Where are you, Valerie Jean?

Thoughts of David Carlin…and a bit of writing…caught me missing my sister.  Everyone should be so blessed as I have been in my life…to have one sister…or to have a friend who has somehow become as close as a sister.  I remember going to sleep the night she was born.  I know a person shouldn’t make deals with God…but after all, I already had three brothers!  Maybe it isn’t right to ask God for signs or wonders.  But even as a wee thing, I had a deep and abiding faith.  I already knew the mystery of God.

It was a humid April night in North Bay.  I stared at the sheer drapery that hung motionless over my open window.  I said, “Dear God, If you are going to give me a sister…please move the curtain.”  I fell asleep staring at the drapery…motionless…but, with tremendous belief that it would move.

In the morning hours, my father came to my bedside.  I remember him shaking my arm…”Kathy…Kath…Mommy got you a sister!”


In North Bay, after David Carlin’s art exhibit in Callander, Val and I enjoyed silence in our air-conditioned Super 8 room and then went down to Trout Lake for a picnic dinner.  This photo sort of says it all for our family.  We had good times at the lake…squealing and laughing…swimming and leaping off the docks.  It was a wonderful thing to share a picnic and to think of our childhood years…and our mother.

P1110671Back in the day…same location…my family…

Kath's Scans 006 Kath's Scans 008

Slices of the Cold War

It’s a strange thing for a lady, living in the west…a teacher…an artist…a bit of a writer…to be so moved by these slices of life as represented in a 7 minute slide show, photos provided by http://urbex.mikeonline.ca/?q=gallery_BOMARC.  These photos represent a very specific and impressionable time of my life.  I lived with my family during the Cold War hay day in North Bay, Ontario.

Bottles Five and Six

We stood in front of our Market Street home, talking.

My sister and I headed out on a short tour of North Bay, before taking to the highway.  Pretty much, the moment we set out, I began weeping…for all of the memories and all that had happened in North Bay.  Military children don’t have much that is permanent, so to return to a place that was a temporary home, brings some emotions up.

I was twelve years old and fell asleep while watching the sheer curtains in my bedroom, still in the humid heat of April 26.  I had asked God if He would please move the curtains, as a sign,  if He would give me a sister; this, after three brothers!  I stared for so long that I couldn’t possibly keep my eyes open any longer.  In the morning, my Dad woke me with the nudge of my arm…”Kath, we have a sister for you!”  This all happened at 42 Market Street and I can see the bedroom window just beyond the tree featured in the photograph that I snapped yesterday.

42 Market Street

We drove down Airport Road to Widdifield high school and then to the home where my parents lived while I attended my first years of University in Lethbridge.  This is the home that I visited during the summer and at Christmas time, sometimes taking the train across Canada, sometimes flying, but always coming home.  I worked at The Deluxe.  I bought my first guitar.  I stopped in to a small Catholic Church those summers, where the Mass was  spoken in Latin.


Heading out for the last leg of my journey and through Algonquin Park, my sister and I drove in tandem so that we could share a coffee, some blueberries and a hug before she left me at Huntsville.

Roadside blueberries.

We had a relaxing cup of java and a cornmeal muffin at a South River coffee shop…it was a quaint place with some fantastic landscape art.  I think the artist’s name was Doreen Woods and I just had to pull over to snap a shot on the way out of South River, of one of many chip wagons that I will be seeing this summer.  This is something that Calgary, Alberta needs…a good chip wagon!

Ontario Chip Wagon

I was at home with my parents by 4:30 in the afternoon, having enjoyed a scenic and safe journey…just in time for my Dad’s ribs, salad and rice…and Bottles Five and Six! ;0)  I am most grateful to God for being with Max and I on this remarkable journey and I’m excited for all of the discoveries that the summer continues to keep within her arms, just for us!

Mom took this one of Bottle 5 and Bottle 6 and I think it's perfect! ;0)


Our Beautiful Mom!

Bottle Four

We woke up early in Marathon and to yet another blue sky!  Oh glorious days!  Complimentary breakfast served as per usual, but yesterday, with a twist.  You know, there are just some days that you know are going to be profoundly ‘magical’ from the outset…and this would be one of those!

The van was loaded and I checked out.  Max, in kennel, was happy (I think) because a cool breeze was wofting (is that how you spell that OR is that even a word?) through the open windows.  I trusted everything in my little van-world in the middle of Marathon to the universe and stepped in for my coffee and single piece of toast slathered in butter and marmalade.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Then, in stepped two gents behind me.  I was able to give them some help with the toaster-situation, given that I had already struggled with the two-second popping-action that was so evident while toasting my own slice of bread.  At the same time as my lips were moving in this ‘ridiculous’ chatter, I was visually registering their absolute and utter beauty! BEAUTY! (I was listening to a John O’Donohue podcast just the day before on the subject of beauty…and know, in retrospect, that I recognized it immediately in these two long distance cyclists from Montreal!)  Have you seen those sports cyclists up close?  In those outfits?  They were tanned and healthy and Oh!  Those accents!

