This river is wild…

Or if not wild, certainly rising. Keeping a close watch, given the heavy flooding Calgary and other places on the Bow experienced a few years ago.

I like this truck!

As spring turns to summer, or as we skip spring for summer – tornado warnings/sightings, and gajillions of mosquitos being my prime evidence – I’m putting together the dreaded OldPlaidCamper road trip mix tape. Just to be clear, and for the record, Mrs. PlaidCamper has excellent musical taste, and a remarkable ability to fall asleep in the car when my mix tape is up next. That might be one of the rock solid foundations of a successful road trip…

You might be asking Why the bit about the river, and then the bit about mix tapes? Good question! This River is Wild is a track on the Sam’s Town album by The Killers. I like the album, and I like the track, and it has popped up in my head each time I’ve crossed the Bow this past week and seen the surging waters. Yup, I’ve got a fairly empty head most mornings, and this is what fills it – plans for a road trip mix tape.

That Killers track! I do enjoy their wailing histrionics, in small doses. You can’t fault them for effort, and the albums Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town include killer, haha, tracks. If you’re interested, follow the link for a live version – I prefer the studio version, but couldn’t find a link – The Killers – This River is Wild 

I like this truck as well!

On my little walks around Sunnyside, in between downpours and battling the bloodsucking bugs, I’ve stumbled across some more old trucks and snapped a few pictures. Old trucks always get me thinking about road trips and wide open spaces. The sad truth is, if I owned a cool old truck and was responsible for the maintenance, our road trips would be short. We’d see lots of verges, and be on first name terms with tow truck owners. Sadly, I can only look and dream when it comes to older trucks (or I could learn to be a mechanic – don’t let Mrs PC read that last part, she’s seen me fix and build…)

I really, really like this one!

Oh summer, I can almost see you there, just a little way ahead, and around the next turn! Here’s hoping the river isn’t too wild, the road is long and open, and an as yet unknown distant (wealthy) relative decides to lend me an old truck on permanent loan…

Thanks for reading. Keeping it short this week – mix tape planning can take a lot of time, you know – I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and please feel free to share a road trip song suggestion!

And I like this one!

Our urban nature

Another post connected to our recent Vancouver trip – the last in a short and unplanned series! A piece including vague thoughts and mumblings about urban environments, as well as photographs showing Vancouver is quite lovely if you have to spend time in a city.DSCF4824

The outdoor education conference and time we spent in Vancouver has really got me thinking about cities and the natural world. More and more humans will be living in urban centres, and the trend towards huge cities with fast paced population growth is set for the next 50-100 years according to speakers at the conference.

This leaves me in two (or more) minds. If most humans live in cities, does this mean the spaces in between will be left alone? Probably not. Will mass exits on weekends, high days and holidays be the norm? Vast roads cutting into “wilderness” areas, creating problems of crowding and spoiling the character of these wild places? (I admit I’m exactly one of those city dwellers heading out whenever possible to play in the big outdoors…) Or will people stay inside the city, leaving large expanses outside to be farmed organically and ethically, with other areas left to develop as wild spaces? So many questions…IMG_20170418_133717

Clearly, I should stick to teaching and let others be futurologists. I have woolly (but friendly) notions about how our planet could be a greener place, and how we could manage the apparent conflict and contradictions between urban needs and a healthy, vibrant environment in and out of cities.

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Making concrete interesting? They tried…

I daydream about a future where citizens love their city, they frequent large natural spaces in the city, and make visits – long and short – into the surrounding countryside and wilderness. They meet the food producers growing and rearing wonderful produce. They hike and camp (leaving no trace, always showing consideration for flora, fauna, and fellow campers/hikers…) and paddle and fish, and paint and photograph and play and then I stop daydreaming because all I want to do is head out there when I’ve a mountain of paperwork to do, report cards to write, and data to produce to prove students might be learning things I’m teaching. Phew, run on sentence. Easy there, old boy. How early can an early retirement be? That’s another daydream. I’m often amazed I get much of anything done at all.

