You must be wondering: is Shintangle Studio still in operation? Is Anne still quilting? I even had an indirect query, a few weeks ago, about whether we still have the dogs, it having been so long since I’d written about or photographed them for the blog. I apologize. It’s not really fair, is it, to create the expectation of a weekly (more or less) blog post and then suddenly fall entirely off the map for weeks on end? (Yes, the dogs are fine.)
I have to plead lack of time, mostly. I am proof of the cliche that a person often becomes busier, rather than the reverse, after retirement. I wasn’t exactly planning things this way. I was thoroughly excited about the idea of not being tied to a work schedule, with visions of long stretches of quietly intense studio time in its place.
But I also knew that I wanted to keep on contributing somehow to my local community. And one of the major assets, in my view, to the tiny city of Greenwood is its library. I was a volunteer many years ago when I first moved here, and then a library board member. I gave up both those positions when I got a job in the school system (board meetings are on Monday mornings). But the library is my “third place” in Greenwood. Do you know this expression? It originated, I think, in some marketing campaign years ago, perhaps for Starbucks, which wanted to create the idea in people’s minds that their coffee shops could become a third place in people’s lives, somewhere other than work or home where they were comfortable and where they routinely spent a lot of time. I came across the expression again a few weeks ago, and realized that this is exactly what the Greenwood library has been for me since I first met my dear husband 21 years ago.
So I wanted to give back, again. I rejoined the library board at the AGM last January, the week before I retired, and became board chair. For the most part, the position hasn’t been too demanding in terms of time or energy. I’ve enjoyed chairing meetings and learning about the behind-the-scenes activity that keeps a little library going. But a major library fundraiser for the past twenty-plus years has been an arts and crafts fair, and this year organizing this event fell to me. Many years ago I was a vendor at this event at least once, maybe twice, I can’t remember, selling chocolate-covered almond bark but mainly knitted hats. But being a vendor, especially having been a vendor in 2003 or 2004, wasn’t much use in terms of preparing me for organizing the whole shebang.
There I was, blithely going along through the summer, worrying about fire risk but entirely unaware that I was about to board the runaway train called “the craft fair.” Good thing I had good help, including the person who alerted me in August that the train existed in the first place (thanks, Ann). And it was pretty intense from late August until the weekend before last, when the fair actually happened. Many meetings, with the board and with individuals who’ve run the fair in the past (thanks again, Ann), phone calls and in-person conversations with other people with experience with this fair, and a flurry of emails back and forth were necessary for me to gather all the information I needed to keep this train on the tracks. And we had an epic borscht-making party (thanks for hosting, Gerri and Steve). I had no idea that a craft fair could have so many moving parts. Of course, it’s not just a craft fair: we also serve a soup (hence the borscht, and Shawn made beef barley soup), bun, and dessert luncheon, and we operate a raffle table full of items generously donated by the vendors at the fair. The spreadsheet for the volunteer schedule was a wonder to behold once I finished it: I’m proud of how many people helped out, some of them not on the spreadsheet at all (husbands, for instance, mine included). And on the day of the fair I learned more than I’d ever thought there was to learn about running the community hall kitchen: my clipboard is full of notes that I am transcribing for the record.
Augmenting the existing record of how things other than the kitchen routine have been done in the past has consumed quite a lot of my time as well, but I’m determined that as much of the collective knowledge about running this event gets into print as possible.
So. There have been many days over the past few months where studio time was either severely limited or entirely absent. Which has meant that I haven’t made much progress on any of projects, underway or entirely in my head, that I’d hoped to. AND the one big thing I was working on is a gift, and a surprise, so obviously I can’t show you that one for a bit. But I will. Eventually.
And in the meantime, here are a couple of thrilling moments from last summer, things I never got around to showing you. The first is that it was a good year for huckleberries, if one knew where to look. Our usual berry sites were pretty variable: one in particular was worth picking, but the rest never amounted to much. So my dear husband suggested that we range further afield, visiting a site that we had noted in the past was possibly a good one for picking. Sure enough, he was right.
Although we were the only humans in the area that day, we weren’t alone. The berries attracted other visitors.
We were in the truck, on our way out of the bush, when we saw this. The photo is blurry because I was too excited to hold the camera steady. But as you can see, we surprised a lovely big grizzly.
He or she was spooked for a minute or two, but the truck is pretty quiet, and we followed very slowly, trying to make ourselves as unthreatening as possible. The grizzly stopped running, wandered off the road into the brush, and began to browse the huckleberries.
The problem with a bear eating berries is that its head is tilted down and thus isn’t all that photogenic. It was so frustrating, to be so close but unable to get a clear view with the camera. On the other hand, we felt hugely lucky to have had this chance to watch a grizzly going about its own business, apparently unconcerned by our presence. “Wow, oh wow,” I kept saying.
Now, to see a bear at all is a thrill, to see a grizzly an even bigger and much rarer thrill. Imagine our joy when we saw another later in the summer.
I told you in an earlier post about the strange and compelling story behind the national historic site of Battle Hill, near Kitwanga. As if the historic site wasn’t enough, this was the moment when we were given one of the great unlooked-for gifts of the trip. As soon as he got to the top of the hill, dh took one look north up the river (which loops around this hill) and gestured to me to come quickly and quietly. Which I did, getting my camera ready as I joined him. At first, all I could see was a black dot moving across the river from the creek mouth in the upper right of the photo below. Dh said it was a bear. “Maybe,” I thought. Dh said it was a grizzly. “Unlikely,” I thought.
But he was right, and for the next ten minutes we watched this big, beautiful, healthy grizzly swim and fish, and I shot off frame after frame, trying not to jiggle the camera despite astonishment. Rather than show you the thirty or so photos I took, I’ll restrain myself and show a few that tell the story.
We watched as the bear, sitting down in the shallows, caught a salmon and brought it ashore.
Where he dropped it and wandered away. Was the fish too small? Who knows, but obviously this wasn’t the first time a fish had been found wanting: you can see other fish carcasses on the beach below. Back into the river went the bear. He walked a little, swam a little, then climbed out on a gravel bar.
He walked the length of the gravel bar, taking his sweet time, perfectly at home. At this point, dh started to make wounded animal noises, hoping to attract the bear’s attention. I gave him an incredulous and horrified look, but it didn’t matter. The river was too loud for the bear to hear him. Back into the river the bear wandered, and swam away out of sight.
Wow. WOW!!! What a moment. Wonder.