Never Open My Freezer


My daughter wanted small animal skulls for an art project. Naturally she asked my brother, a perfectly reasonable request none of us considered remarkable. “No problem” he said. We promptly forgot about it for several months. Out of mind until he messaged to expect a parcel sent Greyhound express.

If I could bottle my brother the label would read “Essence of  decency, character, work ethic, empathy, moral fibre and principles”. A man of few words, words saved for storytelling delivered with mesmerizing cadence matched only by the twinkle in his eye. Stories of thwacking a bear on the nose while witching for water, sticking his hand down a drainpipe to extract a rattlesnake, plunging through alone in the wilderness pond ice under the weight of fur bearing animals, once and for all riddance of Saturday morning Jehovah Witness interruption courtesy a half skinned Marmot passed off as his cat. Trapper, water diviner, nuisance wildlife problem solver, woodsman and yes – provider of small animal skulls for an art project.

Not wanting to hurt his feelings I kept an open mind to caution our Greyhound parcel was perishable. “Do tell” seemed appropriate. “Wow, thank you” was all I could muster on hearing its contents. It would appear ungracious to point out she wanted “small” animal skulls, how could I argue with news of several Lynx skulls (skinned but not free of brain matter), raccoons, skunk, marmot and squirrel similarly stripped but not purged and one cougar head skin intact. Not wanting to be a ninny, I heard myself calmly remind him I lived in the city. What were we supposed to do?

No worries he said. Put everything in a large pot, boil until bits start floating to the top. It might take a while, if it smells disgusting throw in some bay leaves and pretend you’re making stew. OMG!! I’ll spare subsequent details, suffice to say it involved extraction of soft boiled tissue.

He would have been proud. Stoic, unflappable determination opened the package, assessed the situation, put all but the far too large cougar head in a pot set on boil. Congratulatory back slaps waned relative to ever growing gray pot scum.I couldn’t say how long it boiled, I can attest to the moment gag reflex stench recalled adding herbs to skull stew. Big mistake! Rubber gloves – check. Soft tissue extraction implements – check. Why aren’t these skulls coming clean? Where did we go wrong?

Suddenly my daughter shouts “abandon ship” – we rationalize postponement not failure. “it’s ok, we just ran out of time, we’ll try again tomorrow”. We carry the pot downstairs intent on flushing skull scum water down the toilet. Nothing prepared us for the last swirling toilet gurgle ejecting a rogue floating skunk skull – a spectacle so absurd both of us collapsed in hysterical stress release laughter. Composure returned with dutiful bagging of drained animal parts. Bag of drained bits back in  pot, punctuated with the satisfying clang of lid containment. Cougar head wrapped in another bag – both problems parked in a basement chest freezer.

That was five years ago, it goes without saying our one and only attempt would be the last.We don’t talk about that day, it’s far too awful. Guilt of wimping out is troublesome. Worse still, I can’t bring myself to deal with contents of the freezer for fear of disappointing my brother. We no longer use the freezer, it serves to preserve a pot of assorted par- boiled skulls and one glorious skin intact cougar head. I need help!! Anyone looking for a frozen cougar head?

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Quora Top Question Writer 2017


The package waited for my return from work. Climbing the front steps I heard soggy brown protests whimpering in Vancouver rain. No measure of weather beaten packaging could dampen the moment. I scooped it inside, knowing full well my Quora Top Writer 2017 Patagonia jacket had arrived.

Several years ago a friend introduced me to Quora. A few days later I posted https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/quora/ on this blog. Asking questions that cross my mind, answering others when I have something to contribute, my followers grew to a few hundred. I won’t lie – my top three questions garnering over 5 million views combined, puffed the old chest.

Last December Quara Admin sent a private message, reading in part –

“Congratulations! You’ve been named as a Top Question Writer for 2017.

You should see a Top Question Writer icon on your profile page that indicates you are part of the 2017 class of Quora Top Question Writers.

