Reading Around WW II

The Winter Fortress, the epic mission to sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb This is true story of the Norwegian underground crew that blew up the heavy water plant in Telemark where my grandparents came from. Don’t know if my relatives were for or against the Nazis as its never been mentioned.

Sabotage, the mission to destroy Hitler’s atomic bomb by Neal Bascomb This is a young adult non-fiction book on the same subject as Winter Fortress

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris This had to be called a novel for reasons the reader will understand. It is based on the powerful true story of love and survival, as written by the author who spent many hours interviewing Lale Sokolov in Australia, where they both now live. I found it difficult to believe the incidents, atrocities I think we call them, that I was reading about but it is “the real thing” about capture and 3 years living in the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz until the war ended.

On Hitler’s Mountain, Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt. The author grew up a Nazi without really knowing what that meant. this is the author’s memoir from her birth in May 1934 to the day in 1945 when she watched American troops occupy Hitler’s Mountain retreat, on the side of which her family lived.

The House by the Lake, one house, five families, and a hundred years of German History by Thomas Harding A research project initiated by the author in 1993 to discover his genealogical connections to the owners and residents of a house placed right on the border of the Iron Curtain fence.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoulit who writes fiction was a surprise. I picked it up as a light read for travel and discovered a mystery and a truthful telling of a grandmother who had escaped the horror of incarceration in a Nazi camp but had never told her family.

The Secret Life of Betchley Park, the WW II codebreaking centre by Sinclair Mackay This is a factual account of the men and women who worked there.

A Lightness of Feeling

I feel immeasurably lighter today than I did last week but it has absolutely nothing to do with body weight. I’m feeling light-hearted with a skip in my steps, as though a great weight has been lifted. Weight was indeed lifted, and I lifted most of it myself, box after box of paper copies accumulated during the 27 years we have lived in this house. From the basement storage room I carted out the door 20 years of financial records, except for the last seven years, that we are required to keep.

Then I began pulling down the manuscripts. Because I had no course time to take high school typing I had hand-written my first book, Management and Foods, then paid a typist to prepare it for typesetting. The finished book was for the BC Education Ministry and I saved those early pages for their memory value.

As I carried boxes and files out to the John Deer Gator for transport up to the garage area I remembered the circumstances under which each file was created. My next book project was Food for Life, by then I had a computer and was typing, sort of. I had carefully preserved each chapter just in case McGraw-Hill Ryerson might want to do a revision of even one chapter for the next printing. That never happened, but by the time the book was “out of print” 15 years later there were other boxes stored on the shelf in front of those files.

When my parents died I become interested in genealogy, which led to my learning there were second cousins still occupying the Forberg Farm in Norway that my grandfather had left to come to Canada. After I had visited them in Norway it seemed the story of the Forbergs in Canada needed to be told. That’s how from Fjord to Floathouse came to be published, with the requisite copies of edited manuscript stored on the basement shelves beside everything else. Eventually there were boxes of edited and final manuscript pages of two other self-published volumes, Beyond the Floathouse, Gunhild’s Granddaughter and Lifelong Learning ready to be placed on another shelf.

Not to be forgotten were the heaviest boxes hiding at the very back of the top shelf. After attempting to reach them, and finding such weight there, I asked a tall strong man to get them down and carry them out for me. They were two big boxes labelled Tribune Timber, which was the name of our contract logging company, sold at least 12 years ago. The grand finale was finding the financial records of Dale’s mother and of his cousin, Verna, both of whom had entrusted us with their leavings upon their passing. It  was long past time to dispose of them also.

So it was with relief that I saw two strong men approach my front door as I was writing this. I had been placing more current private pages in a cardboard box obtained from Monks Office in Sidney with the understanding the purchase price included pickup and shredding. With my pounds of paper loaded in the Gator and brought up to the garage I had contacted the company, Access Records and Media Management, to say they could come for the pickup.