What a fantastic breakfast was had as I listened to the most amazing details of their ride the previous days through the same Superior loop that had so impressed me.  Their exhaustion, they explained, surpassed what they had experienced from Vancouver through the Rocky Mountains!  We departed about the same time and I felt almost giddy inside, having carried on such a pleasant and interesting conversation with two french-speaking men in their late 20s, both wearing those wonderfully-fitted bike tights! ;0)

We had just completed the most amazing leg of our journey, physically speaking.  There were countless views and powerful scenes for hours…such vastness apparent throughout the morning; Lake Superior and the islands, rock cliff-faces jutting down into blue…an impossibly absent horizon line where sky and water mixed and then disappeared.

A Little Bit of Heaven

I had stopped at Old Woman’s Bay (awesome photo to follow) and after playing stick games and wading in the water’s edge of Lake Superior, Max and I got back in the van.

Max, Sticks and Water for Miles!

I hoped to at least make it to Sudbury…if I had the stamina, then North Bay by nightfall, but first, Sault Ste. Marie.  It was at some point, while talking to my pooch, that I reached back between the rungs of his kennel, to give his head a scratch that I discovered ‘the bump’.  “OOOOooo,” I said aloud. “This is something we’ll have to look into when we get to The Sou!”

Perhaps two hours later, I found myself in the city and I wangled my way around the Lines, and pulled in to gas up at The Husky.  Good price on gas…a nice sandwich with fixings from my cooler…and quite a conversation with a long-hauler! His entire foot was wrapped in a thick white dressing and over this he was wearing a blue hospital slipper.  Hmmmm….had to be a story, right?

He had pulled his rig into the same Husky to gas up earlier in the day and had decided to cook himself up a cup of hot tea.  I guess the guy uses a wee gas stove for this purpose (don’t know how good this idea is) and somehow through this process, poured the boiling water over his socked foot.  WELL, you can imagine my face as I’m listening to him describe in detail, the skin that he pulled off as he removed his sock…also the fact that the hairy part of his foot had been protected.  Hmmm…well, I couldn’t just go on eating my sandwich there, could I?  So…it was some time before Max and I extricated ourselves from the empathy that the situation required and the assurance that yes, his dispatch was in fact, going to help him resolve his situation, given that his home is in Montreal.

By this time, I had almost forgotten the bump on Max’s head.  Next, I headed for an off leash park.  Once there, Max took his ‘I-am-a-patient-stance’ and I proceeded to look for the allusive bump on his head.  IKE!  ICK!! YES!!!  A TICK!  Immediately, I dragged my dog across four busy lanes of Sault Ste. Marie traffic to a vehicle full of people parked at a business directly across from me!  “MY DOG HAS A TICK! WHAT SHOULD I DO?”

I laugh as I type any of this right now!  Who would believe that the day was unfolding as it had?  The passengers in the vehicle, one at a time, shared exactly what I would have if the situation had been in reverse and some crazy woman from MARATHON made inquiries of me about a tick on her dog!  They all said, in tandem, “Don’t know…just know that you shouldn’t use a lighter and the dog can die if you don’t get the whole thing out!”  (Oh GOD…I was thinking to myself)

“I know!” I said…perhaps there is a vet around here…the lady pointed the direction I had come and I desperately pleaded that she NOT send me back through that traffic and those damned center turning lanes!  Everyone in the vehicle laughed.  (It was the hottest day of the summer….35 degrees and there were three people in the back and three people in the front.  This also disturbs me that I had them captivated for so long in a vehicle.)  I asked, “Is there NOT a vet on the way out of town?  I’m driving the 17 to Sudbury?”  Suddenly, a ray of sunlight!  One woman in the vehicle knew the precise location of a vet and somehow, I don’t know how, I negotiated the traffic and pulled into the vet’s parking lot.

The entire lot was empty.  ‘What day is it today?’ I asked myself.  ‘It’s not Friday; it’s Saturday!’  I leaned my forehead against the cold of the glass door and all I could think of was that engorged tick, sucking on my dog’s head.  I imagined that as the clock was ticking, his brain was being sucked out bit-by-bit and that truly he would be a mad dog by the time this six bottles of Corona were consumed!

