I KISSED A TREE (and I liked it)….

Unicorn

No, not really. I’ve never even hugged a tree although I’ve got my eye on this shapely little maple at the back of the yard but it hasn’t progressed beyond the ‘gazing wantonly’ stage. She dresses nicely, a little revealing perhaps…her leaves are well above mid-trunk but considering her firm limbs she can definitely carry it off. She’s a pretty quiet tree, a great listener but not much of a conversationalist. My point here is that if I was actually going to hug a tree I wouldn’t head into the wild and hug a stranger. You never know where they’ve been or how many huggers have been there before you. Plus none are as cute and personable as my little maple.

I bring this up because over the last few weeks I have regularly been called a treehugger (among other things) because of my stand on apex predator wildlife…tigers, lions, bears and, of course…the wolf. It seems some folk figure that calling me a ‘treehugger’ is an insult (somebody really gotta take these ol’ boys aside and teach them the difference between a conifer and a carnivore). By the purest definition a treehugger is an environmentalist or one who believes trees should not be cut down or harmed…someone who works to protect the environment from destruction or pollution. While it has come to represent a wider field of environmental concerns the root of the name still rests with trees and forests. I’m really not a treehugger but if I was I’d be damn good at it and proud to be called one. So if you really can’t distinguish between a willow and a wolf (yes, I suppose the ‘bark’ thing is a similarity but that’s really stretching it Bubba) then keep on calling me a treehugger but be aware that it really doesn’t offend me. Treehuggers are people who care for and value the environment and all the flora and fauna therein and are simply trying to help create a better, more sustainable ecosystem…so what does that make the people who are against treehuggers?

But on to the point of this blog…household cleaners.

Most cleaning stuff is confusing. Right under the ‘all-purpose’ label on my fave spray cleaner it says ‘not to be used on glass’. To me all means all. They should’ve said ‘nearly all purpose’. The label also bears the skeletal hand corrosive symbol. I’ve been using it on the toilet seat for some time so obviously the cleaner knows the difference between your hand and your other parts. The toilet seat sits atop the most prominent feature of the least likable room for cleaning. I can’t think of another household job, other than handling raw chicken or fish that I loathe as much as this one. It’s not the porcelain throne in the corner that concerns me. A couple of heavy duty squirts with a cleaner, a quick brush ‘n flush and it’s done. It’s the bath tub that drives me nuts…in particular that bath mat with the little suction cups on the bottom. It’s like peeling an octopus off Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop…you get the drift.

And there’s the slippery sludgy yuck that gets in and around these little cups. This disgusting soap residue/by-product sticks to everything yet it’s too slippery to remove easily. A scour with a stiff brush and cleaner usually clears up most of it and by taking the mat out into the yard and blasting it with the garden hose you can insure a good final rinse. It also provides hours of entertainment watching the neighbor’s cat slip ‘n slide across the grass trying to get the slippery sludgy yuck off his paddy paws.

Back at the tub all goes fairly well although I’ve never been able to figure out why the bathtub ring is always above the overflow drain. Soap scum by nature floats on top of the water therefore I have to assume that either the water has been consistently above the overflow or our scum jumps. A close inspection of the drain reveals that marine scum bunnies have set up camp and plugged the outlet. Marine scum bunnies are pretty much like their carpet cousin dust bunnies except they can hold their breath longer. They try to slide down the drain but sometimes get their tails caught on the little metal bar that’s designed to stop things from sliding down the drain. This is good. It gives you something to grab. Except it’s also covered in that slippery sludgy yuck and, even when you get a good hold, the rest of the critter hangs on for dear life down around the bend.

With perseverance most hairy things can be extradited from the pipes, even the trophy sizes. I have a photograph in the den with my personal best. It was a fifteen inch sucker that I caught just after we moved into the house. It was of the tortoise shell breed, hair of many colors, and my proudest catch.

At my age you’ve sometimes got to create your own adventure.

