CWO – Weather Observing – Back to Work

Although the airport where I worked was tiny, it was also crucial to the area.  Set in the heavily treed slopes of the Cascade mountains there are often many forest fires.  The airport was helpful for those helicopters who fight the fires to fuel up without flying to a larger center.

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The offices were a little building, with my instruments to judge and help determine the weather.  The most important is the Sea Level pressure.  I keep thinking of ‘Die Hard’ where the bad guys were giving planes the wrong information so they crashed.  The airport is about 2-3 miles outside the little town.  I started worrying I wasn’t giving the right information.  The CB’s that float around in the air, creating havoc are a problem too.  Pilots must avoid those, especially small planes.  The wind inside these clouds are above tornado speeds and lightening comes from them.  We learned there was one small plane that survived, flying through a CB,but that rarely happens.

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But mainly I watched the deer and bear playing in the peaceful setting.

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CWO – Weather Observing – Social Activities

I was at NAV Canada for 6 weeks.  We had school for the standard 9 to 3:30 with an hour off for lunch.  Our week-ends were free.  There was a long winding path by the St. Lawrence River that took us to Tim Horton’s.  Sometimes Sarah, Jamie and I would walk there and back, even though it was so hot.  Sometimes we played volley-ball or made plans to cross the St. Lawrence to get contraband cigarettes from the Native reservation (which were so cheap compared to ours.) As I was a writer, our stories intensified drastically as the course deepened. 2008-06-07 06.03.14 

Dark, rolling CB’s crossed the sky with malicious intent. We stood by the shore of the river determined to cross and find those cheap cigarettes.  ‘I don’t know how to swim’ I whispered in fear.  ‘No problem,’ Isadore said.  ‘Just hop on me and pretend I’m a raft and we’ll float across.’

With laughter and outlandish suggestions we made plans although it was easy enough in Cornwall to get those cigarettes.  2008-06-10 15.24.35

All the other students had no trouble including an old lady in their activities.  It was a great experience and a wonderful way to re-introduce myself back into society again.

But it was an intense course and required studying.  After six weeks I left to go back to the tiny little town I lived in.  Exchanging e-mails and promising to become Facebook friends it was a sad departure.


CWO – Weather Observing – When in Rome

…see the local countryside.  We however had no means of transportation.  So one day we rented a car and did a little sight-seeing.  We drove down the Number 2 highway which runs alongside of the St. Lawrence River and headed west.  There are a number of quaint old towns with houses open to the public.  Here in the west there isn’t much in the way of old estate houses.  The famous Thousand Islands start at Kingston so we drove to Kingston.  The sights were amazing. Some of the Islands have castles.

We stopped at a prison from the old days and were astounded by the differences between then and now. The cells were little boxes with room only for a bed.

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The outside of the prison.

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Jamie behind bars.

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The cells.

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The hanging gallows.

Being a Saskatchewan girl I found the locks (where ships climb stairs) the most fascinating place. We stopped at one and I could have stayed there all day watching. There is absolutely nothing like this on the Saskatchewan Prairies. The ships maneuver through gates with barely an inch to spare on each side. 2008-06-22 13.00.50

CWO – Weather Observing – New Places, New Faces

Our instructor was originally from Saskatchewan.  As he was around my age we got along quite well.  I met the others in class and some stick out in my mind.  James and Preston were from the James Bay area (a very isolated community) of Hudson’s Bay.  Not used to the modern conveniences, and barely out of their teens, they couldn’t get enough food it seemed. Besides piling their plates in the buffet cafeteria they would go out to McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s every night for that fast food fix.  It was hilarious and their enjoyment was fun to watch.  Preston reminded me of my son as he was obsessed with sports and especially hockey. 2008-06-10 15.24.25James, who is the only one who got a consistent 100%, told me a story, native legend that they used to believe.  He said that Natives didn’t like their pictures being taken because they believed the camera stole their souls.  But they both agreed to let me take their picture.

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We learned how to ‘clean-up’ after a thermometer broke and my instructor said ‘Hey Mary, remember when we rolled the mercury around in our hands in Science class’.  I did remember, although the young ones looked at us in disbelief.  When it was my turn to decide the Sea Level for a plane landing my instructor said ‘And Mary just crashed a plane’ when I got it wrong.  It was funny at the time but upon thinking I can safely say I don’t think Weather Observers are given enough money for that.  The pay in Princeton was minimum wage.

Another two people were going to work up in Eureka, one going in as the other came out. There is an army base there.  When I found out Sarah’s turn would be over Christmas I asked if she minded.  She was a young, sweet girl, also from the west.  She said ‘No, Eureka is only about 30 miles from the North Pole.  Santa will find me first.’2006-02-18 Arctic sun and moon

CWO – Weather Observing Course – For All The Wrong Reasons

Some people idealize living in a remote small town.  The pace is slow.  Everyone knows your name.  Away from the hectic, bustling city with its’ heavy traffic and long, nightmare days of working and running around, living in a small town is a dream every city dweller will have.