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Well, if you have to live in a city…

Focus, PlaidCamper, focus. Cities shouldn’t be ugly or difficult places to live in. Housing, transportation, education, recreation and healthcare should be available and affordable. Vancouver, like other cities, scores well in some, but not all, of these measures. Like other perceived as desirable cities, it is an expensive yet beautiful location. The beauty and economic opportunity draws people to the city, and this in turn increases pressure on services and raises prices. What is the solution? Can we reverse the inflow to cities? What will it mean if more people elect to live and work outside cities? Can we find positive and better than sustainable ways to dwell in wilder areas? Do people wish to live away from cities?  Will I stop typing questions?

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Could you lower a rope please?

As I said at the start, these are a few of the thoughts (or daydreams) and questions that have been bouncing around in my head the past week or so. Pleasant environments nurture and encourage pleasant citizens. Care about the local, and you’ll treasure the global, city dweller or not. Oh, woolly old me…

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I could be tempted

Thanks for reading, feel free to chip in with a thought or two, and have a wonderful weekend!

The case for colour!

Last week, it was all about grey (In defence of grey…), and I mentioned that I’d put in some colourful photographs this week. True to my word, and because time has been tight once more, here is a brief post with a few brighter pictures from our recent west coast trip. (In defence of grey? The case for colour? Next week, PlaidCamper pleads guilty to the charge of failing to pay due care and attention to post titles…)

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I love looking out this way!
I have to say that the west coast is a place I’m happy to hang about whatever the weather, or at least in the conditions we’ve been lucky enough to experience. Haven’t witnessed a true fall/winter storm there, but maybe one day…

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A favourite place to sit and drink coffee, and stare and stare…
For our recent trip, we were in rain jackets, then shirtsleeves, then back to a jacket with a toque up top – and often all in the same hour! It was very refreshing, and a pleasantly mild contrast to the mountain/prairie winter weather in and around Calgary.

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Mild! (We’ll see these in Calgary as June approaches!)
Pottering about in Ucluelet and Tofino, and wandering up and down quiet beaches gave us time to breathe in and out deeply and slowly. Overcast or bright, rain or shine, this little corner of western Canada is wild and wonderful – a positive Pacific mood enhancer!

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Mood enhancer
It was only a couple of weeks ago we were there, but the call of the Clayoquot region is hard to ignore. Maybe we’ll head back in the summer…

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Ucluelet Small Craft Harbour
As always, thank you for taking the time to read this, and have a wonderful (and colourful) weekend!DSCF4607

DSCF4610PS In need of a Tofino fix? Head over to Welcome to Tofino Photography where the photographs will amaze and delight you. Go on, you’ll be glad you did!

 

In defence of grey…

Grey can get a bad rap. Colourless, dreary, my hair when it was there. Really – and you might think I’m biased being a bit of an old greybeard – as we slowly transition (up here, anyway) from winter to spring, grey is pretty cool. I know we can get impatient this time of year for some bright colour, but let’s show some appreciation for grey…

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Pretty grey, and pretty cool.
I’ll keep it very brief – when you’re getting a little grey, focus can be a problem – and post a few grey pictures from our short west coast trip last week.

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Island grey
We spent most of our time in Ucluelet and Tofino, and the beaches between. The sun was sometimes out (perhaps I’ll post colourful pictures next week as a contrast?), but even when clouds and rain rolled in, the views were lovely. Or so we thought.

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Maritime grey?
A few days unwinding on the wild side of Vancouver Island was just what the doctor ordered. Dr. PlaidCamper knows what is necessary to keep a grey PlaidCamper right in his head – get him out of the city, if only for a short while. And an old PlaidCamper knows he should listen and take his medicine.

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Adventurous grey! Better than medicine…
Grey is cool. It’s the new not quite black, and oddly perfect for restoring positive mental health. What do you think, is a little grey really so bad? Probably not…

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Soothing grey?
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend, whatever the colour!

