Of Books and Titles

Hello Everyone. This morning I’d like to tell you about author Dan Walsh and one of his books, The Deepest Waters. I’ve read a number of Dan’s books, including this one I’d give a five-star rating. It is one REALLY good read, both for the story part and for the historical angle, being based on a true incident. Here’s part of his blurb on Amazon.com  :

“What began as a fairy-tale honeymoon in 1857 for John and Laura Foster aboard the steamship S.S. Vandervere becomes a nightmare when a hurricane causes their ship to sink into the murky depths of the Atlantic. Laura finds herself with the other women and children aboard a sailing ship while John and a hundred other men drift on the open sea on anything they could grab as the Vandervere went down… Laura must face the possibility of life alone and meeting her new in-laws without their son if she ever reaches New York.”

As he says on his website, the publisher has recently returned the rights to his book and he’s just re-released it as an indie e-book. For the next five days, until MAY 1ST, you can pre-order a copy for only $2.99; after that the price goes up to $3.99.

Now for a personal note:

Since free books abound…and I want to promote my own writing and my books as well… I’ve been considering putting out a another book of short stories — mainly flash fiction tales I’ve written — and putting it out there as a free e-book. For the past couple of days I’ve been trying to come up with a title for this book and decide which stories I want to include in it.

This isn’t as easy as it may seem, since I have to do a check on Amazon for similar titles. Flash Fiction Stories and Tales from the… have been used so many times a person would have to scroll through dozens before they came to my book. Whereas some other titles I check out bring up books with the same title, but sometimes a quite different genre.

I like birds. How about The Wandering Tattler? 🙂 I like the word Kaleidoscope — indicating a variety — but then so did a dozen other writers. I could borrow from Dan’s title and call my book, In the Shallow Waters, but it doesn’t really grab me. Does anyone have a great title suggestion for a few dozen non-themed flash fiction tales?

Meanwhile, it’s spring in our land. The grass is beginning to show a green tinge and the trees are budding. Our early birds all got the memo at the same time; last Friday I saw robins, snow geese, and sandhill cranes one morning; Saturday I saw an avocet at one slough, two great blue herons at another. That really surprised me; you don’t often see them at all around here. These days snow geese are constantly flying over in flocks of several hundred, and making the fields white where they settle. I think we prairie folks live for spring!

Spring Morning

Kisses of Spring

Meadowlark singing on fence post,
ducks dabbling on the slough,
the cry of a pair of Canada geese
overhead, as they hurry on through.

The woods beside us now waken
with sound at first morning light;
I spy a flock of some kind of birds
silent and northward their flight

These are the kisses of springtime,
the sights and the sounds that delight.
Oh no! While I’m here rhapsodizing
our landscape is fast turning white.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Good Morning from our house. The dawn was rather misty when I first looked out and I saw this flock of birds winging over the field beside us. Small ducks, maybe? I let the cats out and sat back to enjoy the coming of spring.

A pair of Canada geese have been around for a week; the ducks and meadowlark we saw Sunday on the way to church. I could hear small birds twittering in the woods yesterday as I went out for a walk. Sunny days and south winds have melted most of the snow in our yard. Last week the driveway was muddy, but by yesterday it had almost completely dried off. Oh, the joys of warmer weather!

As I enjoyed my morning coffee this morning a poem came to me, so I fired up the computer and started to write. I hadn’t quite decided how to finish off, though — until I looked outside again and saw the air full of snow. Our poor cats huddled on the back step, turning white along with everything else.

A sad surprise indeed. Poor little birds! And no wonder that flock was winging it in such a hurry, probably looking for a place to shelter. Oh, well. I shall carry on with my sewing project, a dress for myself, and forget about taking a long walk in the sunshine.

A Lively Drummer

Happy “First Day of Spring” to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere. Though it doesn’t look very much like spring here, a friend reports seeing a flock of Canada geese fly over. To celebrate the day, I’ll reblog this story from a few years back:

Once upon a time there was an old man and an old woman who lived in an old mobile home right next to the woods. This old couple had reached that phase of life so aptly expressed by the poet:
“Those difficult days have come and lit:
too tired to work; too poor to quit.”