YOU WON’T FIND THIS ON KINDLE

When At Second Glance Books closed out in Kamloops last year I took quite a few books home with me (reading material for the rest of my life). Mostly I went with Canadian authored trade paperbacks and some by authors from all over that I had never read. On my way out the door one night I grabbed a box that was destined for recycle. There were a couple of older classics on top but I didn’t dig down to see what was buried beneath until today. Most of them were fairly beaten older copies of familiar titles but two of them really jumped out. One is a handwritten notebook from The London County Council (name and school not filled in) and appears to a writer’s daybook containing observations of the world around him/her. Aside from incredibly beautiful penmanship (a lost art) this notebook contains some smaller pages with handwritten notes for a walking tour of London, theater and concert listings/dates, and a list of London pubs with addresses. Entries are all dated 1955 except a handwritten copy of notes and comments from “The Philosophy of Insanity” by “a late inmate of the Glasgow Royal Asylum for Lunatics at Gartnavel” (published by Fireside Press, London, 1947). Then I uncovered the second book:

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It’s in pretty poor condition but considering that all dated entries are from 1805-1810, I suppose this is to be expected. Once again impeccable penmanship but this one is a collection of cooking recipes, folk medicine cures, and general information. Held in place by traditional red sealing wax are a number of smaller notes as well as newspaper clippings with marriage and death announcements and instructions for the captains of British merchant vessels should they experience a cholera outbreak at sea. There’s also a six page written sermon about keeping the Sabbath. I suppose as the author is named “Lord”, this is appropriate. Based on most of the content I am assuming that J. P. Lord is male, although I’m not 100% sure of this. All pages are heavily browned, most have finger smudges and some have been cut out. A lot of notes have also successfully freed themselves from the wax but I still love this book.

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This is an example of why we still need brick and mortar bookshops. Archive hand-written personal material like this doesn’t show up too often in stores but it will certainly never be available as a download and that’s too bad. These are personal insights into the times in which they were written. Times before television and other distractions…times when one would sit with pen and inkwell by the fireplace, perhaps an oil lamp on the roll-top, and document a personal glimpse into the events of the day in a quality of script rarely seen and in a voice like no other. I wonder how J.P. Lord would have reacted had he known that something he’d written would, 208 years later, be read by someone in Kamloops, BC, and then exposed on this thing called the World-Wide-Web. That two centuries later someone would be reading his recipe for Chutney or his handwritten personal diet for invalids especially for Mrs. Brown of No. 11 Grosvenor Place (plaster cast extra at a cost of one Guinea). Books like this are to be treasured and valued because once they’re gone a little bit of history disappears. People don’t take the time any more to just jot down thoughts and impressions. Perhaps we should…and on paper because who knows what kind of technology will be used two centuries from now when someone stumbles onto a hand-written personal insight into what it was like in the good old days of 2013.

I’d like to personally thank those people who had held onto this book for the past 200 years but I don’t know who they are. I’d like to know where in the world this book has been and I’d like to know why certain pages have been carefully cut from the binding and what was on those pages…but there’s no-one to ask. This will probably forever be a mystery but if you’ve ever wanted to solve the mystery of curing the common cold…this is how they did it back in 1805:

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Here’s the address Mairi….

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OF MUSIC, LIFE, AND DEATH

Such an interesting and emotional day today. We’ve been under the threat of heavy rains since last night but so far there have only been a couple of showers. It’s coolish, dark, and damp…grey clouds surround me. I was going to spend the day on the laptop hopefully to get close to a wrap on the sequel to “White Wolf Moon” but my characters aren’t doing anything of interest. Marie is taking advantage of the dull day to clean the kitchen. Evan and Danny are in Evan’s study working on a new song and Ginn (the wolfdog) is stretched out in front of Evan’s desk taking up about a quarter of the floor space. Carol is lying on the couch “reading” although her glasses are on the end table beside her and the book is nowhere to be seen. It’s probably tucked into the small space between her and the cushioned couch back. Jenn and Matt? I’m not sure what they’re up to…perhaps preparing for their trip back to Edmonton. There’s really nothing that any of them are doing that can add to the story-line so I decided to let them be for the day.

I went downstairs to the basement to begin a thorough clean of my collectibles room (almost a warehouse actually). On the way to this room I stopped and put an old Bob Dylan lp on the turntable. I didn’t make it back to the room. I sat and listened to “The Times They Are A Changin’” and began a walk down memory lane. When I was much much younger I shared a house with five friends (my characters are based on these people) and we’d occasionally head out to a cabin and spend the weekend cavorting and playing music. Chris was our resident folk singer and this Dylan song was one he’d always do. He had an interesting voice, rough and graveled due to an accident that resulted in his throat being impaled on the branch of a tree. His parents were told that if he recovered he’d probably never be able to talk. He recovered and sang like a bird, albeit a gagged crow. I turned off the record player and picked up an old guitar that I leave downstairs just for times like this but I couldn’t remember how to play that song. Most of the others we played on those warm Alberta nights around the fire came back quite quickly but not that one. Chris passed away about ten years ago and I still can’t listen to that song without thinking of him. It’s so incredible how music can bring back so much. As I sat strumming those old chords I thought about those others that have passed on in my life. As well as my grandparents, dad, mother, and sister there have been countless (literally) friends and co-workers that have left me over the last sixty-something years. Then I remembered something Evan had thought in “White Wolf Moon”:

They were all dying now, those he grew up with and worked with through the years. He guessed that part of the natural order was for those left to accept each passing with less emotion. He and Jack had been close at times and had Jack been the first to go Evan would have been devastated. But death had now become almost routine.