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Moody grey (quite a good mood!)

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PNW coastal grey

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What’s with this guy and all the grey? Look at me strut – black is the new grey…

A gift…

…that we received way back in the summer, and I’ve been saving to share this week.

When I wrote about some of our wonderful summer highlights, I deliberately left this one out, wanting to write about it in the depths of winter, close to the solstice and this time of seasonal sharing.

One July evening, we met up with friend and fellow blogger Wayne, as he had kindly offered to take us along on one of his evening shoots. If you haven’t seen Wayne’s work, then head over to Welcome to Tofino Photography – you won’t be sorry!

dscn6902Wayne was patient as his two “helpers” assisted with moving his Zodiac from the boat shed and down onto the water. I suspect it is all rather easier without our assistance…

dscn6914A new boat for Wayne, it’s maiden voyage under new ownership, everything was fine until it started shipping a little water. Problem solver that he is, Wayne soon realigned the outboard motor to prevent any further water intake, and I stopped eyeing the distance to shore and fiddling with the lifejacket.

dscn6921What an absolute thrill it is to be skimming across the waves (when the swell or waves are light – the choppier water gave our nether regions an unspeakable pounding), zooming up and down channels, past rocky islets on the lookout for wildlife in, on, by and above the water.

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Taken earlier in the day – inner child heaven

Seeing and hearing a floatplane take off and fly overhead from on the water made this little boy laugh. Is it a buzzing, droning, whirring or roaring engine? Maybe all of the above. I love it. Most of us don’t see and hear that everyday.

dscn6923-version-2The further we travelled from Tofino, the fewer signs of human habitation we saw. Salmon farms, a houseboat or two, the occasional dwelling on the edge, and a few boats plying the waters. When the engine was cut and we drifted, gently bobbing up and down, the near silence was magical. A breath of wind, a small splash or two, and it was perfect.

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Remote – fine beer in a fine location, so tranquil – thanks for humouring me, Wayne!

I don’t know the waters, but I have a chart, and the names are evocative. Deadman Islets – now there’s a story, surely? Ask Wayne… What about Strawberry Island?

imageWhat a place to explore! Fortune Channel? Indeed. What a trip we had. Along Browning Passage, through the Tsapee Narrows, past Warne Island, into Gunner Inlet, and being tranquil all the way, this was a fine evening.  Experienced and with an eagle eye, Wayne was quick to spot wildlife. We saw some harbour seals, a few bears, including a mama and clambering cub (so beautiful), and breathtaking landscapes and cloudscapes in the fading light.

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Just caught a shot of the cub – I was so excited! (Mum is disappearing on the left…)

We stopped in Gunner Inlet for a few minutes – snack time – and I’ll never forget the peace we experienced there. The silence carries weight, but it isn’t oppressive. Wild and remote, a gift within a gift.

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Full zoom from the Zodiac, and close enough for me – magnificent!

I’ll keep this short, and let the photographs convey some small measure of our wonderful evening. Wayne is a modest man, preferring to be behind the camera, but I’ll thank him publicly here for what was an exceptional adventure. Thanks again, Wayne! Go check his website! (Allow some time for this, because you won’t want to leave…)

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Quiet

A summer highlight as we cross the winter solstice and start to move towards longer days and what I hope is the promise of further adventure for us all.

Thanks for reading, and all the best for the holiday season!dscn6936

Midweek movies and music

The thread through this post is a little frayed, and a bit twisted – less thread and more like an old cassette tape that has unwound from the spool – but there is a line…

One thing leads to another, if I can borrow an old lyric. Where to begin? A splendid piece, Monster Blues and Salmon, Too, by Walt over at RivertopRambles was the starting gun – it got me thinking and following movies and music along a winding trail. A long and winding (oh stop it, PlaidCamper! Or get your own lyrics…) Walt linked to a video (you can go watch and listen to it at the link above) that had me jumping down a musical rabbit hole, chasing old memories and digging out old albums.

