Easing Back into Life

Alberta is heading into Stage 3 for July 1. In three weeks time and my family will be two weeks post full vaccination. My friend texted me this morning to share her vaccination news with a “Let’s do something in July!” HARD YES.

I miss friends.

Work gave the option of working from home for the whole summer and coming back after September long weekend or going in after July. I am choosing the easy commute and lunch on my deck. So work from home it is!

I am taking a day off this week to celebrate 25 years of marriage with the hubs. Not 25 years of bliss but a solid foundation of trust and comfort. I don’t trust very many people and feel safe with even less. My comfort circle is very tiny. I just counted 11 people I completely trust and feel safe with. Maybe that is a normal amount and I just have high expectations or maybe I have put myself in disappointing situations wanting to trust people who I knew would walk away with a blade between the shoulders.

Anyway…doesn’t life go by in a blink? The hubs and I went through the ordeal of reservations this morning to a local bistro that a requires 48 hour menu selection and a $100 deposit in case we change our minds. This place came highly recommended and its a new type of experience. We will be dining on the patio in a igloo – not the snow and ice type of my NWT childhood, but rather a dome to protect me from unwanted germy people. I like the idea and it is a good first step to ease me back into the idea of dining out. I really want to go to the Sugar Bowl with friends, drink beer and eat popcorn. But my anxiety won’t let me do it right away, I need to gently ease myself into those situations.

I need to ease myself into most situations. Here is the strange part, I am fine with change but I don’t like surprises. I like to know what’s coming. If you said I need to pack up and move across the country – fine, don’t spring it on me that morning, I need to hear it and adjust. I think most people are like that. It’s about mourning the things you are used to and and getting excited about new things.

Stage three is like that for me. I like being home. The idea of not being home is a little bit scary but also exciting. I need time to adjust. I am not resisting it, I am just sitting with the idea in preparation for something different. Life is not going to be the same. BUT – it will be kinda the same with some new elements, like never being able to be spontaneous again. Businesses like knowing how many people to expect. So the appointment system will remain. I like (and I am sure my doctor does too) phone call appointments for prescription renewal. I LOVE curbside pickup. I never want that to leave.

I have been back at the office one or two times a week for short periods to review things and send in invoices. It has been so nice to see people in person rather that on the video screen. I cannot image how hard it has been for new staff to start work on our team from home. It is a strange new world. But I like it.

This new world has shown me that boundaries are excellent for my mental health. Small groups make me feel safe. I can’t trust everyone so limiting that group has been excellent for my mental health. I expect travel to be very different once I begin to head out into the world next year. My first trip will be a road trip – I don’t know if air travel will be easy for me ever again. I am excited to explore my country and go places I have never been.

I want to visit an amethyst mine in northern Ontario. I want to eat poutine in Montreal. I want to dip my toes in the ocean while standing on a red beach in PEI. I want to walk around Niagara on the Lake and see what the fuss is about. I want to see an iceberg float by while they still exist. I want to walk on the cobbled streets of Quebec City.

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The second trip I want to take is also a road trip, but it will be to the USA. I feel uncomfortable about that, but I can do hard things. I want to drive to Sedona and explore energy vortexes. I want to go to the Hot Air Balloon Festival. I want to spend some time at the Gulf of Mexico and I really want to see the Florida Keys and go to Judy Blume’s book store. I want to go to Vero Beach and watch turtles.

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The third trip will be back to Tofino, BC to say hello to my friend Ocean at Chesterman Beach, visit Feather George and sleep in a room while listening to the ocean gently lulling me to sleep. Visit Zoe and eat her grape pizza and stop on the way home to pick up sugar pumpkins and maybe a case of Macintosh apples.

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Stage three can’t come soon enough. But also it can wait.

Stay healthy friends!

Edmonton Tourist: Miquelon Lake Provincial Park

Miquelon lake is the provincial park of my childhood. Dad would take us here during summer break as long as we did our chores before hand. It was only a 40 minute drive from our house in Sherwood Park so it was an easy destination that gave all the beachy vibes of a destination vacation. That’s a lie. There are no palm trees or crystal clear blue water. It is a swamp in the middle of the prairies, but that’s not to say the place isn’t lovely – its beautiful for what it is. Miquelon Lake is not trying to be a lake in Ontario or an ocean beach. It is a lake on the prairies.