The men came with two huge rolling bins, each capable of holding 200 pounds, loaded my paper and rolled each of them up to the truck. I watched as one of the men pushed a button on the side of the truck to start the action. Then he pushed another button that brought two levers tight against the bin and lifted it up out of sight. I could hear the shredder working and soon the sound stopped. Voila, all my ancient records were gone and a huge weight was lifted away.

What’s in a Scholarship?

June is school leaving time in most of the country. Please tuck this story in the back of your memory to bring forward when its appropriate.

This is the story about a child who grew up on the remote coast of mainland British Columbia living in a house pulled up on to a float of logs and surrounded by water. The few people living in the area, or passing through, were hand loggers, beach combers, and fishermen. Early schooling was taught by her mother because there was no school, or even other children to attend one. The mail and groceries came by boat every two weeks.

When she was ten years old her family moved and she was able to go to a one-room school, where one teacher taught twenty-eight pupils. It was typical then in many rural areas of Canada. But there wasn’t a high school in the logging camp so she was sent, at age thirteen, to board with a family she didn’t know, and visited her parents on weekends occasionally.

Four years later, near the end of her grade twelve year, a favourite English teacher approached her saying “You need to write the government finals anyway, so maybe you’ll think about filling out these application forms for a scholarship.” In 1955 the 400 student school was not yet accredited, and finals in all senior courses were mandatory.

When the school principal called her to his office he told her basically the same thing. She learned the scholarship was a gift from the principal employer in the town, Crown Zellerbach. It provided $500 for each year for four years, to a student studying at university to become a teacher. Did she want to be a teacher? She hadn’t ever thought of it.

Her mind whirling as she signed the forms, wrote the exams and secured a good job selling ladies clothing. She had a steady boyfriend, as most of her girlfriends had; the family assumed they would marry soon, and she would become a homemaker and mother as both her mother and grandmothers had been.

It may come as no surprise to those who know me that it was my picture in the local newspaper when scholarship winners were announced. Then everything was turned upside down. There I was, a logging camp mill-town girl, going off to try her way in a big city. I hastily made the arrangements: secured space in the dormitory and registered at the University of British Columbia.

When I arrived culture shock set in: sorority girls wearing cashmere and pearls (my best sweaters were Kitten brand in Orlon except for one Dalkeith in wool), dances were called “mixers”, afternoon science labs in cold, drafty, army huts, Saturday morning lectures, bus schedules needing transfers, heavy cafeteria food, line-ups for absolutely everything, but oh, it was all so new, and such fun.

I went home for that first Thanksgiving weekend and broke off with my boyfriend. From that time onward I didn’t really fit in at home. I had discovered a whole new world that I had not been aware of, and had decided to be a part of it.

I learned new ways of looking at life, obtained a university degree from UBC, met lifelong friends, including my best friend who became my husband, and developed a satisfying, varied, career that included motherhood also. It has been a very good life – one beyond my wildest expectations. Winning the scholarship did all that – it was indeed life changing.

If you remember nothing else about stories of award winners, even small amounts that provide approval and encouragement to a student, please never underestimate the change that can result in the lives of these students our CFUW clubs give money to. If they are ready to make the change it has potential for a whole different improved life.

Success in Early Reading

July, 2013, North Saanich:

My friends and I are sorting used books in a large gymnasium preparing for our book sale in aid of scholarship and bursaries for local students. Grandson, Tait, six years old, sits on the floor under a sorting table going through a pile of children’s books. He’s not finding anything interesting.
My retired kindergarten teacher friend approaches him to make a suggestion. Then she turns to me.
I explain that Tait, who is having a few days for his “summer holiday” with me, is struggling at school with reading. He’s a kind, considerate, classmate with many friends – teachers love him – but that doesn’t help with what he needs to learn.
She tells me, “Sometimes little boys find reading harder than girls do. They need to be allowed to try reading just anything, whether you approve or not, simply let them read.” And so we did; the strategy took hold.

