Sunday, July 24, 2016

Celebrating Amelia in Atchison, Kansas

Well, I don't think she'd be flying, but if she were alive, today's the day Amelia Earhart would be celebrating her birthday, turning 119. If nothing else, she'd probably have a hard time getting her pilot's licence renewed. The gorgeous cake (yes, that's actually a cake!) represents the line of luggage sponsored by Earhart, one of the many products she endorsed to finance her flights.

But even though she isn't around, every year when her birthday approaches, the town where she was born throws quite the celebration in her honour. This year, for the 20th anniversary of the festival, I managed to be there in the midst of it.

The range of events soared from the lofty to the less-than-sublime, and I'm pleased to say that I sampled the full range.

An important part of the festival is its Pioneering Achievement Award, which recognizes outstanding women and their accomplishments. The women recognized at the Earhart Festival are kin of sorts to the famous pilot, as Amelia was all about women's rights and our ability to accomplish whatever we set our minds to. Much to admire, much to live up to.

Past recipients of the award include US Air Force Colonel Eileen Collins, first woman to pilot a space shuttle and athlete Lynette Woodard, the first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. A number of other past recipients attended this year's festival and took part in a thought-provoking panel on Saturday morning. They included Tori Murden McClure (first woman to row solo across the Atlantic), Sophia Danenberg (first black woman to summit Mt Everest), Ngozi Eze (working on behalf of women in Africa, towards ending female circumcision and providing medical aid to victims of war rape) and the very special Ann Pellegreno who in 1967 completed the around-the-world at the Equator flight Amelia Earhart never finished. Yep, heady company, and I haven't named half of them.

But the weekend wasn't only about serious talk and accomplishments. Craziest event of the weekend had to be the demolition derby, just slightly up the road from town at the local dirt track. Among events was a first for me: a smash-up derby, but between school buses! Otto, you would have loved it.

After a lovely (and decidedly civilized, much in contrast to my afternoon at the track) reception at the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, Saturday night gave us perfect weather, with just a breeze coming off the river while crowds gathered along the bank.

First, there was the excitement of the aerobatics show, with lots of people snapping photos. On the right you can just see the Amelia Earhart Bridge over the Missouri River. Later in the evening, its lights flashed like a rainbow.

And really, what July event in the US would be complete without the finale of a magnificent fireworks display. Just one warning with these: unless you turn your volume down, you're bound to hear me laughing.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Only in Surrey?


When I saw this sign, warning of construction, I wondered whether the sign-makers had made a mistake.

You see, I live only a few blocks from 160th and 20th (that's confusing enough, though one is a 'street' while the other is an 'avenue') and hadn't seen anything there that resembled construction.

It was only later that the penny dropped for me. They meant the other 160th Street.

Yep, there are two 160th Streets in Surrey, separated by the wide band of a North-South freeway.

I guess when the street-namers were counting off their numbers, they anticipated a different configuration than what we have today.

Is there any other city or town that has such crazy-making signs?

Friday, July 08, 2016

More trees coming down

I've been hearing chainsaws in my neighbourhood so long now, I am almost (that's a very large 'almost') getting accustomed to the sound. I've learned that the noise usually means that a 'normal' house is coming down along with the trees around it and that an oversized pseudo-mansion will be erected in their stead.

This morning I managed to track down the sound of the latest round of nearby buzzing.

I was horrified at the thought that another entire subdivision of small houses might be in process of getting erased. Fortunately, for once, that isn't the case.

Earlier this year, a tree fell on one of the units there. It did damage to the roof of one of the homes, but at least no one was injured. Not long after that, two more nearby trees fell. Luckily, both fell between buildings, so no damage was done.

Still, these events led the strata council to look into what was going on.

After hiring arborists, they learned that a number of their trees were in danger of falling and of damaging homes, potentially causing injury (or worse -- everyone still with memories of the woman who was killed by a tree falling on her house in March).

I'll admit, I'm never happy when a tree comes down. And I know there's a contradiction in that -- our house is almost completely lined in wood -- wood that once was trees.

Still, this time I can at least understand that there is a reason for the cutting. And I'm also relieved to learn that this felling doesn't mean yet another batch of moderate-income housing will be eliminated in the name of the mega-house. It's just a matter of looking after the people who live there. Exhale.

Friday, July 01, 2016

A gooey Canada Day?


I suppose my celebratory image for Canada Day looks as though someone might have spilled maple syrup on the berries resting on this maple leaf look-alike. The gooeyness is just the result of a few squished berries. Because I didn't have a container when I picked them, I used the leaf they'd grown near as an impromptu wrapper.

They're thimbleberries -- a fragile and somewhat fleeting gift of summer, a forager's delight. Even the way that I came upon them was a surprising treat.

I'd had to have a test at the nearby hospital, and on my way home I took a shortcut through a parking lot. Along the undeveloped, non-street side, I ran across a plenitude of thimbleberries and couldn't resist picking a few.

These berries, native to our region, must be some vestige of a once-upon-a-time forest that was here in what's now a settled (though undergoing change) neighbourhood. I'm just glad some little piece of our native wildlife remains. Next year, if I want the taste of thimbleberries, I'll know where to go looking.

And if you'd like to know more, I'd encourage you to visit the site of The Northwest Forager where there's a video with lots of info about these berries -- even some interesting applications for the leaves!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A berry early summer


Yes, summer is officially here, but this year's berries seem way ahead of schedule. Strawberries have come and been (witness all those jars of jam), and it isn't even Canada Day.

As for raspberries, I've already gone out to the farm in Aldergrove picking two rounds -- close to twenty pounds each -- so the freezer is starting to get full.

But now, here come the blueberries! Not that I'm complaining; they're big and delicious. But it sure seems early for them. Other years, I've been picking them in August.

Especially where I saw some apples ripening the other day, it makes me wonder what will be around by the end of summer. Pumpkins?

Monday, June 20, 2016

I wondered


...about the name for tonight's moon, the one they're calling the 'strawberry moon'. I like the idea of it being the time for picking berries. Already, the back yard is offering enough raspberries for daily eating and even a few strawberries as treats.

But when I went outside and took a photo of the big solstice moon in the sky, the camera seemed to add its own strawberry garnish around the moon. I never understand these tricks of the light, though I always appreciate them, especially when they arrive on the day of solstice.

This coinciding of a full moon with solstice is apparently quite a rare event, one that won't occur again until 2062. In other words, it's one that most of us will likely never see again.

It officially turned into summer this afternoon, and even the garden seems to be in agreement.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Under the rainbow

I know I'm not the only one still reeling at all that's happened in Orlando this past week. People with guns gone so very wrong and even an alligator. It's hard to think about so much sadness in just one place, especially a place that's known for its beauty, a place where people go to be happy.

The executions at the Pulse Club -- a hate crime by anyone's definition. It's hard to imagine how anyone could develop such loathing for others based simply on who they are. As for publicity about the shooter, I don't want to learn more. And I will certainly never say his name.

The funerals in that sad city have begun. The healing is sure to take a long while. I can only look with hope to a time when a person's sexual orientation will have no more consequence than whether they have blue or brown eyes. A time when we can again soar over the rainbow, and not be bogged down underneath all that it stands for. Besides, I'm pretty sure if you're underneath where someone else sees a rainbow, you won't see anything but clouds.