Why do you give?

In June 2014 I was presented with a Gold Merit Award on behalf of Girl Guides of Canada. I am humbled by this award because I was nominated by my peers.

In June 2014 I was presented with a Gold Merit Award on behalf of Girl Guides of Canada. I am humbled by this award because I was nominated by my peers.

“Why do you give?”

The question came up in a passage in a novel, of all things. The characters were discussing personal contributions to a charitable event and became introspective about their intentions.

I stopped reading the page, set the book down for a few moments and thought, Why DO I give?

Volunteerism has always been a way of life for me, and I have my parents to thank.

I grew up watching my parents volunteer. I remember my father was a member of the Lions Club when we lived in Brighton, Ont.; my mom wore the Lions’ mascot costume in a parade downtown one year.
My mother swam with special needs children and teens when we lived near Ottawa, Ont. She became a Girl Guide leader after enrolling her daughters in Brownies.
In later years, they both became heavily involved with the BC Transplant Society while my father was waiting for a heart transplant, then he and a fellow transplant recipient started Heart Transplant Home Society to give others a safe place to live while undergoing treatment for transplants at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
From there they became involved in the Gift of Life dragon boat team, and my mom continued with them after my father’s death.

I learned at my father’s funeral that he did the books for a musical society in the city where he lived; although I knew he loved music, especially show tunes, I had no idea.
I’m sure there are many things they were involved in that have slipped my memory, but these came immediately to mind.
My parents instilled the volunteerism quality in my sister and I. I have been involved with Girl Guides of Canada for 40 years (when they wouldn’t let me be a girl participant anymore I became a leader, where I could continue to play, laugh, camp and grow, only this time they put me in charge of other people’s kids).

In the course of my career as a journalist I have volunteered for the B.C. Winter Games, B.C. Special Olympics, ground search and rescue, spoken to numerous classes and given a handful of workshops on everything from photography to how to write press releases. I read in classrooms during an annual literacy event in Cumberland, and am hoping to do something similar in Port Alberni.

I joined our local flying club and a year later was nominated to the board of directors. I’m still feeling my way along the position.

I open my wallet when I can afford it and have certain charities I support financially.

Why do I give?

With Girl Guides, it’s easy: besides the service aspect within the organization itself, I had some awesome leaders when I was growing up who made sure I learned stuff, travelled places, and gained self-confidence along the way—all disguised as fun. It’s my turn to give back.

(OK, some of the Guiding is purely selfish: where else can I get my hands dirty playing with cornstarch and hair conditioner making playdough, or mixing Coke with Mentos to create explosions? In exchange I make sure the girls learn cool stuff, do some camping, learn some skills and challenge themselves.)

My wallet is not fat: but every dollar helps.

A quote in the same novel, by Margaret Mead, has stuck with me: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Why do I give?

Why not?

 

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Flat Mark Twins II: five provinces, 10,600 kilometres

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The Flat Mark Twins have been packed away in their envelope, ready for delivery to Mrs. Schmidt so they can be returned to Real Mark. They have had a long trip to Canada and are taking a well-deserved rest.
The Flat Mark Twins have travelled to five provinces and flown more than 10,600 kilometres (6,600 miles), not including all the driving around Vancouver Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. In all, they travelled to British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick—five of the 10 Canadian provinces (and we have three territories as well).
Here is a pictorial journal of the second half of their vacation with Susie in Canada.

Susie's sister Lori shares her university graduation day with the Flat Mark Twins. Lori graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a nursing degree.

Susie’s sister Lori shares her university graduation day with the Flat Mark Twins. Lori graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a nursing degree.

The whole reason Susie and her Mom travelled to the east coast of Canada was to attend Susie’s sister Lori’s university graduation in Fredericton, New Brunswick, about two hours away from where Lori lives in Amherst, Nova Scotia. It was a joyous day for our family.

