Sunday, April 30, 2006

Wagons Roll.

Memo to self: Add a trans-Canada trip by Greyhound to my list of Things to Do Before I Die.
Since I retired from my honorary male job, the voice of my left brain is gradually being shouted down by the newly-assertive right brain. This is giving me endless fun and taking me on all kinds of new adventures; I never travel more than a mile or two now without a notebook and pen, scribbling away on any pretext. Just like painting, it teaches me to see.

Old folks are the new Roadies. The bus to northern Manitoba had a good share of unaccompanied women seniors; I noticed them in what I considered a most untypical bus line-up in Winnipeg--neatly groomed, with newish compact luggage. The lady in the seat ahead of me, Pierrette, had been on the bus for two days straight, coming from Ottawa and sleeping where she sat. She was sharply dressed and wiry, with a tan you don't get from a Canadian winter and a twinkle in her eye, and had brought along a mohair blanket and her CD collection. She was off to see her sister in Swan River--the price was right, and she couldn't refuse.

Imagine being left on the prairie by the Greyhound bus. It would be like falling off a cruise boat in the middle of the ocean. There's nowhere within a day's walk, and in the winter it would certainly be fatal if no-one else happened by within a minute or two. One thing the prairie has plenty of is distance. It's like those nightmares where you run and run and get nowhere. You have to admire the pioneers that settled here.

The North American system of measuring ingredients by cupful (rather than by weight, as in Europe) when cooking has got to stem from long journeys by covered wagon. "Supper ready, dear?" "You're gonna have to stop them danged oxen fer a bit, while I weigh the ingredients for the pie."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ingleside crime wave shock

Six thirty a.m. I drew back the curtains and dang me! There it was. A foreign orange garbage bag squatting, overstuffed, right beside my garbage can, ready for pickup.

Now I pride myself on a modest garbage output (words aside.) My elder daughter, Charlotte, has trained me from way back to cook everything from scratch, eschew prepackaged food and to reuse everything. Not for me the huge mound of bags at the curbside on Tuesdays, ho no; not for the village council either, apparently--they recently passed an edict limiting household garbage to two bags a week. Kind of tough if you have a family of growing teenagers. If you have more stuff to go out you have to bite the bullet and buy extra bags at $1.50. Mind you, they do have the council's crest emblazoned on them, which adds extra cachet.

How had the alien bag got there? Some cheapskate was obviously trying to save a buck or two. But when had he left it? For it was obviously a "he"--I couldn't imagine a woman sinking to garbage piracy. I would comb the neighbourhood and find out where the orange bags were coming from. Was this going to be a weekly thing? Will I have to mount guard, shotgun in hand, over my patch of curb till the truck passes? Debbie, at the post office, observed that garbage day on her street was an all-out war for the available curb space, and Sue said that it was worse out in the country, where drive-by garbage scattering was rampant. Things were going from bad to worse. Next it will be biker gangs.

My friend Margo, giving me a ride to a function later that evening, mentioned that she was happy to see that "her" garbage bag had been picked up. Well!
Some months ago I'd agreed to let her drop off any extra bags at my place, but had forgotten.

Guess I can put the gun back in the cabinet. The village can breathe easier now the crime wave has passed.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


A bloody slab of fresh kill lay right there on the edge of the ice, and ripping at it was a big brown hawk, all shoulders and powerful haunches. He had an audience--three seagulls and two crows, all standing at a respectful distance, calling him "sir" and waiting for him to finish. Now and then an opportunistic crow would sidle up and take a few hasty pecks at the meat, whereupon the hawk would turn, swear at it and resume feeding. The crow, chastened, backed away and waited.

Up rolled three cars. The doors were flung open, spilling out families with cameras, field-glasses and restless children. The hawk shrank down into immobility, his dilemma obvious--lose the meat and stay safe, or wait this out? A moment before, he looked like the king of the skies; now he looked like a dirty little predator caught red-handed. I'm sure this wasn't what the onlookers had hoped to see, and I thought how often, in our rush to possess something, to make it our own, we ruin it.

After a few minutes when nothing much happened, the sightseers climbed back into the cars and roared away. The hawk at once regained his courage and resumed feeding; this time three more hawks were circling idly above him, waiting their chance. And then, from nowhere, came the bald eagle.

It was now the hawk's turn to watch in dismay at a polite distance, while the eagle devoured his lunch. The great bird tore strips off the meat--not pausing even when more sightseers drew up--whittling it down to something portable. Replete and bored, he flew lazily away, leaving what was left for the hawks and crows.

I've never seen a bald eagle around the village before. This isn't the west coast, so they're pretty unusual. In the summer, when everything's crowded, the wildlife runs for cover, so I'm happy to have the calm while it lasts, with these rare glimpses. I'm tempted, though, to buy a couple of pounds of stew beef to spread on the ice and see what turns up next.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Holy blood, holy moly!

This is, briefly, how to anesthetize a patient with trauma and blood loss: Lie them flat, possibly with the head lower than the feet, to maximize blood flow to the heart and brain. Give them lots of oxygen for several minutes, if there's time. Run in fluid or blood to fluff up what's left of their circulation. Have a strong mechanical suction hose running--nothing they've eaten for many hours has passed the stomach, no oral meds will be absorbed, and it may all come back up, run straight into their lungs and choke them. Gently, gently run in your anesthetic agent--anything intravenous may be too strong, flatten the circulation and stop the heart, so you may need to have them breathe a vapour/oxygen mix. Get an assistant to press gently on the trachea as the patient goes to sleep, to help prevent reflux of stomach contents. After they're asleep, quickly pass a cuffed tube into the trachea to seal off the lungs, heave a small sigh of relief and run them on "air and a prayer" until they're stronger.

The reason I'm telling you this is that I just caught Michael Baigent, author of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" on CBC Radio One this morning, earnestly insisting that Jesus was quickly anesthetized with oral medication on a sponge, in the vertical position, with chin on chest. All this from several feet away, while crucified, then taken down unconscious and spirited away. Guaranteed to obstruct the airway and stop the heart. All I can say is, I wish I'd had magic like that on the many nights I spent in the OR. Sorry, but the human body just doesn't follow Michael Baigent's rules.

The theological expert the CBC had cleverly called in to refute him was a priest from "Opus Dei", of all people. He was gyrating anxiously as he made his points; no need--he should have been cackling with glee at such nonsense. Memo to Michael Baigent: Do your anesthesia research first.

To paraphrase the old saw, people who believe in nothing will believe anything.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The madness must stop.

The problem with living in vacation country is that for four months of the year we're overrun with campers, so come June we all take to our burrows and estivate. Some people are quite happy with this: notably the campers, who are sunburned and cheerful, and Patsy and Martin who run the village supermarket, with its eye-popping deli counter. In springtime it's hard to get round the store without falling into conversation with friends and neighbours. In summer it's just hard to get round the store.

Spring down by the St. Lawrence is deafeningly silent. This afternoon I happened on a muskrat as he was about his business, red-brown furry body, beady black eyes and little ratty tail. It was hard to tell which of us was the more surprised. When I lived in the country in upstate New York we had a muskrat (and many other animals) in the garage. Nasty pointy teeth. Big, normally a very savvy cat, tangled with him and got the worst end of the deal.

Alex, my trained-killer son, occasionally dips into my blog when times are slack in the desert in Arizona where he lives. He rolls his eyes and groans, but I think it gives him a feeling of stability. Mother's still nuts, all's right with the world.

I just realized why all three of my offspring never want children: they are afraid that this geek affliction is a dominant gene, and they are terrified that one of theirs will inherit it, and everyone will look at it funny, and point.