I have cabin fever an many of you do too because this place was packed. Filled with loud music, people singing off key, people yelling and the smell of hot dogs in the air. It wasn’t the tranquil respite I was hoping for.

I hadn’t been here since my niece went missing on the beach. Spoiler alert: we found her 20 terrifying minutes later playing in the trees close by. Before that, I would bring my kids here just like my dad did years before. Its a good place to build sandcastles. Back in the day you were allowed to swim in the water but in recent years the lake has been receding and is now leaching salt. Chalk it up to climate change. I suppose it won’t be the place I take my grandkids to swim and that’s a shame.

In elementary school, we would come on overnight campouts. I learned orienteering here in the woods, and was taught about the different ecosystems. I studied beavers and their lodges, watched loons and blue herons. It was the wilderness in my backyard.

It still is those things but its also a picnic destination. Captain and I went for walk along the beach and it is quite a distance now from the parking lot. Where the water began in the 70’s is now beach grass and sand extends past where I learned to swim.

We headed north into the group picnic sites and walked along some trails before heading back to the car. I couldn’t hear nature, just loud music. I might be that old man who yells at people “Get off my lawn!”. The park is still lovely. There are plenty of picnic spots. The campground was full for a weekend in April which is unusual but 19C is an invitation to enjoy the beginning of summer here in the Edmonton area so who can blame them? I too was searching for nature now that spring is here.

I don’t think I will come back for a long time. I will leave it for families who are picnicking and playing frisbee. Maybe when my grandkids come on the scene we will come for a picnic and a hike in the woods or bring the telescope because this place is a protected night sky reserve.

My next destination will be definitely be the road less traveled.

Edmonton Tourist: Government House

Sitting high above the North Saskatchewan river is Government House. This park is also home to the form Royal Alberta Museum or RAM. I may be wrong, but I think the old RAM still houses museum archives. I hope one day it becomes an indigenous peoples museum. The architecture of the building is stunning. It would be a shame to let it fall into ruin.

I came here a few weeks ago when the sky’s were filled with smoke from the American fires. Edmonton had very few smoke filled days this summer. Likely because everyone stayed home (for the most part) this year. The government house grounds are home to a significant collection of public art. The Captain and I strolled around the grounds to take it all in. It had been a while since we visited here. Often its in the winter to look at the Christmas lights.

There was a wedding in front of Government House, probably no more than 10 people and two dogs. All wearing masks. It was a lovely setting. I know it isn’t a ‘trend’ to have smaller weddings right now, but I like it. The big splash of a wedding doesn’t appeal to me. I like a nice simple affair with a handful of meaningful friends and family. I parked far away from the wedding party so they could have their privacy and I could have minimal people contact.

At the bottom of the parking lot is a path that leads to the valley and Government House Park. There is a great tobogan run and a fantastic running path that takes you west along the river bend and then south. The leaves were perfection. This was the peak day for fall.

We then headed towards the totem that sits on the south east corner.

I don’t know what it is, but I love totem poles. I like to really take my time with each face and study the carver’s ability.

This one is soulful and feels sad.

Cap soon became restless so we headed towards RAM to look at the public art. One section of the building has stone carvings that represent petroglyphs. In all my years coming here, I had never noticed these before.

We wandered around the building to look at the other pieces of art, but honestly none were as beautiful as the building itself.

This is my favourite piece on property.

We wandered around the back of the building and Cap heard the howl of a coyote so we stopped to listen. I thought he would join in but he was not okay with the coyote and thought we should leave.

Soon we were back at Government House. It is haunted so I always look for paranormal activity in the windows. I saw a clerk once in the window as a kid. The building was closed and it was night. The hair on my arms stood on end. It was spooky. I don’t like going in that building but I take visitors on tours there. Apparently there is a ghost story about a clerk who locks men in one of the rooms. The men who work in the building avoid going into that room. The ghost doesn’t bother the women at all.