Welcome to Tatamagouche, NS (short for Nova Scotia)! Lori and Susie both knit so we went on a trip to a yarn store in Tatamagouche.

Welcome to Tatamagouche, NS (short for Nova Scotia)! Lori and Susie both knit so we went on a trip to a yarn store in Tatamagouche.

The east coast of Canada, also known as the Maritimes, has some really interesting place names. I’m told many of them are based on aboriginal names.

A really big Adirondack chair in front of the Tatamagouche Creamery.

A really big Adirondack chair in front of the Tatamagouche Creamery.

They have some amusing tourist attractions too, like this giant chair. They also have a train station and a train that have been converted into a hotel. People actually sleep in the train cars.

We found some yarn—and the sheep that provided the wool—at Lismore Sheep Farm.

We found some yarn—and the sheep that provided the wool—at Lismore Sheep Farm.

The Joggins Fossil Centre. The Joggins Fossil Cliffs are a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

The Joggins Fossil Centre. The Joggins Fossil Cliffs are a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

One of the things Susie has always wanted to do is visit the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, which has a lot of really cool fossils that are 300 million years old.

The Flat Mark Twins find a fossil! It is most likely a Cordaite leaf.

The Flat Mark Twins find a fossil! It is most likely a Cordaite leaf.

The beach at Joggins, where many fossils have been uncovered, is on the Bay of Fundy. When the tide comes in, it comes in really fast. The sand is red in this area. If we found fossils we were told we had to leave them on the beach.

The beach at Joggins, where many fossils have been uncovered, is on the Bay of Fundy. When the tide comes in, it comes in really fast. The sand is red in this area. If we found fossils we were told we had to leave them on the beach.

Age of Sails is located at Port Greville, Nova Scotia. More than 700 sailing ships were built in this area from 1812 to 1927.

Age of Sails is located at Port Greville, Nova Scotia. More than 700 sailing ships were built in this area from 1812 to 1927.

A sign showing that we were travelling on the Bay of Fundy shore.

A sign showing that we were travelling on the Bay of Fundy shore.

Soon it was time to leave the Maritimes. We got onto a plane in Moncton and flew to Montreal, Quebec, where we waited for another plane to go to Ottawa, Ontario.

Moe's in the Montreal Airport is supposed to have some of the best smoked meat sandwiches in the city. Montreal is known for its smoked meat.

Moe’s in the Montreal Airport is supposed to have some of the best smoked meat sandwiches in the city. Montreal is known for its smoked meat.

We spent an afternoon at the Byward Market, a famous shopping and eating district in Ottawa. Here is Susie by a Canadian flag.

We spent an afternoon at the Byward Market, a famous shopping and eating district in Ottawa. Here is Susie by a Canadian flag.

While we were in Byward Market, we had lunch with some friends who were excited to learn about the Flat Stanley Project. The woman second from left was Susie's Brownie leader when she was a girl.

While we were in Byward Market, we had lunch with some friends who were excited to learn about the Flat Stanley Project. The woman second from left was Susie’s Brownie leader when she was a girl.

Ottawa is considered Canada's capital city. The Parliament Buildings are where the federal government operates. We took a special trip to the Parliament Buildings with the Flat Mark Twins.

Ottawa is considered Canada’s capital city. The Parliament Buildings are where the federal government operates. We took a special trip to the Parliament Buildings with the Flat Mark Twins.

Parliament Buildings

Parliament Buildings

The clock tower at Parliament Hill.

The clock tower at Parliament Hill.

The Centennial Flame burns all the time on Parliament Hill. It was first lit on January 1, 1967 to celebrate Canada's 100th birthday. It's called an eternal flame.

The Centennial Flame burns all the time on Parliament Hill. It was first lit on January 1, 1967 to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday. It’s called an eternal flame.