One afternoon the old woman, ready for a nice nap, plopped her weary self into her recliner and closed her eyes. A few minutes later she heard a curious sound:

Scritch … Scritch … Scritch

Now this woman, in addition to being old and tired, was also hard of hearing. In this case her handicap made it difficult to judge where the sound was coming from. It seemed to filter in from some peripheral place — a hard-shelled bug tapping on the window, perhaps, or a bird hopping on the roof?

SCRITCH … SCRITCH … SCRITCH

Now it could be a student shut in one of the trailer’s back bedrooms rooms half-heartedly pecking away on a manual typewriter. It would take him years to get an essay done at that rate.

Then the old woman remembered she was hard of hearing. Was the source of the sound a lot closer than she first thought? Had some brave mouse ventured out to nibble at the cat food sitting on the dining room floor? Her eyes popped open and she looked toward the cat food dish in the dining area. No mouse.

Now all was silent, so she reclined and shut her eyes. Such a tiny sound she could ignore. Zzz..

CLANK CLANG CLANK CLANG

The old woman jumped from her chair. This was more like a chainsaw chewing rapid-fire through a drain pipe. She hurried through the trailer, checking every room, but saw nothing spinning or vibrating that could produce a sound like that.

Some madman must be chain-sawing his way through the trailer wall! What else could make such a racket? She rushed outside to let this fellow know he dare not mess with her. (Okay, a bit of fiction added to embellish the tale. 🙂 )

She saw no one, no reason for this awful noise. The only living thing she saw was a northern flicker on the roof peering down at her curiously. He was sitting on the chimney…

Oh.

The flicker, deciding she was a wingless, harmless creature, went back to his task of drilling a hole in the steel disc protecting their chimney, producing an identical CLANK CLANG CLANK CLANG

Perhaps the bird was excited about his ability to produce such a rousing sound, but the old woman had never been a fan of heavy metal. Offering a harsh critique of his music, she persuaded him to do his drumming somewhere else.

Icicles and Snow Days

 

Our weather’s supposed to warm up in the next few days, then turn colder again. which means we’ll get icicles hanging from the eaves wherever roof snow has trickled down.

Icicle are so picturesque, don’t you think? And what child in the colder parts of the world hasn’t tried to eat an icicle? You crunched it with your teeth and loved the sensation of eating frozen glass.

Who among us hasn’t broken off a particularly long one to wave around like a spear, feeling its slippery smoothness? Tossed it like a javelin and listened to the splintering sound as it hit its target.

Perhaps you were wearing wooly mitts when you cracked the metre-long icicle off from the overhanging roof on a sunny day, then had your mittens freeze to the ice. When you finally were able to drop it, you found fuzzy fibers stuck to the icicle and your mitt had a thinner spot.

I suppose there are places in the world where icicles never form, let along get to be six feet long. One can’t imagine them hanging down from trees in the Amazon rain-forest, or in caves along the Nile. What deprivation! On the other hand, we were in Quebec during the infamous “Enfer de glace” when steady rain for almost a week and temps hovering at the freezing point gave “ice” a whole new meaning!

Likewise, what northern climate child hasn’t tried to catch a snowflake on his tongue? Or you open your mouth to the falling flakes and try to catch a dozen, feeling the tickle of cold as they land on your face, powdering your nose and hair.

What child doesn’t love being out in a fresh thick blanket of snow. You swish through the whiteness, plowing it aside with your feet. Or flop down and make a snow angel. When the snow’s falling thick and fast you can look around and feel yourself all alone in this whitening world, leaving your own trail. Your own personal mark in time and place.

Then you glance back and watch the snow filling in your footprints, erasing your passage, making the world white again. You get a fleeting sense of your own life story, your own mortality.

The falling snow wipes out all your missteps and stumbles. Snow renews our hope that such things are possible, that we can have our missteps in this world erased by a merciful heavenly hand.