The medallion in the centre is a wild rose. I would love to take an imprint of that and turn it into a tatecanvas bag or something.

We stopped this building. I am not sure what it is but it is beautiful to look at.

If you enjoy public art, I recommend a visit to Government House grounds. Wander around and take in the views. Whatever you decided to do for fun, keep your distance, wear a mask and stay healthy friends.

Edmonton Tourist: Queen Elizabeth Planetarium

Have you ever been to the planetarium? Not the Space Science Centre, the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium located at Coronation Park. It was the first planetarium in Canada and I used to go all the time when I was a kid. I remember sitting in the blue velvet seats (I have know idea if they were or not, but that is how I remember them) and staring at the white lights on the ceiling called stars.

I learned abut constellations and gained enough knowledge that I would pick them out in my backyard and name them. I still can. It was something my grandpa and I would stand in the back yard and we would point them out to each other. My brother was looking for UFOs and I was looking for other planets. Grandpa would always point out Cassiopeia – the W in the sky. He told me it was God’s initial W. It stood for Warren, Grandpa’s last name – implying he was the divine. If you knew my grandpa, you would know he was a giant fibber, all in fun, but a giant fibber just the same.

Stargazing was a huge favourite pastime of mine – still is to some extent. I am not a rabid fan like the hubs but I enjoy it on a crisp fall night. I remember coming here with my class for field trips and with my cousins with my grandma. The place seemed huge but I loved gazing at the stars from the comfort of the chairs. I remember the building being larger, of course I was a kid so everything was larger.

This building is supposed to open soonish – hard to say when since there is a pandemic, but soonish could mean next year. They did a marvelous job on the inside. I took a peak and the restored architectural design is quite lovely, even the bust of Her Majesty looks grand.

Trying to find this place from memory was tricky. I have walked to it from the Space Science centre, of course we have parked at the building when I was a child, but trying to drive to it wasn’t as straight forward as I expected. The building is in a back alley of sorts now. Behind Ross Shepherd High School. It is directly across from the sports field. I found it eventually and walked around the building. The mosaics are still located in the front of the building which is now the back. The front faces the park and the back of the building is the parking lot. It doesn’t matter, it creates a grand entrance.

I am glad the City of Edmonton preserved it. It is a true historical gem.

Stay safe and healthy friends and get out to explore your town.

Edmonton Tourist: ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ Kâhasinîskâk

Have you seen the new bridge that spans Connors Road? It is beautiful and will need a revisit after the LRT Valley line construction is complete because you just can’t get close enough to take a good photo. I did a drive by and it doesn’t do it justice.

The bridge is called ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ or Kâhasinîskâk (pronounced kâ-(h)a-si-nî-skâk) it means “slow moving water over stones” which is in reference to Mill Creek just south of the bridge. There are a few things I love about this project. First of all I love the nod to the Cree peoples who are here now and who came before us here on Treaty 6 lands. I love the written language of Cree. I love the look of this bridge and I love that the City of Edmonton up-cycled the old bridge and moved it to Blackmud Creek. I hope Edmonton incorporates more indigenous names, artwork and architecture in our landscape.

After I drove under it to get that terrible photo, I parked at the Muttart Conservatory so Captain and I could walk over to the bridge. I used to run here a lot and was in much better shape, but I still found the hill daunting and hard to climb. In my less than fit state, I am happy to report, I climbed that hill and lived to talk about it.

The park west of the conservatory appears to be unnamed. If you know the name, let me know. I think it is Dove of Peace park. That is where the Dove was moved to after Pope John Paul II held mass under it.

I thought there used to be a swing hanging from it. Am I imagining it? Does someone else remember it? This hill also provided great views of downtown and I took a moment to wave a my pal who lives across the river. I texted her to say I was waving. She wasn’t home but said hi.

This perspective gives you some idea how steep the hill is. It is where Edmonton Ski Club is located and people sit on these hills for the Folk Fest. It provides a lovely view – plus the construction of the valley line station. Ugly but necessary. I am sure they will place public art to help with the ugliness.

I kept climbing and made it to the top where ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ or Kâhasinîskâk crossed Connors Road.