While in Ottawa, Susie enjoyed a super fun day with her cousins and her Mom, which took them to Wakefield, Quebec and the MacKenzie King Estate. Unfortunately, the Flat Mark Twins had jumped out of her backpack while playing in the middle of the night, and they missed the trip! So Susie and her Mom made a special trip back to Quebec, just for the twins.

Susie's Mom with the Flat Mark Twins in Gatineau, across the bridge from Ottawa in Quebec.

Susie’s Mom with the Flat Mark Twins in Gatineau, across the bridge from Ottawa in Quebec.

The Flat Mark Twins in front of the Canadian Museum of History, a beautiful museum in Gatineau, Quebec, located across the Ottawa River behind the Parliament Buildings. It is one of Susie's favourite museums in the country.

The Flat Mark Twins in front of the Canadian Museum of History, a beautiful museum in Gatineau, Quebec, located across the Ottawa River behind the Parliament Buildings. It is one of Susie’s favourite museums in the country.

All too soon it was time to go back home to Vancouver. The suitcases were packed, and Susie made doubly sure that the Flat Mark Twins were safely in her backpack for the trip home.

We flew home from Ottawa to Vancouver in a Boeing 767 airplane, built in Washington State.

We flew home from Ottawa to Vancouver in a Boeing 767 airplane, built in Washington State.

The Flat Mark Twins and Susie had one more adventure before they were packed away. We went flying in a Cessna 421 twin engine airplane at Qualicum Airport on Vancouver Island. Susie’s husband flew the plane and Susie was the co-pilot. The Flat Mark Twins came along for the ride.

Flying in a Cessna 421 twin engine plane over Qualicum Beach, B.C. on Vancouver Island.

Flying in a Cessna 421 twin engine plane over Qualicum Beach, B.C. on Vancouver Island.

Thank you, Real Mark, for sharing the Flat Mark Twins with me. I can hardly wait for the next Flat project!

Look who we found! Susie now owns a copy of the Flat Stanley book.

Look who we found! Susie now owns a copy of the Flat Stanley book.

 

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The Flat Mark Twins Go on an Adventure

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Susie and the Flat Mark Twins

I’d like to introduce you to the Flat Mark twins.
But first, a little history.
Flat Stanley is a character in a 1964 book written by Jeff Brown and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer. In the book, Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a bulletin board where they can tack up pictures and notes. In the middle of the night the bulletin board falls off the wall and flattens Stanley.
Stanley soon discovers that his new state is kind of cool: he can slip under locked doors and he can even be mailed around the world in an envelope. He goes on lots of adventures.
In 1994, Dale Hubert started the Flat Stanley Project in Ontario. He thought kids could cut out paper drawings of themselves and mail them to people around the world (https://www.flatstanley.com/about?subpage=project). The phenomenon caught on.
I first met Stanley when he came to visit my Sparks unit in Cumberland, BC, in the early 2000s; one of the girls was hosting a Stanley and brought him to share, and to have her photo taken with him and our unit. I was intrigued and wrote an article about it.
I didn’t see “Stanley” again until three years ago, when Sandi Zeutenhorst Schmidt, a teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Wenatchee, Wash., posted a request on Facebook asking people to host “Flats” from her students.
Sandi and I go way back; we met each other as teenagers at an international Girl Guide/ Girl Scout event. We have stayed in touch in various ways through the years, including Facebook.
I said sure, I would host a “Flat”. Soon after that, Flat Sydnie arrived in Port Alberni, B.C. Canada. She had pink and purple hair, and we had some grand adventures. I took some photos, threw together a scrapbook and mailed it off. I also wrote a column about Flat Sydnie. (http://www.albernivalleynews.com/opinion/121745659.html)
I was fortunate that Flat Sydnie’s mom allowed Sandi to send me a photo of “Real” Sydnie, and I still keep it tacked up to my bulletin board at work.
Last month, Sandi contacted me again: Sydnie’s brother Mark was doing the Flat Stanley project with her and would I be interested in hosting another “Flat”?
Of COURSE! I told her. I waited excitedly for the mail.
And I waited…
And I waited…
And waited…..and waited…..
Flat Mark was lost in the mail! Having his own grand adventure, I thought, a little disappointed that he didn’t take me along.
I contacted Sandi and asked her to have Real Mark draw another Flat Mark, and this time scan it so I could print it out.