There was something wrong with that.

Then I realized that I had touched on the same scenario in the sequel, this time with Jenn and Danny:

“Marie told me about Carl. How are you doing with it?”

Danny shrugged his shoulders. “And another one bites the dust. I’m fine. I’m going to miss him but I’ve reached that age where it’s just a part of the deal.”

“That’s sad.”

“That’s life.”

My previous blog was titled “Will It Go Round In Circles” and that blog didn’t…I should have saved it for this one.

Recently a local author named Peter Grauer (Interred With Their Bones – a history of Billy Miner in British Columbia) passed away. I didn’t hear about it until yesterday. I didn’t know Peter as well as I would have liked to…he frequented the bookshop where I worked, gathering research for his new book which will be published soon. We’d talk (mostly I’d listen) about writing and life in general. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a lot of encouraging words for me when he found out I was writing my own book. He couldn’t be at my book signing but he left me a wonderful hand-written note which is the first page in my archive binder. He signed it with the words “Pleased to know you…”. I went back upstairs and read that note a couple of times. Then I thought about my book signing.

It was one of those events that will forever be a special memory. So many nice people came to wish me well, to shake my hand…my fifteen minutes. And then I thought about a couple of local female folk-singers that volunteered to perform at my signing. They were great and the most genuine pair anyone could ask for. They gave me a moment to remember the rest of my life but they gave me a little more than they realized.

The first song they sang was “The Times They Are A Changin’”.

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WILL IT GO ROUND IN CIRCLES?

No, I have no idea what that means…I just couldn’t think of anything else to use but maybe as I ramble I might tweak my comments to suit the title. These are just a few random thoughts and answers to some of the questions I have been asked.

MOONBOOK

Is White Wolf Moon successful? Yes, to me it is. It has paid for itself and even made a few dollars but more than that it’s successful from the standpoint that I have something that a lot of people would really like to have…a published book. It’ll be around longer than me and that’s a really nice feeling. It’s like the feeling I get when I’m in line at the grocery store and the gentleman behind me asks how the book is going and is there going to be another one. It’s an ego thing I guess. There have been two more downloads in the last week so perhaps the ride isn’t over yet. I hope not but as far as what it’s already accomplished for me, I’m happy. I’ve learned a lot through this process and I will be expecting more from the next one but I’m also putting more into it. I only wish I’d published it years ago but better late than…you know. I was like so many people who would love to write a book when they get around to it. Unfortunately most people never get around to it and that’s sad. Think of your story or the countless stories floating around in people’s heads that will never be shared. I say to you, if you’ve got an idea and want to write a book, a short story or a poem then do it…now. Just go sit at your computer or grab a pencil and notepad and get on it! It may seem like a lot of work but in the end it isn’t as tough as you think (in fact it’s a lot of fun) and the feeling it brings is what it’s all about…both as you write and when you finally ‘close the book’ off. That sense of accomplishment is indescribable.

Now the random thoughts/questions…are you Evan? No, not really. Like all the characters Evan has a certain amount of ‘me’ in him but originally Evan was based on a friend of mine from the sixties. As the story went on more of my thoughts and attitude ended up being injected into the character so I am probably a bigger part of him than the rest of the cast.

How do the real people I based my characters on feel about being in the book? One passed away a few years ago and two of them I haven’t been able to track down. The two that are Claire and Danny were with me on it from the beginning. They had a say in how they were presented even to reading their scenes ahead of time and making changes if they were concerned. No changes were made.

Of all the characters Jenn seems to be the one that people want to know who is the real-life person she’s based on. Five of the central characters are based on real people or blends of real people (six if you include Ginn) but Jenn is totally fictitious. Evan, Marie, Ginn, and Jenn are from the original “White Wolf Moon” that I started in 2005. It isn’t at all like the final published version, a totally different scenario and story-line. While cleaning out files to back up on a memory stick I uncovered the original partial draft and had a good read. While I’m glad I didn’t stick with that story-line there are some really good ideas buried in those words that I think will find their way into the sequel.