When I moved to a small town in the middle of nowhere in the vast mountain ranges of British Columbia, it was for a wrong reason.  At that point in my life I wanted to drop out of society.  I wanted to be alone.  I would have been better off moving to the North West Territories or Yukon and lived my life without contact from other human beings.

2008-01-31 10.40.14Very soon in a small town, everyone knows you, even if you don’t know anyone.  If you are inclined to be a loner, people start discussing why you are there.  What isn’t known, is soon decided anyway and becomes a fact.  It’s not that anyone is deliberately mean, it’s more that they have to do something.  There was little else by way of entertainment in most small towns.  What neighbors are doing becomes very important to some. After a period of ignoring life and grieving, I again discovered I wanted to be part of living and life. I decided to look for a job.

2008-07-20 05.30.01Realizing my choices were limited, I discovered small towns are notorious for ‘knowing’ people and giving people they know jobs. I applied for an opening at their small airport as a Weather Observer.  I didn’t get it.  Someone they knew was sent to Cornwall, Ontario to take the six week course.

Nav Canada

Fortunately for me (unfortunately for her) she failed the course.  So I received a telephone call with the offer. I accepted.  Arrangements were made to fly out and for accommodations in Cornwall, Ontario at NAV Canada, (now called NAV Centre) for  Weather Observer training (basic Meteorology Training).  I flew to Ottawa, Ontario and was bused to the small city of Cornwall in the humid, hot night.  The room was nice and had air conditioning.  The cafeteria was big and served good food.

I had the distinction of being the oldest person to ever take the course.  I met many wonderful, young people (from all over the world)  and had some fun, enjoyable times.

A Summer Morning in Calgary

 Matthew 16:2

“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. Beautiful , just try and paint HIS colours

Red sky in the morning.......sailors take warning.

Another Trip through the mountains

Coming back from Princeton, we broke down about 5 km. outside Merritt, BC. After towing the truck into Merritt, we had to stay overnight in a motel until it was fixed.

In the morning we walked miles looking for somewhere to have a ‘Canadian’ breakfast, passing Chinese, East Indian and many Sushi places. My stomach demands some bacon/eggs and toast type food in the mornings. After walking what seemed forever – we saw this old dilapidated hotel.  Inside –  the restaurant was renovated and we found the most delicious food. I had eggs benedict and they were divine.

Old Hotel in Merritt, BCGood comes to all those that seek.

A more peaceful life.

PGA Golf CourseI’m sure we’ve all been through the frustration of telling someone something just to have our words thrown back  in our face as lies or unbelievable.  We can obsess hours worried and upset because we know we’re telling the truth.  We argue and try to prove we are telling the truth.

Then one day we wake up  and discover (hopefully) life will be easier once you learn you never have to justify yourself. If others don’t believe you – who cares anyway. God knows and you know.  No one else really matters.

The Tears of St. Lawrence

A few days ago I was sitting outside later in the evening, enjoying the cool breezes that always appear at night in Calgary.  I saw what I thought was lightning in the north western skies.  There was no thunder and the sky was mainly cloudy.  Then I realized I was watching the Perseid Meteor Shower not a storm brewing.

Meteor Shower Over The United Kingdom

As with all the phenomena relating to the events in the sky – the Perseid Meteor Shower is another of the amazing sights our sky will produce.


In the Catholic Church the Perseid Meteor Shower is named the Tears of St. Lawrence.  St Lawrence was a martyr for the church.

 St. Lawrence before Valerianus

Writing – Are you putting enough thought into Developing Characters?

Sometimes it’s difficult to create characters in such a way as to make them individuals. Writers often want and need to give their characters the same qualities they have themselves.  It’s hard to develop a character when everything they believe and stand for is the opposite of your own opinion.

Often people who don’t read genre books fear that they will all be the same and pretty boring after a time.  But the truth is – a well written romance, mystery or fantasy is every bit as exciting to read as any classified ‘great’.  If you study those books you can see the character development is often the key to making it great.

You should develop your character using characteristics that they have, not what you feel yourself. Everyone is an individual. Using fear of flying as an example you would not have your character happily hopping onto a plane to get somewhere.  He/she will use whatever alternatives are available.  So if he/she drives and is an environmental advocate there is further conflict and further debate in the mind.  But what happens if he/she has to fly?  Then there should be a plausible explanation why or how he/she does it.  Each characteristic should be thought out carefully, then if faced with having to do it – there will have to be a good reason how he/she will accomplish that.

That is one way a writer can develop unique, individual characters.  It’s easier to do if you fear flying and much more difficult if you love flying.

One of the most effective ways for me is to imagine a debate team – pick a topic and then research arguments for both sides.  If someone is an environmental advocate and someone is working in the oil-field there is a conflict in characters and they can’t both have your own views. But using reason and common sense – you can see both sides. You now have two ‘individuals’ and your conflict as well.

Another method I use is to imagine something I fear and the feelings I get from that fear – then use my own feelings to make my character’s fear (which might be different) come to life.

If you are able to, submerse yourself and become your character and write your story. Role play.  Just remember to come back to reality when you’re finished.

I often find books where their characters just do what the author says they should, disregarding individual quirks and characteristics.

Fort MacLeod - Murphy hugs a horse

Beware you don’t make the same mistake.