Flat Mark, fresh off the colour printer in my office at the Alberni Valley News.

Flat Mark, fresh off the colour printer in my office at the Alberni Valley News.

Finally, on April 11, 2014, Flat Mark arrived. Let the adventures begin!

"Flat" Mark and "Real" Sydnie, whose "Flat Sydnie" I hosted a few years ago.

“Flat” Mark and “Real” Sydnie, whose “Flat Sydnie” I hosted a few years ago.

The next day, Flat Mark and I went to the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and took a photo with the carved bear out front of the building.

Grrrr! Flat Mark meets one of the carved bears in front of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Grrrr! Flat Mark meets one of the carved bears in front of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce.

As I was taking this photo, a woman came out of the building and said, “Oh, I see you have Flat Stanley!”

I explained to her that this was in fact Flat Mark and that he was visiting from Wenatchee, Wash. The woman stopped, smiled, and said “We’re from Edmonds, Wash.!” She and her family were visiting Port Alberni.

We went to Cathedral Grove, on our way to Courtenay, where I had to attend an event for a freelance project I was working on. Cathedral Grove, or MacMillan Provincial Park (it’s formal name) features one of the largest stands of giant Douglas Fir trees on Vancouver Island, in a park that has been around since the 1920s. Some of the trees are 800 years old! One tree is nine metres in circumference—I wonder how many students it would take holding hands to reach around that big tree.

Flat Mark stands beneath a very big tree in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island.

Flat Mark stands beneath a very big tree in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island.

On our way to Courtenay, we detoured to Fanny Bay, where I used to live, and saw the sea lions. It was the end of the herring season and the sea lions were gathered on a float near the government dock at Fanny Bay.

Flat Mark holds onto a rope on the government dock at Fanny Bay while watching the sea lions.

Flat Mark holds onto a rope on the government dock at Fanny Bay while watching the sea lions.

Cool sea lions!

Cool sea lions!

Hey, a tugboat named 'Alberni', just like where Susie lives.

Hey, a tugboat named ‘Alberni’, just like where Susie lives.

We stopped at the Village Yarn Shoppe to see Susie's friend Beth, too. She played peek-a-boo with Flat Mark in the yarn.

We stopped at the Village Yarn Shoppe to see Susie’s friend Beth, too. She played peek-a-boo with Flat Mark in the yarn.

On April 14, Flat Mark met Susie’s Girl Guides and went on a field trip to the Alberni Valley Rescue Hall, where he met Jane, one of the search and rescue volunteers who look for people who are lost.

Flat Mark, Jane and Susie at a Girl Guide field trip to the Alberni Valley Rescue Hall.

Flat Mark, Jane and Susie at a Girl Guide field trip to the Alberni Valley Rescue Hall.

April 16 was a VERY special day. When Susie came home from work, there was a large manila envelope in her mailbox.

Could it be? Flat Mark I has arrived!

Could it be? Flat Mark I has arrived!

The original Flat Mark had arrived! And by the looks of the envelope, he had been to Calgary, Alberta, before he was rerouted to a mail depot in Vancouver, B.C. and then on to Port Alberni.

You know what that meant? Flat Mark was really twins! I had two Flat Marks to entertain.

On April 18, I had to go back to Courtenay to take some photos, so the Flat Mark Twins came along.

We checked out the Comox International Airport (call sign YQQ).

We checked out the Comox International Airport (call sign YQQ).

And the Courtenay Airpark (call sign AH3), where Susie earned her pilot's licence in 1999.