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(courtesy: Springsteen.net)

The Big Head Blues Club pointed me to John Lee Hooker, I took a detour with Van Morrison, and ended up traveling through Springsteen’s Nebraska. I heard and found echoes and traces of all these and more after Walt’s blues pulled the musical trigger. Hanging  out in Nebraska got me back to the Terrence Malick movie Badlands, and that reminded me I was planning to watch Malick’s Days of Heaven. So I did.

What an astonishing movie! Set in 1916, it is a rural drama played out in the fields of the Texas panhandle. Murder, loyalty, poverty, identity, family breakdown, and the threat of industrial scale farming production are some of the themes in the mix. If that doesn’t appeal, don’t be put off, simply watch the movie as a series of painterly scenes. And Brooke Adams, Richard Gere, and Sam Shepard are all quite pretty.

The  actual story is slight, fairly conventional, and the dialogue is rather stilted and spare. Fortunately, what overrides the plot and dialogue deficiencies is the voiceover delivered by the most interesting character, a teenage girl played by Linda Manz. Sometimes I find voiceovers irritating; it can seem as though the movie is unable tell a story effectively without a clunky voiceover explaining everything. The voiceover in Days of Heaven is exceptional. It reveals the real story in the movie, told almost in parallel to the events unfolding on screen, and the commentary presents the most affecting point of view.

Days of Heaven is beautiful, with frame after frame of striking images. For the look of the film, Malick was inspired by Edward Hopper, and if Hopper had ever made a movie, it might have looked something like Days of Heaven. The house in the movie was built as a set based on the painting below:

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House by the Railroad, 1925 Edward Hopper (courtesy EdwardHopper.net)

Malick’s aim was to shoot in natural light, which he mostly did and with striking results – the harvest scenes are breathtaking. The cinematographer, Nestor Almendros, won an Oscar for his lighting.

As I was watching, the natural lighting had me thinking about The Revenant, how that was filmed in a similar way, in natural light at the start and end of the day. I’m such a nerd – some quick research revealed the production designer, Jack Fisk, worked on both movies. The cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won an Oscar for his work on The Revenant. I ended up watching The Revenant again, wanting to see and compare the cinematography. What a nerd, but what a delightful landscape-heavy double feature. Shot in different seasons, and forty years apart, both movies were made (in part) in Alberta. Oh the winter grandeur of the mountains, and the late summer beauty of the rolling prairies.

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Days of PlaidCampers. Rarely seen. Shot in Montana. Beautiful lighting. Lost plot.

What a wonderful music and movie journey I ended up taking. OK, so it was through an iPad screen, and the hour got exceptionally late, but it was as close to being out of the city as I could get midweek.

There you have it. I’m not so sure I’ve managed to wind the cassette tape back onto the spool, but the music and movie trip was good for me (and for Mrs PC – she didn’t have to listen to me complaining about my nature deficit – and she seems to like my noise cancelling headphones even more than I do. Apparently they really work…)

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Good for your health – winter playtime is near!

Little end note tangent: I stayed up late and watched movies because I didn’t have “real” work the next day. Instead of teaching, I attended a workshop designed to promote positive mental health in students (and teachers) – I was a little drowsy later in the day – and one repeated theme was about being outdoors and/or in natural environments and having time to play.

The profile of the class I’m teaching this year includes many students with a mental health diagnosis, and there are several others with mental health problems. It’s quite the challenge in our communities these days, and, sad to say, increasingly prevalent amongst our young people…

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Fundamental…

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I firmly believe that being outdoors and involved in the natural world has a fundamental part to play in maintaining good (mental) health. We are better human beings as a result. In that spirit, we are planning on being out in the mountains and on the slopes this coming weekend. Winter playtime!

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story, a music or movie recommendation, or a tip for positive mental health, and have a wonderful weekend! If you are in the USA, or from the USA, and you celebrate, I hope you are enjoying a happy Thanksgiving.