It isn’t really finished. The deck is just roofing shingles and Cap wouldn’t walk on it. Likely too hot and gritty plus he is fearful of heights. I couldn’t walk across it. It it lovely though, I love this architecture.

We headed back down the hill and saw the backside of the Dove of Peace and took in the views of Edmonton Ski Hill and the Muttart Conservatory.

When we made it down the hill, we walked around the Cloverdale neighbourhood. I like it here too but living here during Folk Fest is a no go for me. Half of Edmonton arrives in this neighbouhood for a weekend and no thanks. But it sure is charming.

Where should I go next? I might head over to Emily Murphy Park because I don’t have that in my River Valley Parks series, or maybe I will head to one of the ravines. Let me know what you would like to see next.

Stay healthy friends and get out there to explore your neighbourhoods.

Edmonton Tourist: Muttart Conservatory

I am getting braver. I still won’t go inside public buildings, except for grocery and pharmacy. But I am visiting lesser visited outdoor public spaces. This week I went to a few spots in Edmonton’s beautiful river valley.

September is sunflower season here. I was starting to see sunflowers pop up on my Instagram feed. I thought I would go and see if the Horticultural Society was still maintaining the gardens at the Muttart. The Muttart Conservatory is closed this year and next for extensive renovations. Hindsight tells them, it was good timing, the same goes for Fort Edmonton. Timing is everything! The new LRT line is under construction and quite frankly the roads are a mess.

But…

This scares people off and I’m for it.

The parking lot at the Muttart was surprisingly full but I learned that was for the construction. I found a spot in the north section and parked. A few masks were tossed on the ground. Your mom doesn’t work here so clean up after yourself. You should be ashamed. Clip those loops and toss in the trash. Better yet, purchase a pile of reusables and wash them. At least you are wearing a mask…

Captain and I walked south towards the cute little foot bridge at the path entrance.

There were a few people walking around but only two small families. My first thought was this would be a lovely spot for a wedding. I knew an Egyptian family who immigrated here years ago. They held their daughter’s wedding photos here because of the pyramids. They were beautiful photos.

I had forgotten there was a gazebo too.

This park is really charming. Cap was pulling me onward towards the gardens. I instantly spied the sunflower bed. So we headed towards it.

It shared space with zinnias, or at least I think they are zinnias. Fun fact, they were Lois Holes favourite flower – or at least she said they were in her annuals book.

You can’t tell from this photo but the space between the gardens and the cityscape is the LRT construction. Crouch low so you get the best vantage point.

The bees were busy gathering pollen for winter. I found a few hives mounted on trees to support bee life here in Edmonton, SAVE OUR POLLINATORS!

I took a pile of photos of just sunflowers. You can check those out on Instagram, some even star bees.

We wandered around the flower beds and found the afternoon to be relaxing. I missed this. I miss Edmonton’s parks. But I am reluctant to go to many places. Usually the colder weather reduces the number of people in the parks, so I am going to check more out this fall. I am not afraid of cold and snow, and it keeps people inside. All the better for me.

My plan was to climb up on top of the conservatory. The conservatory is built into the ground with the centre courtyard a flat space for walking around and looking into the greenhouse pyramids. I climbed up the steep bank only to find the walkway closed. Sad sigh on my part.

We climbed back down and walked around the south side of the conservatory. This area was ankle deep grass. It wasn’t mowed all season.

I knew the community gardens were around the west side of the conservatory so we headed there. These gardens are overrun with weeds but we found strawberries, peppers, green tomatoes, chard and milkweed.

I turned around an saw a tiny path that let to Dove of Peace Park, but I will save that for next week.

Have you been to the Muttart Gardens? It is a perfect place to sit and meditate or wander around and smell the flowers. It is worth a visit.

Edmonton Tourist: University of Alberta

It is the time of year when students are heading back to school and participating in a once in a lifetime pandemic. Life is strange and unfamiliar right now. Both my adult children are attending classes but not at their campus of choice. They are attending classes via Teams, Zoom and eClass. This is how I finished my degree, so I know a little bit about what they are going through. It is hard to make connections, participate in group work, and borrow books from the library. My work from home situation is similar. It is hard to work on group projects, chat and become inspired and get those creative juices flowing. However, it is what it is and we are making the most of it.