More self-talk. ‘Ok.  I have to do this myself.  I have to act like I know what I’m doing.  I have to get this tick off my dog’s head, as though I’m a pro.’  I pulled into the abandoned Mac’s parking lot, grabbed my wallet and proceeded to shop for my tools; tweezers, kleenex and hand sanitizer!  I laugh as I type this.  The store attendant had likely NOT seen a customer all day.  The sun was beating down on the outside pavement.  The boy was no older than 17 and of a culture that likely doesn’t give a bean about dogs (this may be a somewhat stereotypical remark, but I’m talking about ‘impressions’ here)…he may not have known what a tick is…and certainly I don’t think he could relate with a woman who was about to perform parking-lot surgery on her own pet!  It was an interesting thing simply explaining to him what tweezers were.  I felt as though I was playing charades, acting out their various uses.  I thought it was interesting that he pulled out his hotdog tongs initially.

Enter Josh and friend, Josh’s own pet dog Rufus, tied to a post outside.  There, another conversation unfolded.  Friend to Josh demonstrated very little trust in the situation, explaining emphatically that Rufus could be swarmed with ticks if his owner even approached my dog…although, I could tell that he was curious and ultimately helped me make the choice of hand sanitizer over mouth wash for an antiseptic.

I forged ahead as though I had the entire procedure under wraps.  Once Max was postured and prepped and tied onto the door handle, all three young men approached…just to take a look.  Well, my readers here, given their intelligence and ability to make predictions, know what comes next, right?  While the Macs attendant, stood back, even he approached to see the tick.  In moments, the other two had all in hand, Josh posturing with the tweezers just above Max’s head.

With a great TUG and a yelp from Max, Josh, with tick flailing at the end of the tweezers, tossed it at the ground at our feet.  We all agreed that the next step was to do an anatomical analysis of the tick and that proceeded with great enthusiasm.

I asked, “Please…may I have a picture of you guys?  This is a quite a moment on my journey!”  They agreed…we all hugged…and I headed down the highway, to the place of my birth…Sudbury and then on to North Bay.

Tick Slayers

There was no way I could stop in Sudbury because the highway no longer rolls through the city as it once did and heck if I could figure out what exit to take.  I should have fun once I deal with the city of Montreal!  On my return trip home, I will be stopping in Sudbury to visit the woman who has shared the sixth pew at church with me for the past three years.  She was out in Calgary helping her daughter with babysitting, but will be returning to her home in Sudbury some time next week.  I will miss Johanna very much as she and I have grown very close.

On we forged to North Bay and on the outskirts of the city, I read the first sign pointing me in the direction of the Super 8 on Lakeshore Drive.  My military family had been posted to North Bay three separate times and so, in fact, I felt as though I was driving home!  I paid for my room, the last room available to pets for that evening and then met Max out at the van where we began our evening rituals, play time and tinkles, the unloading of the van and finally, his walk up to the room.  I was just telling him, “NO BARKS!  Stay!  I’ll be right back!” when I heard a woman’s voice shout out, “KATH?”

I thought to myself, “How does ANYONE in North Bay know that I am here?”  A dark blue van lurched into reverse and as the automatic window moved down, I saw the face of my own sister.  We shrieked in unison!

Super 8 Collision of Life and Experience!

She has been volunteering at a camp for kids this summer and was allowed a single day off in 18 days!  She had booked into a room three doors down from my own.  Now…I ask my readers?  What are the chances of this particular collision of love and energy?  Had my dog not had a tick?  Had I not ordered horrible battered ribs at a small Chinese and Western Restaurant outside of Sudbury, just so that I could access their bathroom…had I not had an absolutely beautiful conversation with two cyclists that morning at breakfast…had my sister remained in Huntsville instead of driving to North Bay, had she chosen the suite across the street at Sunset Cottages…had she not snacked on sushi while gazing out at Lake Nipissing…we may not have had this absolutely ‘magical’ experience.

AMA does good work!

Given that she would be returning to camp the very next morning, she had to watch me sip back Bottle Four on my own…but already, we were so happy that we could share a room that night and just be sisters together, that was aok!  I had such a MAGICAL day and I am so grateful for every moment of struggle, beauty and love that was revealed!

North Bay: Hi HO Hi HO!

Bottle Four

NORAD Bunker: ‘The HOLE’, North Bay, Ontario

We had two postings to North Bay, Ontario.  My Dad worked as an air weapons controller. We lived in a home on base where we had a small bomb shelter in our basement and on occasion, we would have drills when the sirens would fire.  Not an ordinary sort of experience for a young family!  One summer, while attending University, I took the bus down into The Hole everyday, working on a civilian project.  I found this video in my peeking-around on the web and think it’s a great archive for my blog.

When I wasn’t working in this place 800 feet underground, I was hiking through the hills and I remember being particularly in awe of the trilliums growing in the shaded woods around town.  I also attended a church for daily Mass, surprisingly, said in Latin.

A Cold War Family