. The family graves are prominent in the cemetery high on the cliff overlooking the sea.

The editing phase of Brandon was well underway by the time I got to read Over My Dead Body so it thrilled me to learn that my new book conveys the flavour of a polio sufferer’s fight. In January, while I waiting in the hospital for a blood test, I came across another booklet about the polio sufferers of my home province of Taranaki, We Can Do Anything, the work of Shirley Hazelwood, herself a polio sufferer. All good background.

Westbow Press will publish Beginnings at the End of The Road. I’m expecting the final editorial work back any week now. My author review will take a couple of weeks and then it goes into the design and production cycle. My hope and prayer are that we’ll see a brand new book for Christmas buying.

Memorable distraction

Distraction comes easy to me.

For the past 24 hours my head has been in a space I left some 66 years ago — my primary (elementary) school in New Plymouth, New Zealand.

By chance, I started clearing out some old papers while searching for a short story I’d written some years ago and which I figured might be worth updating, or at least seeing how my brain worked back then.

In this futile effort of finding the paper file, I uncovered a newspaper clipping of my classmates and boy, did I get a sudden brain rush of memory. I counted 42 kids in that class of 1953, our final year together before heading off to high school. I’d just turned 13 when the photo was taken and I realize now that I’d shared the previous eight years with most of the faces I saw. I could name each person without checking the caption.

At the end of that school year, we began the journey into our respective lives. The girls headed to their high school and the boys too theirs. We entered into different career streams and slowly the bonds of our preteen years faded. 

One face stands out in the back row. He did not make it to high school. He and I had planned to meet on the corner and cycle to the big intimidating school together. We had it planned, but sadly a couple of days before he was electrocuted by an electric drill, making a milkshake I recall.

By chance, I did meet up with a couple of these guys earlier this year during my extended holiday in the old home town. The thrill of contact fades as fast as conversation drops over the cliff of “what have you been up to?” Sixty-odd years cannot be covered in that opener. After all, my career took me away from New Plymouth in 1969. I returned there for four years in the 1980s and since then there have only been irregular family-style vacations.

My memory names our teachers, the good folk who piloted us through the basics of learning: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, as they say. The time they spent with us in the classroom and on the sports field. The fund-raising days too, like the penny (it was about the six of a loony) drive we had to line up the coins each day around the perimeter of the netball court; of delivering crates of half-pint milk to each child in each classroom.

I’m left to wonder now where each of us is and where the adventures of life have taken each one of us.

The last laugh

Two days ago I took the bold step of discouraging our resident red squirrel from his single-track connection between his house under the writing studio to the fallout area beneath the bird feeder.

Lois and I had tried several different combinations to divert young Harrison and encourage alternate routes to prevent the highway in the lawn. He was not persuaded and remained laser-like in his quest to stock the winter larder with maybe a hundred or more trips a day.

Yesterday I staked his pathway with bright yellow caution tape. He kept an eye on the whole operation from the nearby oak. Once I’d completed the rudimentary barrier, he bounced across the grass and inspected the new barrier to food. I sighed that smile of victory when I saw him take the long route, across a couple of gardens, patio stones and back again. He sure is busy. And all day long.

Digressing a second here, the blocked highway was the same one Henrietta (his mother, I presume) used over the past five years. Henrietta is not with us this year. I assume Harrison is male simply because there is no visible sign of motherhood — yet. I must say that our experience with these critters is for the most part positive. They aggressively banish the twice-the-size black and grey squirrels who dare to stop by for a free feed.

Back to my story. Imagine our surprise this afternoon as we note the faint beginnings of a parallel track forming one foot south from the caution tape.

Oh well.

Beginnings

I’ve emerged from a very long hibernation.

Man has it ever been a long sleep. With renewed effort and purpose, I re-establish myself here. The new drive results from a brain burp (subarachnoid haemorrhage) right at Christmas. This was scary and put the final edit of my new novel back a few months while extending our five-week holiday in New Zealand to almost five months. Now, we could think the downside to this was doctors, hospitals, pills, and headaches.Oops. Waking in hospital, December 23, 2018 Nah! The care and attention I received from lab to radiology, online reports, next day mail reports, and follow-up phone calls were the best I have ever experienced. In between all this, Lois and I enjoyed family and friends, sunshine, beaches, surf, parks, gardens, fresh fruit and direct from the garden vegetables. Not bad, eh? Idle time in the sun on the back lawn or on the hot sandy beaches gave me a great tan enhanced now with a second summer back in sunny (most days) Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Two weeks ago, I completed my third novel (see My Books), and the 112,000-word manuscript is now in the editorial section of my publisher Westbow Press. In about eight weeks, I’ll get to read what they think of it and what revisions it will need.

The website gained my full attention this week as I recreated it with a simple, clean look that I might stay abreast of my technical abilities and keep it interesting.

A wasp sting promoted the sad task of whacking two in-ground nests, one under the clothesline and one too close to the waste bins. This is sad work, as these busy fellows are useful allies in keeping the aphid population within reason. Foam spray did not do the trick. The City of Calgary website suggested soapy water and a dump of soil. Yep, that works, but on one nest it has taken three attempts to bomb these critters. It must have been a big nest.

My new novel is Beginnings At The End of The Road. Brandon Silverberry’s life changed forever as the result of an unexpected gift of startling proportions. He moves from his sheltered and stable life as a baker and discovers what this endowment puts on his life. His teenage years with polio provide him with an indomitable spirit he learns daily to share with others. It is a warm-hearted tale of characters stumbling upon that elusive sense of belonging.

And it is all because of a bicycle.