Lego was important in Tait’s home. Big construction projects were always under way, pieces scattered wherever one stepped. Siblings and friends worked at building cooperatively and with the addition of cars and ramps new creations grew. Little sister coveted a pink Lego set in her room. Then, at a birthday party Tait was introduced to Minecraft.
With clever appeals to his parents they agreed to have a trial Minecraft game membership on two of the tablets in the house. Membership expanded until each child had the program and still I had no idea what they were talking about on the phone.

The day I arrived in their town I witnessed this new passion: the three siblings with a best friend from school sat around the room, each with a tablet on their knee. As I listened to the conversation and then peeked over a shoulder, I gleaned that together they were building a castle, with a separate room for each child according to personal specifications. There were stairs, hallways, a basement, built-in defence mechanisms, a moat, extended gardens, and so it went. I was astounded at how well they worked together, planning how common spaces would be used and what they would look like.

That’s when the light came on. If this was his current interest maybe there were instruction books. Yes there are. At the local bookstore I picked two hardcover Minecraft how-to books. There was a set available but I wasn’t sure this idea would work. It did; those treasured books are still on Tait’s bedroom shelf.

More thoughts bubbled up. On I found fiction books based on the Minecraft game. Tim Winton has an enormous list to his name and I began to purchase and send them. These proved popular. Instead of the age appropriate magazine subscriptions I had sent the previous year I sent each child a loaded Chapters card for them to make their own choices.

This took me to a large Chapters store where I sought a clerk who knew kid’s books. Fortunately the young man understood what I needed and was very familiar with the choices. He showed me several different series about animals that turned out to be well-loved by the girls. The most dependable author he showed me was Mark Cheverton.

Each book in the Cheverton series’ is numbered 1, 2 and 3. One is even called The Gamekeeper Series, referring to the Minecraft game. Once more Amazon was my further supplier. Cheverton uses some frightening titles, for example, The Great Zombie Invasion: The Birth of Herobrine Book One. Next in the series is Attack of the Shadow-Crafters, then Herobrine’s War. If I had not had such good advice I would certainly not have chosen such titles for a boy of nine.

A long-time friend visited overnight and when her son came to pick her up to go home we were talking about Tait’s reading and my search for more authors that would interest him. “Try Rick Reardon’s Percy Jackson series,” he said. “They’re far out but the kids love them.” Given that this young man writes fantasy stories I believed him. He was right.

Percy Jackson is Tait’s current favourite character as he explores Greek mythology of other worlds, such as in The Mark of Athena, book 3 of The Heroes of Olympus series.
The best part of this simple story is that during the November Parent-teacher interviews Tait’s progress in Grade 5 reading was a highlight. He’s seeking books to take home from the school library now and has even loaned one of his precious books to a good friend. On a science research project about clouds he and his partner used words in an innovative and humorous way. They showed the clouds speaking with comic book style balloons to hold the words.

The most satisfying part for this grandmother was to see Tait devouring every new book he can get his hands on and when there is nothing new available he goes to his own bookshelf and chooses one to reread.

My recent pictures of Tait tell the story of his new love of reading. There he is after a quick dip, sitting on a catamaran surrounded by other family members who are still swimming and snorkeling. There is another of him reading with his sister at the airport while waiting to load.

Christmas Cookie Traditions

This weekend I baked cookies and in the best family tradition created seven different kinds to be shared with my friends and family. Here is the passage I wrote in my second book of the Floathouse Series, Gunhild’s Granddaughter:

As the days clicked along and Christmas neared, I knew time was growing short when mom began making cookies. Mom had learned that in any self-respecting family with Norwegian roots, tradition decreed that there be at least seven different kinds of cookies on hand. Being ready to receive company that might drop in was also an important part of the holiday festivities and Hazel Forberg took care to meet the expectation of her husband’s heritage.

Her Belgium born mother, who had spent her early years as a child and wife in rural Alberta, had taught her that every housewife needed to always be ready to offer hospitality. Part of that was to have food ready to serve visitors. The humorous part of following these traditions was that, in such a remote location of the coast, anyone who came to visit us came a long way by boat. Our only neighbours were dad’s parents and brother. Except for a few of the hard-working people living in Port Neville Inlet, who might have stopped by on a Sunday, any of our other visitors sent a letter or message with friends to arrange their time with us and then it was during summer months when weather was more predictable.