Quora has chosen you in recognition of your unique contribution to the Quora community. Among the considerations were the consistency, quality, and thoughtfulness of your questions over the last year.”

The message went on to list questions deemed worthy of recognition, conspicuous absence of most viewed questions didn’t help confusion – I have 179 followers, what are you talking about? Mailing a Patagonia jacket, invited to annual conference in New York… Stop! Was I nominated, is this a big Quora deal? Time for a little research.

Launched in 2009, Quora reports 100 million visitors a month, over 40 million users in America alone. In 2012, the first Top Writers were named – that part was easy. Further investigation revealed my soggy brown package was a big deal. A multi faceted conclusion based on Quora’s reluctance to provide recipient stats, abundant chatter indicating annual honorees number between 500-1000 worldwide and scores of  queries on what it takes to be named a Top Writer. None of which matters to anyone but myself, recipient of a soggy brown package confirming I’m a Quora Top Writer.

 

Notes Turns Two


I almost forgot Ponder’s birthday – Mother’s Day 2012, my daughter sent me an email asking that I log in to a wordpress account. Never having heard of wordpress, knowing only that she had my complete trust, I obliged by clicking on the link and entering our trusty old family code word to pass the gates of ho-hum into “where have you been all my life?”.

I can’t take credit for my first post – it met me at my wordpress gate,  posted by my daughter based on a story I told her a few days earlier. It stoically boasts one “like” and seventy five “views”.

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/transactions-of/

My daughter claimed there was far too much rattling about my head and I needed an outlet. Wading cautiously forward, I had the advantage of exploration – no expectations, preconceived ideas, or notion of grandeur. I wasn’t plotting a path of clicks and views, didn’t contemplate strategies aimed at monetary gain or methodically increase my presence. My “about” page, kept brief, vague and on point – simply a post a day, something to think about, talk about, learn more about. Reluctant to divulge personal information, self consciously I began to write for the first time in thirty years.

Shaky at first, not sure where it would take me, I posted meat and potatoes snippets I found fascinating. Clinging to my knowledge of ancient history – Gobekli Tepe, Derinkuyu, Peri Reis, Hypogeum of Malta, and Mica lined Pyramid of the Sun. Terrified I might be “pegged” a bat shit alien conspirator or crystal fondling numerologist, I tested the waters of space weather wing nut by posting on the Carrington Event, meteor showers, and to cascading groans of my family – solar flare alerts.

Six months later, not a soul outside my family knew about my blog. One night, well into a bottle of wine I found the courage to hit “publish” on something terrifying – a personal story. I held my breath, briefly paralyzed by second thoughts. None the least of which – it wasn’t particularly well written. I’ve left it alone, resisting the urge to fuss and polish the rather childish story because it was the turning point. I relaxed, told friends about my blog and never looked back.

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/regret/

I never know what I’m going to write, don’t apologize for who I am and care little for pointless mud slinging. What astounds and warms the tip of my toes are the remarkable people I’ve met along the way. I consider myself lucky to have found a little rut to run in. People who know me only through wordpress likely know me better than those who have known me for years. This is who I am – I’ve grown immeasurably in two years and can only daydream of where it will take me. Thank you wordpress.

 

Tin Box


The tin box caught my eye; bravely perched atop piles of garbage, discarded clothing and broken furniture. It was old, probably 50’s or 60’s, a bread box in it’s day; the kind of box that sat on your grandmother’s kitchen counter. Discarded behind a derelict house; tossed out in haste or aggression, left to fend for itself in the driving rain.

My fondness for vintage nick knacks brought the car to a stop, I tossed it into the trunk with nary a thought to the contents or owner. I hadn’t noticed the weight of abandoned tin box, it didn’t occur to me to look inside . I confess it lay forgotten, weeks passed before remembering to take a look, what I discovered broke my heart – I had become the caretaker of another’s life.