And the Courtenay Airpark (call sign AH3), where Susie earned her pilot’s licence in 1999.

We went up to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, where people were skiing and snowboarding.

We went up to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, where people were skiing and snowboarding.

Then we saw the Snowbirds Canadian air demonstration squadron while we were in Comox! Susie LOVES the Snowbirds.

Then we saw the Snowbirds Canadian air demonstration squadron while we were in Comox! Susie LOVES the Snowbirds.

The Snowbirds come to Comox every spring to train before the beginning of their airshow season.

The Snowbirds come to Comox every spring to train before the beginning of their airshow season.

There is a Snowbird Tutor jet mounted on a stand at the Comox Valley Visitors' Centre.

There is a Snowbird Tutor jet mounted on a stand at the Comox Valley Visitors’ Centre.

On April 26, the Flat Mark Twins went on a BC Ferries boat ride to Richmond, B.C., where Susie, her publisher and two reporters attended the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association awards gala. Susie won an award, a Silver Quill Award, for 25 years of work and service in community newspapers.

On the ferry on the way to Richmond, B.C. We got onto the ferry in Nanaimo, B.C.

On the ferry on the way to Richmond, B.C. We got onto the ferry in Nanaimo, B.C.

Susie, her award and the Flat Mark Twins.

Susie, her award and the Flat Mark Twins.

On May 2, we all attended the Regional Heritage Faire, which Susie helps judge every year. Flat Sydnie also attended this fair. The Flat Mark Twins met Rosemarie Buchanan, a school trustee with School District 70, and Sarah Bell, a student who won an award for her historical display on the TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. Sarah’s grandfather helped build the cyclotron, and that was the focus of her history project.

SD70 trustee Rosemarie Buchanan welcomes the Flat Mark Twins to the Regional Heritage Faire.

SD70 trustee Rosemarie Buchanan welcomes the Flat Mark Twins to the Regional Heritage Faire.

Sarah Bell with her history project on TRIUMF.

Sarah Bell with her history project on TRIUMF.

By this time, the Flat Mark Twins were supposed to be heading home to Wenatchee and back to their owner. But they were having too much fun and refused to get back into the envelope just yet.

So they came to Guide camp with Susie, toured the Courtenay Museum, were snatched from the jaws of a dinosaur!

Hanging out at Guide camp at Camp Gilwell in Courtenay. Susie and the Flat Mark Twins have spent a lot of time in Courtenay in the last month, even though Susie lives in Port Alberni.

Hanging out at Guide camp at Camp Gilwell in Courtenay. Susie and the Flat Mark Twins have spent a lot of time in Courtenay in the last month, even though Susie lives in Port Alberni.

The Flat Mark Twins meet the Elasmosaur at Courtenay Museum.

The Flat Mark Twins meet the Elasmosaur at Courtenay Museum.

Wow, those are big teeth!

Wow, those are big teeth!

Some of the actual elasmosaur bones that were discovered along the Puntledge River.

Some of the actual elasmosaur bones that were discovered along the Puntledge River.

Oh no! That was a close call for the Flat Mark Twins!

Oh no! That was a close call for the Flat Mark Twins!

Now, the Flat Mark Twins are on a cross-Canada adventure with Susie. We left Vancouver International Airport (call sign YVR) on May 24, and arrived in Moncton, New Brunswick very late that night. We are visiting Susie’s sister and her family in Amherst, Nova Scotia, right over the border from New Brunswick.

Welcome to Nova Scotia, Flat Mark Twins!

Welcome to Nova Scotia, Flat Mark Twins!

Visiting Fort Beausejour in Aulac, New Brunswick.

Visiting Fort Beausejour in Aulac, New Brunswick.

An historic cannon.

An historic cannon.

A gun port built into the stone walls of the fort. Many of the fort's foundations are still standing.

A gun port built into the stone walls of the fort. Many of the fort’s foundations are still standing.