Mom made a different cookie variety each day while I worked on my correspondence lessons at the kitchen table. It was difficult to concentrate with those aromas. I especially enjoyed her bird’s nest cookies and occasionally she allowed me to help make them. The dough is similar to shortbread, which we formed into round balls, then rolled in chopped walnuts, and pressed down with a thumb before baking. After they cooled mom filled the indentation with her own blackberry jelly or raspberry jam.

My grandmother’s house was also filled with the smells of Christmas baking. Nano’s cookies were different from the ones mom made. My favourites were called creullers. First Nano mixed thin delicate dough which she rolled and cut into strips, then twisted and cooked in hot fat. Once the twisted shapes cooled, she powdered them with icing sugar and stored them very carefully in a container that would not crush.

My mother and Nano exchanged baking of course, and recipes, and we enjoyed varieties from both kitchens. Long after Christmas had come and gone mom would bring forth something from her stash. Despite limited space and no electricity she nevertheless found secret places to hide things.

So here I was this weekend, 22 years after my parents had died, and my Forberg grandparents deceased long before that, baking Christmas cookies according to a tradition brought to Canada in 1909!

Grandmother Gunhild (Nano)

Grandma Gunhild, who I called Nano, was an influential person in my early years. White Nano welcomed me to her cozy floating home beside ours and spent innumerable hours teaching me first steps of most of the needlecrafts that I have enjoyed through my life. In recent years, I have been drawn to the colours she favoured in the fabrics of her dresses. Rich shades of orange and yellow muted by greens and some browns, those colours serve to brighten the dreary grey sky she found in her new Canadian home.

Chosen from the catalogue and purchased by the yard, she sewed almost everything she wore, including the ever-present aprons that encompassed her well- defined frame. With an all-business demeanour she held her shoulders square and her body upright, giving an impression of height. Whenever I slouched she showed me the way it could be corrected, by placing a broom handle across my back and hooked there by the bend of my elbows.

I remember her shoes. They were always black with sensible Cuban heels, and were carefully polished, worn with ugly thick beige stockings. I think they were knit of a cotton fibre mom called lyle. The only time I ever saw Nano wearing pants was when she joined us to walk the beach at low tide to dig clams. I still have a photo of her with heavy wool fishermen pants tucked into grandpa’s heavy black rubber boots, and carrying a fire bucket. The picture on the book cover is definitely not the ever-proper lady I adored.

She poured coffee beans from a tight-lidded can into a well-worn wooden coffee grinder, and with a few cranks of its handle, Nano’s whole kitchen was filled with that wonderful aroma that I’ve coveted since then. Coffee is my primary addiction.

She seemed to know just the right number of beans to grind so their grounds could be placed directly into the basket of the coffee pot without measuring or spilling. Then she settled the lid into place and positioned the pot on the hottest part of the stove, which I recognized as the smallest removable circle of the three used to access the firebox when wood was added. The coffee-making process begun, we could go on with the current lesson until the coffee pot came to the boil. Some days it was knitting, embroidery, or crocheting, but today’s lesson was sewing on her hand cranked sewing machine. I still have it.

As my lesson proceeded, we eventually heard plop … plop … plop … and then the more rapid plop … plop … followed by plop, plop, plop, plop which meant it was time for Nano to pull the pot to the back of the stove before it boiled over. Our lesson interrupted, now the coffee clatch began as she set out the cups and saucers, spoons, sugar bowl and can of Pacific evaporated milk. Into my cup she poured milk from the can to at least half, then, when the blurping sounds of the pot had stopped, she added coffee from the steaming pot. I was allowed to add my own sugar, stir and test the temperature from a spoon.