This wasn’t something a person discarded when cleaning out the closet or packing for a move. Tin box protected a family history; decades of photographs and letters – smiling faces of those who have come and gone, birthday cards, best wishes lacking any hint of origin. Familiar words intended for those who had no use for envelopes with return addresses or last names. A tin guardian lost forever.

Tin box rests undisturbed in my basement; I’ve pondered long and hard how it ended up in that alley, asked myself if someone came looking for it, and agonized over my rash decision to toss it in the car. Tin box refuses to reveal a single clue as to where it came from, who might be missing it or how I can return  it safely to anyone who cares. I suspect the demise of tin box was ugly – likely a casualty of circumstance – testament to a life gone astray.

In my heart I know tin box would have gone to the dump had I not thrown it in my trunk. I understand lives fallen off the rails, tin boxes the least of your worries.  All the same – my sincerest apology tin box, I had no idea how valuable you were. I’ll keep you safe and warm and promise not to use you as a flower pot. My hope your owner has their life together is sincere, your treasure testament to a once happy family – a family that loved the one who saw you languish in that dark, forlorn alley.

Vintage bread box – sadly not my tin box since my camera is acting up, but very close to my treasured burden. Photo from primrose.blogspot.com

Note To Self


Tonight I find myself pondering impressions those who don’t know me might extract from some of my posts. To my dismay, it’s been brought to my attention that at times I come across as “preachy” or creeping far to close to “looking down my nose” . I find this notion extremely disturbing; this is not who I am, or how I wish to come across. As a result – not only in my defence, but as a reminder to myself – I’ve come up with this “Note To Self”.

* Ponder before you write, don’t write before you ponder.

*Another point of view is just as valid as yours.

*You’re not as smart as you think you are.

*Avoid the following….

http://thesaurus.com/browse/biased

* Stay calm and carry on.

* You’re a kind person with a big heart and open mind – don’t embarrass yourself.

Notes On A Plane


On Monday notes will be on a plane, landing in the heart of the Canadian prairies. Our prairies; vast, hard working, practical – a place so foreign from my city life, I might as well be travelling to another planet. A planet full of wonders and beauty: a place to regroup, take stock and re-charge. Saskatchewan beckons for practical unpretentious people, exemplary work ethics, a sense of community and lets not forget – that endless sky.

Travel serves many purposes; sometimes we want to explore foreign lands, at times to full fill obligations or simply step away from our daily routines. More and more, travel involves a “destination” , cruise or “all inclusive” experience. All too often we over look travelling to those places in our own back yards, places that can provide the tonic our lives are missing.

For me, a trip to the Canadian prairies reminds me of what’s important; it gives perspective to my nation, and restores faith in our great country. Maybe I’ve been a city dweller far too long – maybe cities have become so bloated, so driven by money, greed and status that I’ve forgotten how it feels to be welcomed by a stranger, smiled at as I walk down the street or had lunch in a restaurant without bleached, silicone “Barbies” presenting my menu on an IPad.

Prairie people don’t blither on about “farm to table”, don’t survive on Quinoa and tofu, they don’t announce for all the world to be organic vegans or lactose intolerant, gluten sensitive environmentalists while handing their Escalade keys to a valet.They simply live; they live sensibly, without pretension or airs.

Saskatchewan isn’t “quaint”, uneducated or backwards in any way – Saskatchewan is real. A place supporting the arts at unprecedented levels, a place where people know who their neighbour is because people are there to help each other. The prairies remind me of how life should be; a sense of community, work ethic and unity.

Perhaps I’m clinging to some romantic illusion of the past, or maybe, just maybe prairie people have the secret to that empty feeling so many of us have. Ponder not the size of the place you live in, rather the size of your capacity to be humble, honest and hard working. All I can say for certain is I’m a better person after each and every visit to the bread basket of my great country.Strip away pretension or status and life appears to fall into place. Life finds rhythm when you smell the seasons while gazing at an endless sky. Life makes sense when community means a way of life rather than a centre to lift weights.