Snow is created for the senses; it’s created for the bliss of an exploring child. And for a lot of folks it has this figurative sense as well: forgiveness and a life cleansed from impurity.

First posted Nov 19, 2015 as a response to the WordPress Daily Prompt,
where we were to do a post describing some aspect of the sense of touch.

 

Winter Has Its Blessings

Another “character-building” winter day is dawning here in Saskatchewan. Thermometers in the city of Saskatoon are showing -29C / -20F at 7 am with a bracing wind chill equal to -37 C/ -34 F. (Actually the wind is only 8 kms per hour, but at this temp it doesn’t take much wind to give you an invigorating bite if you think of standing around outdoors.) Forecast high today is -21C / -6.

My heart goes out in sympathy to folks who normally live on the street and I’m so thankful there are organizations like the Salvation Army and various street missions that open their doors to the homeless and give them a warm meal. And I’m thankful for my own warm home. It’s a great day to build something at my sewing machine.

During the past few weeks I’ve been going through some scribblings, keying poems and what-not into my computer so I can toss out some of my space-absorbing paper collection. Here’s one silly poem I’ve saved for an especially chilly winter day.

Yes, there are some advantages to a deep freeze.

Ode to a Prairie Pest

What can the use of a grasshopper be?
Not even one purpose occurs to me!
Do you think that God in his great wise ways
has a reason for you on hot summer days?

Or are you guys here to help us know
the blessings of the soft fluffy snow
and cold that freezes those little chins
to keep you from eating the grain in our bins?

So I’ll give thanks for snow a-crunching
that deadens the sound of insects munching.
And now that I think it’s grasshopper free,
how very beautiful heaven must be!

Moonbeams and Wee Hours

I wonder how many of you got to see the “blood moon” this morning? I got up at 7:15 am and glanced out our south window to see stars twinkling brilliantly in a black sky. No moonlight, though.

My husband had reminded me before bed that there would be an eclipse in the early morning, so I stepped out and had a look around. Took some looking but I did find the moon, pretty much at full eclipse, and it definitely did have a bloody appearance. I checked again from time to time as the earth started to move away. These natural phenomena are always intriguing.

In honour of this “blue moon” and lunar eclipse event, I’ll post some lunar haiku I’ve written in the past:

Midnight Thoughts

midnight poems
composed when sleep won’t come
only the moon is clear

full moon.night.jpg

Moonshine

In the wee hours
he wanders, bleary eyes
full of moonshine

Kind Moon

even to the drunkard
snoring in the alley
the moon is kind

Climate 1935-Style

Now that we’ve reached the end of January and are looking forward to warmer days ahead,  I thought this might be a great time to pause and look back at some of the weather our grandparents endured. This account reblogged from August 2012:

Worst of the Worst, Weather-Wise

Never before had western Canadians seen a year like 1935.  The first week in January temperatures fell to between -35̊ and -40̊ F (-37.5 to -40̊ C) all across the prairies and for two months winter held the prairie provinces in a frozen vice, lightened only by the occasional blizzard –some lasting for days– that would bring temperatures up a few degrees.

For the first two weeks in February temps rarely went above -30̊, a lot of days saw -40̊ or colder.  Winnipeg residents saw the line in their home thermometers sitting at -52̊ (-47̊ C) on the morning of Feb 6th.  Alas, the official Winnipeg thermometer had malfunctioned overnight, so the record was never officially recorded.

On February 16th saw -36̊ in Calgary, -51̊ in Edmonton, -43̊ at Saskatoon, -54̊ at Regina; other spots recorded -40̊.  City schools continued to open their doors, but streets were pretty much deserted; rural schools were closed and folks who didn’t have to leave home stayed put.  A lot of families huddled near the heater or wood stove, wrapped in all their blankets and tried to stay upbeat.  Spring was bound to come sooner or later.