As I grew older, the percentage of coffee to milk became greater until during my first year at university I eliminated milk altogether. I had forsaken sugar as a calorie saving measure long before then.

Searching in Salt Lake

We are assembled at Victoria Airport, ten women, each with some understanding of genealogy but each of us with different experience levels. Most of us belong to the Victoria Genealogical Society. I have done this trip to Salt Lake City twice before. Others have made the odyssey more than once but I had not met them before today. Two of us are friends from a CFUW writing group with family history a frequent topic. Two of our party are very new to the experience, as you might one day be. As assumed, we will assist them.

The setting of the city is magnificent – the descent of our plane allows views of a broad flat plateau surrounded on all sides by mountains – the highest peaks dressed in winter white. No wonder Joseph Smith and his followers chose this valley. Our luggage comes down the chute promptly just as the hotel shuttle pulls up outside. The air here smells and feels like spring.

Check-in at the hotel is efficient and our rooms are comfortable. For a serious searcher The Plaza Hotel is the absolute best place to stay. Situated in the same block as the Family History Library, it is right across from Temple Square and only a block from two shopping centres. Jay’s Family Restaurant in the hotel is inexpensive; a senior’s discount is available but must be requested.

Our after-dinner agenda offers a presentation, “Introduction to Genealogical Collections.” The speaker is knowledgeable, his handout helpful, but he is uniformly vague, or perhaps just uninformed, about Canadian sources. Gratefully we retreat to bed.

Morning light is so bright and clear I can almost touch the snow-tipped mountains from my window. The day begins before seven with make-yourself-coffee. Strict Mormons do not drink coffee, nor do they drink alcohol, but we were able find places that serve both. The pot in my room splutters and spits out only a few drops at a time. My palate is addicted to this treasured brew; it is taking so long I will have my shower first. Then, clean, dry, and creamed again, I allow time to enjoy my favourite beverage.

We take breakfast downstairs at a table prepared for ten. Group members arrive, eat and leave, according to their personal schedules. Newcomers are always shocked to learn the library opens at eight o’clock. Singly or in pairs, we all arrive soon after. Within this famous repository of all things genealogical my personal search will begin once more. There is an orientation class and guided tour, but I won’t need to do it again.

During my first trip to Salt Lake City I had learned more about the religion that has created this tremendous facility that has benefitted family historians world-wide. I learned that in order to be accepted into the Temple believers complete a two year mission of volunteer work for the church. Those who are called to travel abroad proclaiming their beliefs to others and finding new members must have first earned sufficient funds to support themselves for those two years.

Each person hoping to be received as a Mormon is advised to have researched four generations of their family members on the family tree to share with others who may be related. This explains why the files kept at the library here, and available to smaller sites around the world, are so extensive and become more so each year. Workers here at the library and elsewhere within the Church of Latter Day Saints locations include volunteers, missionaries and paid experts which means there is always a well-informed person for us to ask.

People are often surprised to learn that church and civil registries have been assembled by the Mormons for almost every ethnicity. When these records were filmed a copy was given to both the church itself and the government of that country, many of which didn’t have these records accessible to the public country wide.

Each of these four floors of the library holds information specific to a particular part of the world: Europe, Scandinavia, Great Britain, Asia, United States and South America. The place is so extensive one can easily become disoriented and feel completely lost. Ten researchers, each with individualized search plans, probing these four floors, means we rarely encounter a familiar face all day. If we do, it is only for a hurried consultation, “How are you doing?” “Finding anything?” and then we’re away to the next reference.

Each area is equipped with whatever may be needed for our search: books, films, microfiche, maps, indexes and computer files. There are narrow alleys between floor-to-ceiling drawers of films and shelves of books, cubicles equipped with film readers having varying adjustments. Computers are all new, have large flat monitors and each computer pair shares a printer. Printer cards come from conveniently located machines that accept both coins and bills. There are also copiers of various types. Searchers are supplied with modern comfortable chairs on rolling legs that makes spending long hours in a seated position almost bearable. Scattered throughout are large library tables for quiet writing and reading. Improvements are noted each time I have visited: the search is addictive!

