Learn to Breathe

I came across this perfect video – that says it all.  My beautiful Alberta.

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Setting for Paradise on the Horizon

The Doukhobors, one of Canada’s largest immigration groups were from Russia.They were a strange religious sect to many people.  They were peaceful, refused to fight but were excellent farmers.  They were certainly a great group to settle  the prairies of Canada.  Then one day at the beginning of the 1900’s Canada’s hostile plains defeated them.  Nearly half calling themselves ‘Sons of Freedom‘ went marching, mostly naked in the cool spring searching for Utopia. My heroine, Natasha – a Russian Princess, escapes from Russia with the Doukhobors.

Researching further I discovered Canada was fighting in the Boer War in South Africa.  British Kitchener decided to appease the people complaining in England he would use any and all examples of abuse and severely punish any soldier, Canadian or English charged with atrocities, true or not.  My hero  – a Canadian soldier – is one of those wrongly charged.

Disowned by his family and friends he goes out west.  He first hires himself out as a guard to stop the Sons of Freedom before they freeze to death.  He discovers that a Reverend Barr is starting up a colony on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border.  Until he can clear his name, as Barr wants only good English stock in his colony, Luke becomes a farmer.  He knows nothing of farming but helps Natasha escape the Doukhobors knowing she does, thinking she is a Doukhobor.

All these incidents tied together so well – true incidents, my story Paradise on the Horizon, was created.

Tongue in Cheek Thoughts

Last night I watched the movie 2012.  As is usual Canada was ignored.  On thinking about it I thought maybe Canada was not destroyed.  Or on the other hand we Canadians are more than able to weather any storm and probably built our own ship instead of relying on other countries?  Either way, I imagine we survived the disaster.

Another – Riding Shotgun Trip

LOUISIANA

There is much traffic between Alberta and Texas or Louisiana.  Gas & Oil companies change their personnel about every two years between these places.  Calgary, Alberta has the largest percentage of Americans outside the USA in the world.  I found that a very interesting statistic.

As my husband was moving furniture at the time he often got moves to these states.  I decided to go with him to Louisiana one time as we could get down there on a Friday and he didn’t have to unload until the following Monday.

We spent a week-end in Lafayette, Louisiana. This trip was the most obvious ‘never seen before’ trip.  Wherever we drove – from eastern States, to the mid-west States and even the Pacific coast States there are similarities between Canada and the USA.  But there is no comparing in Canada when it comes to the bayous.

On Saturday we took a boat tour on the bayous.  From the eerie, hanging moss on the Cyprus trees, I had only read about in romance books  to the alligators we saw, I could only stare and try to drink in all the sights.  Deep pink flowers and waxy green foliage, floated on the water often looking like land.  Our guide told us the trunks of the Cyprus trees could be under water up to forty feet and still tower above us.  I could imagine voodoo rituals, ghosts and crawling monsters.  I saw alligators resting on rotting logs.  (My husband said they weren’t real . Mostly they didn’t move – he thought they might just be props for the tourists).  The water is murky, dark and mysterious.

Then I asked a few people where the best place to eat Cajun food was.  I was already hooked on the scrumptious tastes and since then I haven’t found a better cup of coffee – except maybe Quebec and of course Tim Horton‘s – my addiction of choice.  We went to a restaurant called PreJean’s and dined near a stuffed alligator.  The ambiance was perfect.  The food was out of this world. I can still imagine the taste of the chocolate dessert.  The people were so friendly.

On Monday we went to unload.  Our customer had a huge sprawling house beside the river.  The woman we moved was fun and entertaining. She actually gave me her full-length mink coat, saying she wouldn’t need it.  I could almost hear her ‘ha,ha’ in my mind.  But it was such a wonderful, thoughtful gift.

The air was hot and humid.  She explained that her skin just ‘slurped’ up the moisture when she got off her plane. (Calgary has extremely dry air). She had a long boardwalk along side the river and a boat dock.  Although she warned me to watch for poisonous snakes that crawled in the murky waters I couldn’t resist walking along side the river, drinking in the wondrous sights.

Then as the cardboard boxes were emptied and thrown out on the lawn to be flattened, I saw something else.  Little gecko’s – so irresistibly  cute and inquisitive crawled all over.  There were hundreds and hundreds.  I chased them – thinking this might be a wonderful gift to bring back for my two boys. They sure were quick.  They would stand on a box and wait for me – until I was close enough to reach out then they disappeared.  For anyone who thinks otherwise – I couldn’t have brought them across the border regardless, but the thought was fun.

Overall, my first trip to Louisiana is a warm memory of fun, beauty and a uniqueness I will never forget.  I have been to Louisiana a few times since, but my first trip was special.

Christmas in the Past

Christmas in the Past

On an isolated farm with no conveniences, a farm school attended by going three miles with a horse and the icy chill of a northern plain winter, Christmas was a unique, mysterious event.  Sparkling stars covered the high banks and the overhead charcoal skies.  The moon often streamed down as bright as sunlight.  The breath of frosty air sprayed from a horse’s nostril as well as those brave souls who had to challenge the elements.

My memory of Christmas is vivid and stark in my mind even today.  As children my seven siblings and I experienced the freezing of our fingers and toes just trying to steer a stubborn horse through the snow drifts.   We all knew the feeling of no relief from harsh, unforgiving elements.  There was no stopping, no going inside – just our determination to complete what we had to.

Oddly, it is not the hardships or the frozen lands that flicker through my memories today.  I recall the stars gleaming on the snow banks and dreams of Bethlehem, imagining Joseph and Mary’s trek across glittering sand dunes to reach the stable where Jesus was born.  It was easy to look into the skies and see the North Star and imagine those that followed to find Jesus just like I saw in the many Christmas cards my parents received.  It was easy to see the Angels singing in those fluffy clouds that moved across the full moon.

Inside our home, the smells of Christmas are forever etched in my mind.  The cooking and foods, delicious sweets and delicacies were all around – not reflecting the fact we were poor.  We rarely received gifts unless we were younger.  Coloring books and crayons – wondrous fresh pictures, uncolored were all ready to be created.  Mom and dad didn’t get presents but I never once saw any resentment or depression.  We all were anticipating a joyous season with family, friends and relatives and to this day I believe that is more important than any gift you will ever receive.

In our living-room, unlighted and dark, our Christmas tree stood and I liked to go in and just sit beside it.  I watched the colored icicles twirl in an imagined breeze, reflecting off little houses and churches with their roofs covered in snow.  A feeling of peace, hope and goodwill always invaded with stark reality.  I could always hear the laughter and fun coming from our huge kitchen.  Yet I could find that aloneness not lonely feeling, even in the old farmhouse.

At school the most beautiful events unfolded.  There was anticipation, laughter and our practice for the final event – before school closed for the holidays.  December was spent in learning our lines, singing Christmas Carols and the Nativity pageant we all looked forward to.  To create the birth of Jesus was a confirmation these events were real.  These feelings are real.  We made mistakes, people laughed but there were never any miserable, unhappy people around. The final event was Santa came and distributed gifts.  There truly was a Santa for we understood our parents didn’t have any money to buy us gifts.

Now, I watch the scenes of a modern world unfolding and I do feel sadness for our allowing my experience to be denied our children. There is no real Christmas in our schools.  There is often only ‘holidays’ in our homes and there are many who deny what Christmas stands for.

Then a feeling of hope invades.  I always try to make a Christmas for the children around me as wondrous and joyful as all the Christmas’s I experienced.  I realize it has to start within our individual homes and move outwards.

I love Christmas.