And finally…how to tell if someone who says they’ve read your book hasn’t (or at least not carefully): “I really liked it but I’m curious as to how you came up with the name “Ginn” for the wolfdog.”

Page 82 ma’m…right at the top.

INTERPRETATION…AGAIN!!!

WOLVES

My Sweet Lord…talk about making a point to prove a point! I had decided that I was going to steer away from anything to do with wolves or the ecosystem for at least a few posts and get back to why I originally started this blog. I must respond though to some people who apparently took my last blog as a slam on hunters and hunting. This is directed at those folks specifically…I’m only going to state this once so please pay attention. I am NOT anti-hunter or anti-hunting! Go back and read that line again to make sure you have the right interpretation.

I’m not a hunter…never have been and never will be. I don’t understand it and I personally can’t see any need to traipse through the woods shooting things but that’s just me. I don’t condemn responsible hunters out there, those that in fact consume what they “harvest”. My dad was a hunter and a lot of people I know hunt (some in my family) but that doesn’t mean that I have to follow along in the “tradition” does it? My dad is from a traditionally military family. I stuck my toe in and tested the temperature with cadets and militia but I realized it wasn’t the life for me so our tradition of being a military family ended with me. I’m okay with that…and for those that might interpret this as a slam on the military, it isn’t…grow up.

The hunting of deer, elk and the like has been around since the buffalo were over-hunted almost out of existence (yes I admit that was a bit of a slam) and there are still hundreds of thousands, probably millions of deer, elk, etc. on this continent. Reasonable limits, regulation and, again, responsible hunters are doing their part to keep the balance and as much as I’m not fussy about the activity, I can appreciate that although I’d still like to see ol’ Mum Nature do this balancing act with a healthy wolf population on the scales. It is the mindless slaughtering of any species to the brink of extinction that I oppose, including this paranoid-based assault on apex predators, especially the wolf. I’m not going to dwell on all the proven scientific data that clearly outlines the importance to the ecosystem of this, or any of the critters at the top of the chain. If people are interested, it’s easy to find. Just check out the states that have a small or non-existent wolf population for cases of CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease), Brucellosis, and Brain Worm (and there are more such ailments). Apex predators are kind of like natures very own cure in that the ‘goofy’ game is usually what they go after. This benefits the environment and ironically…the hunter. Thinned out herds mean healthier and eventually stronger herds. If we could only get these guys to leave a few of the biggest, healthiest trophies alone to do what comes naturally think of what it could mean to the quality of elk in the future.

As this will be my last ‘wolfie’ post for a while I do have one more comment on the now recurring claim that the wolves are walking away after half-consuming an elk and are therefore “killing for the hell of it”. Gosh…maybe they’re just full? Maybe, like pretty much all apex preds, they’ll return after a burp and a nap? Or, if you understand anything about this food chain notion that some crazy city-dweller scientists have come up with, maybe they’re just doing what nature has intended and leaving something for the scavengers. But I guess that’s open to interpretation…or too logical, I’m not sure which.  And don’t play the “maintenance” card again. In order for something to be maintained, first it has to be operational and the wolves haven’t recovered enough to fill this decades old gap in the ecosystem. Realize that without this keystone species pretty much every link in the chain that follows is changed and not for the good. Some states have spent millions depopulating their deer herds due to CWD outbreaks and now people are spending more money to try an experimental CWD vaccine on elk. Aside from the cost of research and development this experiment involves hired people spending days on end in the bush tranquilizing young elk and administering the shots. Seems like an awful lot of hassle and expense when simply killing a few less wolves might just go a long way toward solving the problem for free.

INTERPRETATION

One thing (of the dozen or so) that I’ve learned in my sixty-plus years is that when someone begins a conversation with “Welcome to the ‘real’ world….” I can pretty much ignore anything else that follows. The speaker is informing me that he/she knows this “real” world better than I do. In White Wolf Moon, Jenn (a journalism major) is discussing this subject with Evan (a sixty-plus ex-hippie-type). His reply was:

“Reality is perception. There is no all-encompassing real world, just how we interpret our corner of it. The real world for a millionaire sipping wine on a beach in St. Tropez isn’t the same real world of the starving child in Somalia.”