I am Becoming my Mother #2

Last week I wrote about my mothers’ experiences in gardening late in her life and of my own adventures in that same activity. My point was that I now acknowledge that there was at least one way she and I were similar, when I had always noted how dissimilar the two of us were.

This week I want to tell you about something else I have recognized when I look in the mirror. My basic bodily features have always resembled my father, whose Norwegian ancestry became remarkably evident the day, at the Oslo airport, my second cousin, Halvor Forberg, took hold of my big suitcase and set out across the tarmac with me following.

My brain messaged to me, “There goes Dad,” as clearly as any spoken comparison could have been. Husky body, broad shoulders, long back, meaty hips and heavy short legs moving with the same unmistakable gait! I have struggled with how to camouflage those legs my entire life.

But back to Mom, whose skin tanned easily, as mine does, who loved the sun too, but with added years I’m discovering those same facial wrinkles she had are appearing almost overnight. Something else I’ve discovered: long hairs on my chin telegraph to the world I am her daughter and that I have reached a certain age. I began by tweezing them, with little success.

When Mom’s chin whiskers – she called them that – appeared, she quietly made an appointment with an esthetician in downtown Nanaimo for electrolysis, and then enjoyed a bonus of visiting with our children on the way out of town before she returned to Campbell River two, hours away. Over several years of regular appointments most of the offending hairs were no longer evident. Guess what? I am following her lead on this.

There is one technique she used, as do many of my friends, I will not be copying. Pencilling an eyebrow line to replace faded, sparse vestiges of the hair that frames a person’s eyes is popular among older women. But I have noticed many women of similar age and older who highlight their brows with a thick brow pencil, have made a very bad job of it because of a shaky hand or bad light or failing eyesight. One day I came to the realization that unless I drew eyebrows every day one of my better features, blue eyes, would retreat to oblivion. At least Mom, the painter, had a steady hand, so could do it well. Until the stroke that is.

Hazel Forberg

I decided there was another way and sought a specialist who in two 90 minute sessions, two weeks apart, has given me a permanently coloured brow line that looks normal and requires no further daily fussing. I only need to keep my skin clean, apply day cream regularly and present a uniform face to the world with, or without, further makeup! It is so easy, and with no fuss.

I am Becoming my Mother #1

I walked in my garden tonight and what I saw and heard and smelled there pleased me. The rhododendrons are in various stages of bloom, each their own spectacular shade, the azaleas quietly spreading lower and wide but with more arresting aromas. Seabirds waken us every morning but these songbirds of the evening are busily making nests in the cedar hedge and chattering about the babies they expect to feed soon.

We have worked hard to create and maintain this property to mature status.The result I observed tonight makes all the stiff muscles and sore hands worthwhile. My walk in the garden reminds me of my mother who did the same thing every evening after her chores were done and before she settled down with a crossword puzzle or a game of scrabble with a friend.

I have never thought I had much in common with my mother. Now I have found just a whispering suspicion that it may not have been entirely true. I knew her as a consummate sportswoman: rowing, fishing, hiking, curling, softball and hunting. Only later came the gardening.

That was never me. From my earliest years I wanted to spend time indoors with crafts, games, puzzles and books. Even when we were going someplace on our boat – the only means we had of travel – I would position myself to enjoy a book.  On one occasion while Mom rowed I tried to read while holding a fishing line in one hand. The question she asked was “What will you do when the fish bites?”

Mom sought opportunities to be outdoors, occupied in some physical activity whenever possible. The places we lived until I was nine years old severely limited Mom’s outdoor activities. After we moved, and when she was old enough, my younger sister was similarly inclined and keen to accompany Mom doing many activities like picking berries for jam or collecting salal to sell for cash.

I was well aware that my father had hoped to have a son. So it was that when my sister displayed her love of so many outdoor and sporting activities he nicknamed her, “Judy Boy.” By then I had become a “bookworm,” in their minds. It did hurt just a bit but in the words of my own daughter, “It is what it is.” 

