Bears, Bears, Bears

My summer of bears started in June on our first camping trip. With my companions, Taz, the Jack Russell,and Scruff, the Schweenie, I had headed out for a walk, first among the cabins and then out into the sand hills. There was no need to take my phone, except if I had, I’d have gotten the calls and texts warning me of the big black bear that was wandering the edge of the lake, too. Oblivious, the dogs and I continued on until the park caretaker picked us up and drove us back to the camper in his side-by-side. I never saw the bear.
.Miette Hot Springs is in Fiddle Valley in Jasper National Park so it’s no surprise that bears wander into the resort. My son and his kids were in a cabin near us and he saw the bear while lying on his bed when he glanced into a mirror in the bedroom. I didn’t answer his text so he came right over, in case I took the dogs out for their morning constitutional and I ran into Mr. Bear.

In July, we were at Pierce Lake in Saskatchewan. A sow and four cubs had been in the vicinity so I was careful on the dog walks. So was the Jack Russell, a 12 pound bunch of spastic muscle. She smelled something and raced off, jerking me off balance. I tangled in the other dog’s leash. Yup, I fell hard and a week later still have a skinned knee. To Taz’s credit, I could hear crashing in the bushes. Was it a bear? It could have been, but it could have been a moose or deer.

On our next walk, a car stopped and the young man driving said, “You won’t remember me but…”

I said, “Kevin.”

Not a twelve year old kid, any more but I did know we’d camped and played ball with him years ago.

He had stopped to warn me about the bear. We chatted and he drove on. Not twenty feet up the road, I saw her. She was a big black bear and thin. Looking after four cubs will do that to you. I’d like to say the dogs and I turned and walked calmly away. I didn’t. I turned and ran and the dogs who didn’t see the bear thought what fun it was.

Later, Gary drove me “up the hill” to try and get cell phone service. From the truck, we spotted one of the cubs. It looked sleek, healthy and well fed.

Yesterday, we packed up and headed home. On the highway, a young bear started out of the ditch into our path but luckily changed his mind.

It’s still July. The bears this year seem active and in territories where they are more rare. Be alert. If you hear cracking branches in the bush, it could be a bear. Be safe.

Ondontophobia- or the Gold Capped Tooth

Half of one of my upper molars calved off the main tooth like ice crashing from an glacier. I saved the piece, only to have one of the dogs eat it. Now there was nothing to show the dentist.

With reluctance I made the appointment to crown the tooth and save it. A lot of reluctance. Getting any dental service gives me anxiety. It’s having someone’s else’s hand in your mouth, the very real danger of pain, and the whine of the drill. I am a coward.

When the dentist said that next time she’d do a crown prep, I was relieved and as a basic chicken didn’t ask what was involved. I let myself imagine a little examination, some thoughtful grunts, and maybe a mold of the tooth so a crown could be fitted.

The day of the prep arrived. I sat back in the chair with confidence until the dentist said, “We’ll just freeze it and then apply the rubber dam.

Wait. NO! I thought this was going to be a looky-loo. I opened my mouth because what could I do? I was lying with my head below my feet; too late to make a break for it.

Sort of like this…

The needle for freezing didn’t hurt, the rubber damn was on but uncomfortable because my mouth is small (some people will laugh). So far, so good.

“I’m just going to take out the old filling,” said the dentist, taking up the DRILL. Again, I am screaming, NO, inside. She began to drill, and drill and drill and drill. It was as though she was filing down an iceberg. The drilling went on forever…did it hurt? No, but I hated every second.

When I thought she was finally done, she said, “Now I’ll just polish the edges.” She used a different instrument of torture AND it wailed.

At last the procedure was close to finished, the dam was off, and I could explore my tooth. I wanted to cry. All that was left was a little cubic stub. When I’d gone in, there was a whole half tooth.

A temporary crown was made and fitted which involved more drilling and polishing. Gah…

I have scheduled the appointment to have the permanent gold crown put on. Did I ask what was involved in that procedure? I DID NOT. I am a coward, a sufferer of ondontophobia and I will pretend I’ve done the worst part. I’m only a little traumatized.

Packin’ ‘er In

The time has come. I’m done with school and there is a segment of the local population saying, “What?? I thought she died.” They belong to the group that was amazed a few years ago to see that I was still ambulatory. I don’t take the decision lightly and these last years, I have done sporadic subbing except for the month in October where I taught science in an on-line/fax/phone method. It isn’t for me, and although I appreciated the experience, living breathing bodies in the same room, is the way I like it.

I’ve been in schools since blackboards morphed to green and were then replaced by smart boards. Skirts or dresses were the order of the day- no pants and men had to show up in suits or sports jackets. Computers? My husband and I ordered a calculator from Sears (now defunct) and argued about whose turn it was to use it. No LCD and no floating decimal. And it cost us an exorbitant $69.99.