Another little end note: to meet the overwhelming demand (erm, one request) the butternut and black bean chilli recipe will be included next week – there was no need (or demand, PlaidCamper) to squeeze in more squash after last week…

Loose connections

I’ve always had a few of those…

I was sat on the C train this morning, the lazy part of my route to work where, for seven minutes between the walk each end – yup, I’ve timed it – I stare out the window and sometimes come up with a plan for what to write about. Sometimes inspiration strikes, and sometimes the mind wanders.

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Made in Dusseldorf

I like the old trains better than the new trains that are being phased in, even though the new carriages are shiny, and rattle and squeak free. The old ones were made in Dusseldorf, and for a onetime European there’s something satisfying about the low-tech solidity of the old school cars. Being busy not getting any younger, I find myself liking old stuff more and more. And sometimes my mind wanders.

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Old movie house – what’s playing?

Standing at the urinal in an old movie house last week (this is all true, and it is ok to read on, honest) I was entertained by all the movie posters plastered onto the walls. Interesting wallpaper. One that particularly caught my eye (it was straight ahead and at eye level – good etiquette suggests you shouldn’t let your eyes wander too far in this situation) was for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven. I have to confess that I’ve never seen this movie but always wanted to. I have seen Malick’s Badlands, and it is one of my favourites.

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From a car

A somewhat grisly heartland road trip, featuring two young criminals/serial killers on the run, Badlands is a haunting/disturbing tone poem. Made in 1973, it is, despite the description I’ve just offered, a quite beautiful film. And what a cast! Sissy Spacek, Martin Sheen, and Warren Oates. (Warren Oates! His face, and his world weary persona, they are made to be seen on the big screen. Etched and interesting. Have you seen Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia? Yikes. Weird isn’t even close, but Warren Oates inhabits his role!) Sometimes, I miss the 1970s.

Getting back to Badlands, I first saw it on TV back when I was an impressionable thirteen year old. I don’t think I should have been watching it, but Ma PlaidCamper was a bit of a Martin Sheen fan, and so transfixed that she didn’t notice me sat there. I was mesmerized by the nature of the movie – in an environmental sense, and in how it was made. An American road trip movie with cool cars, crime, lots of fields, small towns, roadside billboards, and a nihilistic Sheen in a jean jacket smoking a cigarette. Well, how could that impressionable boy resist? Maybe I’ll watch a double feature this coming weekend – Days of Heaven and Badlands

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Cool (I like old stuff – not that this is that old)

We weren’t at the old movie house to watch an old movie. A friend was playing with her band Magnolia Buckskin – that’s a cool name, huh? It was a benefit gig to raise money to support a village in Nepal, a place rebuilding and picking up the pieces after the earthquake in 2015. As usual, Kathy and her musician buddies put on a great show. One of their songs, Edge of the Waterappeals because aside from the wonderful playing and vocal harmonies, they sing about how being at the foot of the mountain or edge of the water is to “be a part of something bigger than me…” Hard to argue with that – we are fortunate to lead the lives we do.

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At the edge of the water

I think we might have to put the double feature on hold. Weather permitting, and highways being open, we’re planning a short road trip up to Jasper, and an escape from election fever. Or is it election fatigue? (I’m mystified that there is even a doubt in this particular race. One candidate is a misogynist and xenophobe, and that information there is enough to make a sensible decision…but I’ll stop, because although the result does have an impact on our lives, it’s not our election. Back to the road trip!)

The route is one of our favourites by car, full of scenery that’ll make you feel small yet part of something bigger than ourselves. Some Magnolia Buckskin for the soundtrack, no cigarettes, won’t carry a gun, we’re not on the run, and nihilism doesn’t appeal, but I wonder?  Can I still squeeze into that old jean jacket? Might be a few loose buttons to go with these loose connections. I’m losing the thread. What was I saying? Imagine if my train journey was longer than seven minutes…

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At the foot of the mountain

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share a story, or a movie or soundtrack recommendation, and have a wonderful weekend!image-1