Hazel Fearing with background of Jackson Bay family farm in 1936

Hazel Fearing with background of Jackson Bay family farm in 1936

I realize now that Mom was essentially a “farm girl” who happened to fall in love with and marry a hand logger. For the first 10 years of Mom’s married life their home sat on a float entirely surrounded by water. Then when the floathouse was towed to Rock Bay and the house pulled up on reclaimed land there was still no soil for gardening. For five years they lived in the original house but it was set on what was essentially a gravel surface, and surrounded by stirred up dust of moving trucks and other vehicles. Neither location gave Mom any opportunity to grow anything: flowers or vegetables or fruit, as her own mother had done when the family lived in Alberta, Vancouver or Jackson Bay.

From the time they moved from Rock Bay into the house on Hilchey Road Mom made tilling the ground around the new place her passion. Dad was away working a lot, Judy in high school and I was at university, so Mom had plenty of free time. She improved the soil and created a fenced English Country Garden haven for butterflies, bees, and birds. That is, until Dad insisted they move to another lot where he could once again see the ocean.

She made the move, as expected, but we knew it was unwillingly. At the new property she refused to have anything to do with the garden, which left Dad to fertilize and water the few plants already established there. His gardening focus was growing boysenberries and that involved watering each night.

About the same time Mom’s rheumatoid arthritis kicked in. It is a dreadful disease and I and I am thankful to have only ‘regular’ arthritis that Advil can keep at bay. Long after she was gone I am realizing we do have some things in common. Mom was always artistic with her garden plantings and creative craft creations. It was only when Dad insisted they move and she started receiving her own Canada Pension to use to buy oil paints and brushes with that she took up painting. Whenever Mom and Dad were on their forays into the wilds in their camper Mom took photographs of beautiful natural landscapes of forests, lakes, mountains and glaciers. So now she used her own photographs to create oil paintings that we all treasure.

An evening walk in my mature garden on the edge of the ocean I have always loved has unexpectedly become a memorial to my mother. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be made to leave this place, for any reason.

Sometimes a simple thought hits so strong it must be written.

The Walking Wood Game

One, two, three steps, jump, another jump, ten steps along the cedar log, jump over the rock to a big cedar chunk, along a fir peeler, now what? Myrtle Forberg was stymied; there were no more pieces of driftwood within jumping distance large enough to bear her weight without rolling on to the beach. Maybe try the smaller pieces along the high water line. They were all tangled up with kelp and seaweed driven in by a late winter storm. It seemed like cheating but what else could she do? Three steps in the loose stuff and she was again walking on solid wood, this time a big log that would make a good boomstick. She would have to tell her father about it.

Driftwood along a beach in Sidney

Walking this morning along the beach in Sidney reminded me of my childhood walks on the logs

Myrtle’s favourite outdoor game had many of the same characteristics as playing solitaire, a favourite household game. Most importantly the player needed to be honest. After that you needed to be persistent, ready to try again the next day. Like shuffling cards the tidal action reorganised the driftwood on the beach twice daily so each day offered a new game. During the larger fifteen-foot tides during these winter months it could be a completely new game every day. When strong wind tossed and drove the driftwood around, new pieces from some other beach always turned up.

The trick of this game was to see how far along the beach you could go by walking only on wood before you had to resort to stepping on rocks or gravel. Next, some smaller pieces challenged her until she was eventually balancing sure-footedly along a big spruce that had not yet been de-limbed. It must have come down limbs, roots, and all when her uncle had felled one of the larger, more desirable trees right into the water.

Myrtle could hear the roaring of the donkey as her dad and his father and brother hauled a big one to the saltchuk. The A-frame shuddered and strained as the heavy cable lines winding on the donkey drum pulled the log to the ocean. She had come to a place where salal and other undergrowth came right down to the big log she was standing on. The brush blocked her way; it was time to go back to the floathouse anyway and see if mom  had finished the wash.