My daughter is annoyed that she is paying buckets of money and she doesn’t even get to enjoy the best part of University, Fall Semester on the Arts Quad. I have to agree. It is the best part about about being a U of A student. Certainly not the windowless classrooms, but walking across campus to get to different classes before winter sets in.

I left the house last week for the first time since forever or blursday, I can’t remember. I hadn’t been on campus since last fall. My MRI doesn’t count because I was in and out of the Kaye without going anywhere but my car. I was doing some architectural research for a book I am working on and drove to the University of Alberta Campus and brought my pal Captain. We could have stayed in the car but I needed to walk.

It felt normal. I miss normal.

I parked at Rutherford House Provincial Historic site. For those of you not in the know, Alexander Rutherford was Alberta’s first Premier. His other lesser home is found in the valley at Fort Edmonton Park. I have toured this house a lot. I used to imagine living here when I was a kid. I loved the opulence of the grand staircase and the idea of having a maid to cook meals. My hubs does that now and it is as decadent as you think it might be. We walked around the gardens taking bad photos.

The gardens are well maintained and lovely for being so late in the season.

We headed south towards the Common where the international students reside as well as other student housing. I love that the campus sits on the south bank of the North Saskachewan River.

The older homes mixed with the newer architecture is normal to me and I love the character it adds to Garneau neighbourhood. The big elm trees that hang over the streets is so lovely and calming. I ask myself every time I am here, WHY DO I NOT LIVE HERE?

We stopped and admired gardens and buildings then found ourselves in front of Convocation Hall, the old Arts Building. The entire arts quad is lovely. A friend of mind said it reminds him of Harvard. Harvard is 383 years old, U of A is 112 years old but it feels stately and peacful.

There is a little brook between Convocation Hall and Hub. I love to sit here and just think or meditate. I have had many great ideas here and the best part is I haven’t shared this spot with anyone so it isn’t tainted with memories. It is just my spot to visit alone.

My parents used to take my brother and I here for walks in the evening. Likely my dad had to drop off a paper or we were picking him up from class. I don’t remember, but I loved running around the big trees and visiting the Turtle or as the sign post says, Tory Building.

So many great memories here for me. I hope my kids have equally great ones too. Get out and explore new neighbourhoods, Edmonton is a lovely city.

Edmonton Tourist: Emily Murphy House

I was researching Garneau, a community in Edmonton, for a new novel I am writing and I stumbled upon Emily Murphy’s house. I knew she lived in Edmonton when she arrived west in 1907. I didn’t give much thought to where she lived. I was looking around google maps looking for a specific architectural style needed for my story. I knew it was in the area between the High Level Diner and the river valley, but I zoomed out a bit to see what else was in that neighbourhood and a pin was marking her house.

I am not a stranger to the University of Alberta. I worked in the area for years, attended classes on campus, and worked production on the Indoor Games held at the Butter Dome. I would run all over the commons and quad, check out the public art and dine at the locals like Sugar Bowl and High Level Diner. My friend Jenny even lived on the same street at the Murphy House and I never knew it.

Emily Murphy House is located 11011 – 88 Ave on the 88 Ave common. It’s a road that only has vehicle access occasionally, usually during student move in time. The house is surrounded by student housing for the University of Alberta. The student housing was originally built for the 1983 Universiade Games as athletes village. (I remember those games and spent the entire summer on campus watching events and games. It was a great summer.) The tree lined common is typical of the area, well, typical of most of the older Edmonton neighbourhoods, with elm boulevard trees.

The house was not marked from street view, I had to walk right up to the stairs before I found the historical marker. It was built in 1912. Emily Murphy didn’t move into the home until 1917 and lived there until her death on 1933. I stood there for a moment thinking about the significance. She was an activist and author in her own right, but also part of the Famous Five. The group of Canadian white women who fought for the right to be people under the law in the infamous Persons Case. That is some big history in this house. The Person’s Case happened in 1929. Big meetings happened in that house. I found that cool. It still surprises me that I hadn’t thought about where Emily Murphy might live. The park that bears her name is straight north of the house in the river valley and there is a statue that commemorates her and her contributions. I also had been there but not in a few years. It is one of my favourite places for a picnic though. Check it out if you are in the area.