It’s merely interpretation isn’t it? Bear with me a quick mention of the wolf situation. According to Wildlife Services in Wyoming their ‘men on the ground’ (hunters) have noticed that the elk are getting tougher to find and hunt therefore, since the wolves are back, they are decimating the population. Armed with this “I seed it with my own eyes” type of fact-finding mentality the wolf hunt is on. 545 killed as of this writing. Without getting into a page long series of numbers…the elk population (according to Rocky Mountain Wildlife) is at 120,000 and is, in fact, 29 percent OVER the objective for healthy herd maintenance yet ‘the men on the ground’ claim the population has been “decimated” and wolves are throwing the balance of nature out of whack. Could the fact that (according to Wyoming Game & Fish) a record 26,385 elk were ‘harvested’ (what, we’re making bread out of them now?) by hunters last year has contributed to this supposed decimation and imbalance? Nah…can’t be because if it did then they wouldn’t be considering increasing the number of elk that harvesters could harvest this year. What I interpret this to mean is that Wildlife Services (see: oxymoron) needed yet another reason to hunt wolves…but I could be wrong. There is so, so much more I could write about this subject but I used this only to make another point.

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Interpretation. A lady commented after reading White Wolf Moon that she was quite impressed with my use of Evan’s study as a metaphor for the state of the world and current political climates, especially in Canada. She felt that I had stated many strong points, without getting political or radical, and done it in a way that only those ‘in tune’ would appreciate.

Uh…what?

I was simply describing Evan’s room which, by more than coincidence, is very much like my little corner of the world. Don’t look for hidden meanings in White Wolf Moon because, aside from my planted song titles, artists, and pop culture references there really aren’t any. But the more I thought about her comment the more I liked it. Not necessarily from the interpretation she took but from the fact that she took it. She pulled something out of what I’d written that she identified with which really is no different than the countless comments people have made about knowing someone just like Evan or Marie. While I still don’t understand how she gleaned world conditions out of a description of a cluttered study I’m pleased that she did. She connected with what I’d done and really, isn’t that all we, as writers, want to accomplish?

I’ll leave you with something I wrote in my high school English class. This little line garnered high praise for insight from my instructor.

“It isn’t what the writer puts into the words; it’s what the reader takes out of them.”

INVISIBLE FRIENDS

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Apparently it’s quite normal for a child to have an invisible friend. According to Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D. (published in Psychology Today, January 31, 2013): “compared to those who don’t create them, children with imaginary companions (either invisible friends or personified objects) tend to be less shy, engage in more laughing and smiling with peers, and do better at tasks involving imagining how someone else might think”. I don’t actually recall having such a companion. On the other hand I do remember conversing with inanimate objects…still do. I have yet to learn that no amount of rational reasoning with the toaster is going to brown the bread any faster.

While this was interesting it is what followed that really caught my attention. “Surprisingly, invisible friends don’t necessarily disappear when childhood ends. One study that examined the diaries of adolescents plus questionnaire data concluded that socially competent and creative adolescents were most likely to create an imaginary friend and that this type of friend was not a substitute for relationships with real people. Adult fiction writers often talk about their characters taking on a life of their own, which may be an analogous process to children’s invisible friends”.

I have often said in this blog that I adlib dialogue into my digital voice recorder in order to create more realistic conversations and often, even though I usually have a target end to the dialogue, one of my “other voices” will say something unexpected and throw a different spin or direction into the chat. My friends may be invisible but they do tend to go on and on at times. I’ll frequently picture one or more of them in a situation I find myself in. How would Evan react to the cold soup at the restaurant? What would Marie say to the less-than-courteous teller at the bank? The more I thought about this the more I realized that my characters are with me 24/7 and they indeed keep me company. Yes I admit it. I’m Mike and I have invisible friends but I honestly think that to create realistic fictional characters one has to live with them and consider them “real”.

Now I find myself wondering if I actually did have an invisible friend when I was a wee lad. Perhaps I did. Perhaps we had a falling out and haven’t spoken for fifty or so years. Maybe I was spending too much time playing with “real” friends and he/she became jealous and sulked off to wherever invisible friends hang out. It was probably just a misunderstanding or a silly argument. If that’s the case then I apologize if I had anything to do with causing this rift. Please come back…we have so much catching up to do and I’ve got some really nice people that I’d love to introduce you to.

 

http://www.amazon.com/White-Wolf-Moon-ebook/dp/B0094M2JC2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1346857924&sr=1-1&keywords=white+wolf+moon