The time has come. To tell the truth, I’ve got so many other things to occupy me, that I haven’t missed teaching. Other perks are sleeping later, having the weekend extend all week, and sitting around in my housecoat, if that’s what I feel like. If a friend calls (please, do), I don’t worry about work interfering with a coffee date.

I think I like it. Sweet.

WTF? Language Warning

At a recent trip to the bookstore, I was astounded by the number of titles that include the word fuck. Among the offerings were:

  1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
  2. What the Fuck Should I Make For Dinner?
  3. Calm the Fuck Down
  4. Go Fuck Yourself, I’m Colouring

and the classic, Go the Fuck to Sleep, from 2011.

When Walter, the Farting Dog came out, I thought it was quite daring. And having said this, I have to confess to dropping my own f-bombs. Under certain circumstances, they change nothing, but sometimes I feel better after a good old Anglo-Saxon curse.

Now in my more mellow years, I am trying to use better vocabulary, even when frustrated. I strive to swear less and it looks like once again, I’m missing the chance to be trendy.

Book titles with fuck abound. I read an article that suggested a book with the f-word in the title was sure to be a best seller. I think that’s a stretch but it’s likely tempting.

I realize it’s 2019 and hard to encourage kids to read in the old-fashioned way from physical books. The same bookstore (and it was a Cole’s; so few independents remain) featured an array of titles for toddlers, kids, and young adults. However, their section wasn’t featured in the same way AND the fuck books had prominent places in several displays. I’m not prudish but it did make me wonder what Mom or Dad would say, when in all innocence, a child asks, “Why does that book say fuck? That’s a bad word.”

I’m kind of with the kid. It is a bad word and if it totally loses its shock value, what will I do when I drop the ketchup and it splatters everywhere? Sacre bleu.

A Close Call

Ice has broken up on the Battle River

Winter’s hold on us has broken. To celebrate we took the dogs (Scruff and Taz) to the nearby river park for some off-leash fun. There’s nothing to excite a Jack Russell more than a chance to race about catching the scent of wildlife. We were expecting a brave gopher; they have been sighted elsewhere or perhaps some geese. On the way down there was even a bald eagle in full plumage.

We were partway on our usual route when Gary (my husband) yelled.


We had lost sight of Taz (the Jack) and then saw her on the other side of a willow clump.

Gary yelled, “There a porcupine in there. COME BACK.”

The lucky thing is although our two dogs didn’t come back, neither did they further trap the porcupine who was hiding at the base of the willow. Perhaps he had intended to climb and get out of the dogs’ way. The frightening thing is if Taz had gotten too close, he’d have defended himself and she’d have had a face full of quills. The dogs hesitated long enough for us to catch up and carry them away. The walk ended with some “chase the frisbee.”

Thank goodness for Gary’s sharp, old naturalist eyes (or maybe it’s hunter eyes). There were no quills today.

If you look closely, you might be able to see the stripped bark where the porcupine dined this winter.

A bit of nostalgia lives

Once upon a time, many years ago, a girl on the Alberta prairies went to a one-roomed country school. The students ranged from grades one to nine and the instruction was old-time, structured, and she loved it. Once she was in grade three or four, the hated “fat” pencil was discarded and she began cursive writing using, gasp, a straight pen and ink from a bottle in the inkwell of the desk. Writing was serious and practice consisted of a series of patterns used in cursive and then more practice using the patterns in letters.

I was, of course, that girl and the straight pen and ink were a challenge. My fingers were splotched in blue-black ink, the nib on the straight pen would catch on the paper and my penmanship featured ink spatter more often than not. After I achieved a certain competency, I could use a fountain pen (ballpoints weren’t invented until the sixties when it was debated whether students should be permitted the use of these new-fangled instruments.).

Blue-black ink is so un-inspiring. I remember the day, (in Morgan’s department store of our small town) that I saw the South Sea Blue ink by Waterman on the shelf with the ordinary ink. It was beautiful. A rich, turquoise green, a colour I didn’t see in nature until years later when I saw the Caribbean. My mother bought it for me. I can imagine the horror that my teacher felt when she saw the new ink. It would have been an affront to her sense of order and the way things should be done.

All these years later, I saw a bottle of the ink in an antique store. I pointed it out to my son but when we looked at it, alas, the ink had dried away.

Fast forward to Christmas morning, 2018. My gift? A fountain pen and South Sea Blue Ink- now known as Inspired Blue but it is the same beautiful turquoise. Nostalgia complete.

It seems I’m not that much of a nerd. Like many older technologies, fountain pens are enjoying an resurgence in popularity. A lot of the aficionados are my vintage but there are young people, too, who have been drawn to this writing instrument.

Fiction Friday – Dead on the Page

I wrote this last year to enter in the Alberta Retired Teachers Writing Contest. It wasn’t a winner, not even a runner up but I still like it. Rivalry can raise its nasty head without warning.