I guess my point is, Edmonton is full of history and interesting things to look at. You don’t need to go to other cities or countries to be a tourist. You can do it in your own backyard.

Stay healthy everyone.

Edmonton Tourist: Disneyland

If you know me at all, you know one of my favourite places to be at any given moment is sitting in a rocking chair on the veranda at Main Street USA in Disneyland. As I age, I am less about the rides and more about details and atmosphere. Sipping an ice-cold lemonade, listening to ragtime music or better yet, the Dapper Dans and watching the world go by. MainStreet is charming. It evokes feelings from my childhood when everything was easy.

The first time I went to Disneyland I was six. My first memory is of my family walking from the parking lot which is now the Esplanade and Disney’s California Adventure, through the front gates which haven’t changed a bit. The Mickey floral is the same and we walked through the left side of the tunnel sweeping us into a whole other universe.

It was clean, smelled of vanilla, and colourful in pale yellows, reds and blues. I held my dad’s hand and took it all in. I can’t tell you what my first ride was. I have no idea. I remember riding Pirates and being scared on Haunted Mansion, sitting beside my mom on It’s a Small World and I was horrified that my uncle was shrunk and never was the same size again after riding Adventures Thru Inner Space. I remember loving the People Mover and America Sings. My first parade was Main Street Electrical Parade and my first character visit was with Mickey Mouse on Main Street and my first crush was Robin Hood.

My last visit was similar to all the visits before. Only this time I was the mom and the parking lot was over by the Disneyland Hotel, that special cast member spot because my niece is one of those Cast Members who work for the Mouse. I walked along Main Street that hadn’t changed and still looks clean, smells of vanilla and colourful in pale yellows, reds and blues. I sat on the veranda sipping lemonade while my girls rode Star Tours endlessly in the same spot that Adventures through Inner Space used to be. I shared knowledge of secrets, retired attractions and hidden pathways that have now become other things.

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Crowds and costs have become overwhelming but somehow with the right planning, I found myself enjoying it all the same way I had when I was six because, for me, the pleasure is in the details. Here are a few of my favourite details that haven’t changed.

1.       The Red and White Lightbulb. At the end of Main Street at Refreshment corner, there are a series of red and white light bulbs at the entrance of the marque. There were not enough spots to have an even pattern of red/white. Walt Disney suggested the imaginears paint one bulb red and white – split it down the middle. This kind of detail impresses the heck out of me.

2.       When building New Orleans Square, the imaginears were sent to NOLA to do some research. They came back with pages of ideas to recreate the area to make it as authentic as possible right down to the brass plaques in the space above some of the doors, this one is above the wall light. In NOLA, these plaques indicated who had fire insurance and who didn’t as a signal to the fire department. Fingers crossed you had one so the firefighters wouldn’t let the place burn.

3.       The Country Bear Jamboree was a favourite of both my mom and me. We loved Big Al and Rufus. Melvin, Buff and Max would chat before the show from their mounts on the wall. In Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, if you look up as you pass through one of the doors, you can see the trio hanging above the door. That makes me smile almost as much as hearing Rufus snore on Splash Mountain.Image result for max melvin buff

4.       There is a Moon and a Sun in every room of It’s a Small World. This is contrary to the song “there is just one moon and a golden sun” but it is a detail that thrills me.

5.       I stood in line for Peter Pan late one night because I like that ride to be my last. It is always a 45-minute wait and kids get bored pretty easy. Parents were all on the phones while kids were swinging from the rails. I tapped a few kids on the shoulder and pointed to the window above Snow White’s Scary Adventure. The evil queen opens the curtains every few minutes and surveys Fantasyland with a scowl. The kids were amazed and showed their parents. There is always something special to see when you are looking up. The ride is undergoing a major refurb right now so finger’s crossed she will still be lording over Fantasyland when it is all complete.

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I know a billion more and it can be pretty annoying going with me as I spew Disney trivia and secrets to unsuspecting companions. But that is all part of the fun for me.