Fort Beausejour, Aulac, New Brunswick.

Fort Beausejour, Aulac, New Brunswick.

A little history of the fort, for those who are curious.

A little history of the fort, for those who are curious.

What’s next for Susie and the Flat Mark Twins? More of Amherst, Nova Soctia, Fredericton, New Brunswick then off to Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, where we plan to visit the Parliament Buildings—Canada’s version of the White House.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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Where has the time flown?

I think about my blog a lot; have taken photos and jotted down ideas intending to blog about them. Then somehow the time (and inclination) slips by, and I realize it’s been more than a year since I posted anything.
A spam comment has prompted me to return, sheepish at my lack of effort.
Travelling has been a big theme for me in the past couple of months. I have hosted the Flat Mark Twins from Wenatchee, Washington as part of a Flat Stanley School Project (more on that in an upcoming post—really), travelled to the Comox Valley a number of times, Campbell River with my friend Lisa for Fibre Fest, and most recently to Camp Gilwell for Girl Guide camp
I realized that I miss camping at this particular Boy Scout camp, north of the Comox Valley; I feel so fortunate to have shared it with some of my Girl Guides, at a camp hosted by my former unit in Courtenay. Not only did I get to camp in a tent for three nights, but I went digging for fossils on the Puntledge River courtesy of the Courtenay Museum and Pat Trask, who was recently lauded by his paleontological peers for all the work he has done in the field in the past couple of decades. I had the opportunity to pick up a bow and arrow again for the first time in years (and am sporting a nice purple bruise on the inside of my elbow, thanks to the fact they only had a right-handed bow and I shoot left), but more importantly enjoyed watching the Guides try the sport for the first time.
In a really short time, I am going back to Nova Scotia to visit my sister and her family, and am looking forward to the Maritimes again. I am proud to say my sister is graduating with her nursing degree from the University of New Brunswick, and I am going to her graduation.
On the way home I will stop in Ottawa to visit various other relatives for a week. I love our nation’s capital, and not just because my favourite uncle happens to live there.
Later this summer, I hope to visit my first Canadian territory, the Yukon, with my Ranger group, for a brief taste of the north.
I will endeavour to share some of these experiences sooner than later. Now that I’ve put it in writing and put it out there in the blogosphere, the pressure is on to make it so!
Until then, may I share three of my favourite blogs, all written by friends. One feeds my psyche (http://www.inspirationowl.com/), one feeds my inner (and completely inept) foodie (http://www.patentandthepantry.com/) and one feeds my love of (other people’s) adventure (http://2lovecycling.com/).
Enjoy!

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Communing with nature

Cyril walks along a path along the valley floor in Fossli Provincial Park.

Cyril walks along a path along the valley floor in Fossli Provincial Park.

There are so many hidden gems on Vancouver Island, and particularly the Alberni Valley that I have yet to discover. One of them was Fossli Provincial Park.
After a friend posted some photos on Facebook from the park, I decided it was time to find it.
Cyril and I set out on a Sunday morning to find the trailhead. Fossli is not one of those provincial parks with a nice paved road and huge signage. It’s a 52-hectare pocket of west coast rainforest, accessible by boat or logging road on the back side of Sproat Lake (the north side of Stirling Arm).
Pioneer Alfred Dennis Faber settled 1,270 acres of property when he came to the Sproat Lake area, fellow Alberni Valley pioneer George Bird wrote in his book, Tse-ees-tah: One Man in a Boat. Fossli Park lies in a smaller tract of land he acquired about half a mile away from his property; he cleared about 10 acres and grew hay and potatoes.
Faber liked this tract of land because of the small waterfall found further inland. He named it Fossli, which means “waterfall in the valley” in his native Norwegian (Faber came from the Eidfjord region of Norway).

The waterfall in Fossli Park can be seen over my right shoulder.

The waterfall in Fossli Park can be seen over my right shoulder.