Farmers put off going for fuel as long as they could.  They needed a team of horses and the air tires of a “Bennet buggy” to get anywhere, since blizzards had filled the roads with snowdrifts.  Otherwise it was impossible to go anywhere, even if a fellow could start his frozen engine.  (This was back in the days when vehicles had cranks as starters and all-season motor oil was unheard of.)  Every side road between Winnipeg and Calgary was blocked.

A thaw at the end of February brought an end to the severe cold; in April spring finally arrived.  Some folks who were hoping for some respite from the drought that had wiped out most of the 1934 crop saw a bit of light at the end of the tunnel: outside the Palliser Triangle* spring rains watered the parched earth.  Inside the Palliser Triangle: nada.

Hopes were soon dashed, though, as a giant heat wave built up on the US plains and sent high temps and dust-bearing winds rolling over the prairies.  The dry heat sucked up what soil moisture there was; crops turned pale, then brown.  By July 1st 90̊ and over temps were the rule, continuing across southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta for the next six weeks straight.

Streams and rivers ran dry; wildlife disappeared.  Heat-weary city folks tried to sleep in parks or on balconies to find some night time relief but had to contend with hoppers and crickets – and in places where there actually were bodies of water, mosquitoes.  Farmers often had to haul water many miles for their families and what livestock they had left.

During this time Ontario was hit by a ten-day heat wave as well and residents there began to appreciate what the West was going through.  For one solid week in July, from Windsor to Belleville, the thermometer registered 100̊ F or over every day.  Toronto recorded 105̊ on three successive days.  Surrounded by the Great Lakes as they are, the humidity would have been unbearable; 5000 succumbed to heat prostration during those ten days.

From Calgary to Winnipeg nothing grew but dust clouds and grasshoppers.  The blowing hot air was stifling, the grit inescapable.  One southern town saw temperatures fall below 90̊ on only three days during those six weeks!  Willow Creek, in SW Sask, recorded temperatures above 100̊ on thirteen July days.  People died every day.  In the West no one bothered to compile statistics; folks were in survival mode only.

In Manitoba the heat wave peaked on July 11th with temps of 108̊ in Winnipeg, 110̊ in Brandon & Morden, then hung at over 100̊ all through the third week of July.  A dozen people died daily, plus many of their pets.  Finally the heat spell ended in a destructive electrical storm that stretched from Winnipeg through the eastern part of the province.  But Sask and southern Alberta was shown no mercy from the blast furnace until the latter part of August.

Winter came early with brief but chilly waves throughout the fall.  In October the temperature dropped to -8̊F (just under 22̊ C) at times, to -20̊ in November and -40̊ in December.

During those years folks survived on hope.  If they’d been informed at Christmas of the upcoming winter being another severe one, or that the drought would last another two years, how many of them would have simply given up the ghost?

——————————————————————————————————————————
*Palliser Triangle: In 1857 the British government sent an expedition led by Captain John Palliser to assess the agricultural potential of the Northwest Territories .  When he was gave his report to his superiors, he drew a triangle on his map and said the land inside this triangle was unsuitable for farming. Severe winters, undependable rainfall, large tracts of sand that would blow or clay that would bake hard by early summer.  They’d had a hard enough time to cross it, never mind trying to farm it.  This triangle covered a lot of southern Alberta, all of southern Sask, and southwestern Manitoba, The base ran along the US border and the point was near Saskatoon.

Nonsense, the government replied, and sold it for farmland.  They put out promotional material awash with illustrations of lush wheat fields, information carefully vetted of any hints about severe cold or drought.  To make matters worse, government agricultural dept advised the inexperienced homesteaders to plow deep in the fall — a practice that brought on the disastrous “Dirty Thirties”.

My sources of information:
Winnipeg writer James H. Gray lived through the years of the Great Depression.  In his book, The Winter Years, he shares his own personal experience of being “on Relief” in Winnipeg as well as giving a political and economic overview of the era.
© 1966 by James H. Gray  Published by The Macmillan Company of Canada

Pierre Berton’s book, The GREAT DEPRESSION, 1929-1939
© 1990 by Pierre Berton Enterprises Ltd.  Published by Anchor Canada