Dead on the Page


Ellen reads the group another long-winded piece. Beverley yawns behind a discrete hand at the story’s stream of unconsciousness and Carol thinks it’s no wonder that she couldn’t handle The Dubliners.

“What do you think?” asks Ellen. Carol tries to remember anything she can comment on. Wool-gathering, out-of-body experience, whatever she labels it, she missed the last third of the story.

“On page two…” Bruce, the token male and former high school English teacher, starts to address the errors in spelling, grammar and word usage.

“Give it a rest, Bruce.” Charlene’s grammar slips sometimes and she’s done with Bruce and his nit-picking. Half the time, he doesn’t even bring writing to the Seriously Scribes monthly meeting.

Beverley and Charlene make a few desultory comments. Carol pretends to review the story, turning a page here and there.

“This might be your best story, yet. You should submit it to Grain,” she lies.

Carol can’t wait for the others to be done. She has an announcement.

“Bruce, your turn,” says Ellen. He is on her left and once the first reader is established, they go round the table clockwise. Bruce reddens and reaches for his coffee.

“I was too busy to write anything new,” he says. “Next month, for sure.”

Charlene distributes copies of her new poetry to everyone.

Carol presses her lips against the looming yawn. Charlene’s poetry is as pedantic and fussy as the cats that appear in her nature odes. Carol imagines Wordsworth twitching in his grave.

“I like the internal rhyme in the second verse,” Bruce says. “Have you considered echoing it throughout?”

Charlene looks over the top of her reading glasses at him.


Her voice is flat. She knows that her poems aren’t original but she writes them for herself and harbours no elaborate fantasies about becoming the next Margaret Atwood.

Carol says, “I like the imagery. That’s your forte and it comes through so well in the last verse.”

She likes Charlene and admires her work ethic. Carol knows that none of the poems come to Charlene easily; she recognizes her shortcomings but every time the Seriously Scribes meet, Charlene has new work. That, in itself, is admirable.

Carol looks at Beverley.

“How’s that fourth chapter coming?” she asks.

Beverley sighs.

“I’m not sure,” she says. “I changed the scene order and I dropped some dialogue.” She passes out copies of the chapter re-write.

Carol can’t recall how many times Beverley has re-written chapter four. If the group had any integrity, they’d tell Beverley to let it go. Some novels are dead on the page.

They suffer for twenty minutes of the new order and tightened dialogue but the chapter still doesn’t work.

Charlene says, “I like this new approach but don’t we have to know why Olivia hates Norman? Did you delete that part?”

Good for Charlene. She does pay attention and tries to help every member of the group.

Beverley’s eyes blur with unshed tears.

“You’re right,” she says. “I didn’t even notice. I tried so hard to get the wording right. I worked at this all month.” Her lower lip trembles.

“The rest is well written and moves the story along,” says Ellen.

Beverley just says, “I’ll work on it some more.”

Carol knows that the sad thing is, she will but the new version will have new problems.

Ellen turns to Carol.

“What have you got?” she asks.

Carol laughs and with a flourish pulls a sheet from her folder.

“They accepted it,” she cries.

Her triumphant announcement meets a confused silence. The coffee shop where they meet is small and just then the grinding of the latte machine precludes speaking. It goes on for several minutes while Carol sits, annoyed. She is not competing with a coffee maker when she has something so momentous to share.

When the noise quiets to the normal hum of voices, Carol begins.

Dear Carol,” she reads.

My staff has completed the review of “Dark Secrets.” I am pleased to inform you that we think your work would make a positive addition to our Donahue Publishing list of titles.

To begin the process of publishing your book with us, I have passed your file on to …

Carol continues to the end of the letter and waits for the accolades to begin. Nothing. Don’t they get it? Didn’t they hear? Donahue is going to publish her mystery.

Each Serious Scribe has a different expression; not one of them looks joyful.

“I will mention each of you by name on the acknowledgements page,” Carol continues. She considers that a great honour.

“You didn’t tell us you were writing a novel.” Beverley’s tone is accusatory. “I’ve been working so hard at mine and you didn’t even hint at a novel in the works?”

Ellen isn’t happy.

“I have worked on my short story collection for five years now,” she says. “And you’re being published?” She makes it seem shameful.

Bruce looks like a beached fish, his mouth working to say something but making no audible sound.

“Congratulations,” he croaks at last. He has expected to be the jubilant novelist at some point.

Carol can’t believe it. Why aren’t they happy for her?

She looks at Charlene, the Scribes member everyone depends on for encouragement and support.

Charlene is packing up her writing.

“What are you doing, Charlene?” Carol is shocked.

“Leaving.  Carol, this group is about trust. You destroyed that trust with your selfishness. I’m done,” she says.


The others follow Charlene and walk with purpose to the exit. Carol drops her letter. As she sits alone, her coffee grows cold. Then she brightens. Her novel isn’t dead on the page.