Eventually, Armour and Helen Ford owned the property. In 1973 they donated the property to the Province of British Columbia to be used as a park. At the end of the trail the terrain opens onto a beach on Stirling Arm, but we didn’t make it that far. Sandy McRuer, a retired Port Alberni outdoor adventure tour operator, wrote in a post about Fossli in 2008 that the foundations to the Fords’ home are still visible just above the beach, and a plaque commemorating their donation of land to the government is located there too.

The drive to find the trailhead was just as much an adventure as hiking the 2.5-kilometre trail was. The “trailhead” is a wooden post with “Fossli Trail” carved vertically into the post, located just past the 4 km signpost on Stirling Arm Main. The potholes on the road were legendary, leading Cyril to mutter, “It’s just like driving the streets of Montreal.”

This post is the trailhead, just past the 4 km mark on Stirling Arm Main.

This post is the trailhead, just past the 4 km mark on Stirling Arm Main.

The trail is well defined, and well marked. We parked at the top and walked down the rocky road to a suspension bridge, which BC Parks rebuilt in 2008 after many complaints, including those from Sandy McRuer. The bridge crosses St. Andrew’s Creek, which feeds into Stirling Arm.

The other side of the suspension bridge at Fossli Park. No trolls under this bridge — just rushing water from St. Andrew's Creek.

The other side of the suspension bridge at Fossli Park. No trolls under this bridge — just rushing water from St. Andrew’s Creek.

Once we crossed the bridge, we descended into the river valley. We took one path that ended with several trees over it, and we weren’t sure where it went so we turned back. If we had continued past the trees we would have come out at the beach.

We followed the sound of the water until we came out on the rocky shore of the creek.

A visual reward. The trail opens up into a view of the creek bed.

A visual reward. The trail opens up into a view of the creek bed.

Green moss and a longer exposure give a softness to the water that rushes over the rocks in St. Andrew's Creek.

Green moss and a longer exposure give a softness to the water that rushes over the rocks in St. Andrew’s Creek.

After that kind of a pause, the trip back up the slope wasn’t so bad. Really. And there were some amusing parts to our trip, too. Like the colourful butterfly, species unknown, that alighted on the gravel in front of me as we started our hike.

Can anyone tell me what kind of butterfly or moth this is?

Can anyone tell me what kind of butterfly or moth this is?

And this was an unforgettable discovery, too!

Someone was having some fun (it's not mine, honest)!

Someone was having some fun (it’s not mine, honest)!

I’m glad I can now add Fossli Provincial Park to my ever-growing list of experiences. Truly a gem, not hidden anymore.

A great experience with a patient partner. He waits for the slowpoke with the camera.

A great experience with a patient partner. He waits for the slowpoke with the camera.

If you’re interested in going, here is a link to the park from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (you can download a brochure with directions and a map): http://www.acrd.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=221

And here is a link to Sandy McRuer’s blog post about the park from 2008: http://vancouverislandnaturetours.com/fossli-provincial-park-a-forgotten-jewel.php

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A glass half full kind of gal

My 2013 jar is chock-full of positivity. How about yours?

My 2013 jar is chock-full of positivity. How about yours?

Sometime in December I saw a post going around Facebook that really resonated with me. There was a photo of a mason jar full of scraps of paper; the caption said: “This January, why not start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen. Then, on New Year’s Eve, empty it and see what awesome stuff happened that year.”
After a couple of decades in the newspaper business I tend to be cynical and skeptical about a lot of things. I am lousy at keeping a journal, even on a holiday, and I don’t subscribe to New Year’s resolutions.
I thought starting a “positive thoughts” jar would be a stellar way to greet 2013. My goal was to write a positive thought per day, but not beat myself up if I missed a day. Or three.
I grabbed a mason jar from my bookshelf that I had been saving for sand collected from various trips. I decided not to decorate it, but leave the glass clear so I could see the jar filling with notes as inspiration. I cut up small pieces of blank paper and placed them with a pen beside the jar, and have left it on my kitchen table in plain view. No excuses for “forgetting” to write a positive thought, because it’s right there.
(I appreciate my husband’s tolerance of my jar of positive thoughts on the kitchen table; I am a piler, and he puts up with a lot.)
I found another post (gotta love Facebook for inspiration) that says “think positive & positive things will happen”; I printed it, cut it out and glued it to the top of my jar as a reminder. I have another, as well: “Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.”
How true. Take, for instance, the day that started when I stepped in cat feces, tracking it halfway across the upstairs hallway before realizing what it was.
That was just before the second migraine in two days set in, behind my eyeballs, with a heavy workload to look forward to.
The final straw was discovering, after an extremely long shift, that a page I had designed a week earlier had been accidentally overwritten. I really thought I’d had my first day without finding one positive, redeeming thing happening.

I dragged myself into bed, first picking up a random magazine so I could read for a few minutes and relax before turning off the light. There, in big pink letters on the front cover, were the words, “Make today happier”.

I laughed and laughed! Suddenly, cat poop, headaches and missing pages seemed so inconsequential. I had found my silver lining.

I’m not sure where this project will take me over the next few months, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m already learning something: I’m finding my happiest most positive moments outside of the office. It’s helping to underline something I so easily forget in the throes of deadlines, that while my career is still fulfilling after all these years, work isn’t everything.

I will leave you with another Facebook post, this one from my sister Lori’s wall:

“Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.

Keep your words positive, because your words become your behaviour.

Keep your behaviour positive, because your behaviour becomes your habits.

Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.

Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.”

Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve already added this saying to my jar of positive thoughts.

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The wild blue yonder

What better way to celebrate a birthday/ Thanksgiving weekend than with a flight in a small plane?

We’ve enjoyed a prolonged summer here on the left coast, and that precipitated Cyril saying on Saturday that we should book the flying club plane and go for a flight.

Although I earned my private pilot’s licence in 1999 and my commercial licence in 2001, I haven’t done much flying in the past few years. Life, work, finances and sometimes weather have gotten in the way.

We joined the local flying club this year (thank you, Gina), and purchased a block of time on the club plane. Cyril flies every day in his job as a flight instructor, but doesn’t often fly for pleasure. On Oct. 7 we booked the plane, called Gina and asked if she wanted to come with us, and I became reacquainted with a Cessna 172.

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I admit I was extremely rusty. But it’s kind of like riding a bicycle: you never really forget. During flight training you repeat things over and over again, until they become automatic. Things like the pre-flight walk-around, or the downwind check. Setting up the plane for takeoff or landing.

I’m extremely fortunate to have a husband who is a flight instructor, and also a check pilot for the flying club!

We took off from CBS8 (Port Alberni Regional Airport) and flew toward Comox Glacier, to the northwest. We were high enough, and the clouds were non-existent, that we could see Tofino to the west, and Powell River to the east, all the way to the Coast Mountain Range on B.C.’s mainland coast. We landed at CAH3, the Courtenay Airpark, for a visit before returning home.

It is a feeling like to no other when the wheels leave the runway and the plane becomes airborne. The higher you go, the more you look down upon a live map: mountains and rivers leap off the navigational paper, cities are no longer a dot on the map but have homes and roads and farms and schools and shopping centres.

ImageComox Glacier from about 7,500 feet.

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Mount Washington Alpine Resort, without a lick of snow.

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Comox Peninsula, with Goose Spit and HMCS Quadra sea cadet training facility in the foreground.

I remember one of the first flights I took following my solo, I looked down and saw the wheel of the plane. It wasn’t moving. When you have spent many years driving on a road, it’s a disconcerting feeling at first. Then you think of the freedom.

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Wheels over Royston, BC.

Yes, it was a blue sky day over Vancouver Island. One for the memory books.

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