Category Archives: family

From Summer to September …

September has always seemed more like a beginning than an ending for me. Sure, the days are getting shorter, and the air has taken on a bit of a chill in the evenings, but rather than and ending to a summer, it’s always been a start. Empty binders, fresh erasers, clean lockers, and new shoes were signs of a new school year. This year, like many previous, my children are of to their respective schools. Now, our youngest son is  half way through elementary, our daughter has begun high school, and our eldest  two sons … well, they’re grown, and they get to decide their own schooling.

For me, as a teacher, fall means new students (along with the worry whether there will be enough registered students to run a course), a fresh course outline with new stories pulled from familiar books. I love the excitement that students bring to each new class, believing that it will be good, not simply another course to get through. I do my best to prove them right. IMG_2006 poet's cove IMG_1863 sailing southern gulf islands salt spring Conover Cove

This fall, it seems that summer is still lingering, teasing with toasty play in the sun. Despite so much that is new and exciting about the fall, I am sad to see the long summer nights slip away, and the chill take ahold so deep that I can’t bear to cleat the sheets to my sails. So in that way it is not just a beginning, but an ending. Last weekend may well have been the farewell to our short sailing season. I’m not yet sure, still holding on hope … I’m not quite ready to winterize; after all, it is still fall.

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When Vancouver kids Visit Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan)

Twenty years ago I came to Vancouver to go to grad school at UBC.  I never left, Vancouver that is (I did, however, finish my graduate studies). To me, Vancouver was a postcard perfect place, so why would I ever leave? The weather is warm(ish) all year round, so much so that parkas are relegated to skiing or snow-shoeing. Cold is ten below, not thirty … No one has to plug in their car, unless it is electric. So there is no need to dangle an extension cord from house to tree to parking spot to attach one’s block-heater; our cars don’t have block-heaters. There are almost no mosquitoes, not really, not prairie mosquitoes who feast like starving vultures on unsuspecting children. And the wind … well, it’s light, predictable, and infrequent. But what about the rain, people ask … it makes things green, I say, and besides you don’t have to shovel rain.

The first week of our summer vacation, I took my two youngest children aboard a very small and movie-barren flight to Regina where my parents greeted us and drove us all back to Moose Jaw, the city I grew up in. The first night it was thirty-three degrees, the wind shrieked around the trees and lightning lit up the night sky in a blaze of fire-works. It was fantastic. Far more drama than what we are used to at home, and for me, it smelled and felt like my childhood. For the kids it was a great and fantastic show.

All that was familiar to me, is exotic to my children … a giant concrete moose …

… wind that drives the leaves of a tree sideways,

And horizons and sky like no other.

New to them were pocked roads, insect spray, and gopher holes. Finn found three gophers too, but they wouldn’t sick around for a photo. And then they walked my dad’s dog Twinkle.

We took them to the Natatorium where I’d cool off as a child on scorching summer days.

But mostly, being there was about the people, not about the landscape, the weather, or tourist attractions (which they have quite a few). This trip to the ‘Jaw’, was about connecting with our prairie roots, reminding them where some of their people are from.

It is good to be from Moose Jaw, from Saskatchewan; just as it is good to be home here in Vancouver.

(A link to more 2011 Moose Jaw Photos here.)

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Filed under environment, family, kids, lorrie_miller, saskatchewan, vancouver

Lessons in Bleeding

When Alex, the marine mechanic said to me, “a lesson in bleeding,” I loved it. It was just what I needed to know. I, in many ways am an expert in such things. I have bandaged many skin abrasions, birthed many children, and watched far too many movies with swords and hacking (I now close my eyes when I have seen too much). But the bleeding Alex was teaching me was bleeding air from the line of my motor, my Yanmar. When I thought about becoming a sailor, I didn’t know that it also meant becoming a do-it-yourself mechanic, that I’d get grease under my nails and have to acquire a whole new toolkit. I was prepared for salt spray in my face, and wind in my hair. Today, I learned about bleeding, and I am a happy woman for it.

(tall ship sailing link here)

Catalina 30 vancouver

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Family Camping on Clayoquot Sound’s Cow Bay

Cow Bay is a rather perfect stretch of fine sandy beach on Flores Island, the largest island in Clayoquot Sound, and for a week this summer, on a spot between a tidal creek and the shore, was our family’s home.


Now this home wasn’t ours exclusively, by no means; we shared it with two haughty pairs of King Fishers, a rather talented Raven, a few million mice (from the number of footprints they left), three sizeable wolves, and one other human family.  The only critters we managed to get photo were the very slow moving, non-hiding variety: sea-stars, sea anemone and people…

(Note:  the feet above are size 5.  There was a dog on the beach, a very large dog, and it’s prints were about 2/3 the size of this print, but more than that the depth of the print was much more shallow.)  We never saw these wolves, just their tracks.

Cow bay is named such for the grey whale cows and their calves that frequent the area.  We were not disappointed.  Daily we saw whale boats bringing deck loads of tourists keen on spotting spouts and tails in the wild Pacific.  All we had to do was to watch the boats and sure enough we got the show from the shore.  On our first full day there, our daughter and niece spotted three grey whales feeding amid the bull kelp off the rocky point, a short clamber away from our camp.  For about twenty minutes they watched a show of jumps and sprays, before they pulled themselves away to come tell the rest of us, which turned out to not be too late.

For all the wildlife and exploring that the outer coast offers, the biggest hit with the children this summer was the fact that we gave them each a knife and let them start the campfires.  (note:  despite there being a fire ban elsewhere in British Columbia, it was permitted within 2 kilometres of the outer coast)

Then of course, we allowed them to play with it…

Until late into the night when sleep was easy, we’d sit around the fire and share stories both ancient myths we knew,  and stories from our own lives.  The children shared as much with us as we did with them.  It was these moments that will cling to my memory like the carefully woven webs holding firm the images of paw prints and toes, smiles and slivers.   It wasn’t just that we have done something special, or memorable, but that we’ve done it together.

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Filed under British Columbia, camping, environment, family, Flores Island, kids, lorrie_miller

Island Parent Published: Camping With Wolves

My hallway is lined with packs, sleeping bags, dry-sacks, and assorted camp gear.  I feel I can make some sense of it within the next few hours.  Our ferry reservation is at an ungodly hour in the morning… but odd hours is not new to me…. (unfortunately)

It is this time of year that we leave the comforts of our home in Vancouver, for the wilds of BC.  I look forward to this annual zen experience, where we give the children sharp objects, and matches to play with (mostly to carve their own marshmallow roasting sticks and then to get the fire going).

So it is with pleasure that I see my story, Camping with Wolves, in Island Parent Magazine’s August issue.  They then follow up the article with a wolf advisory, a good idea.  We will be again visitors in wolf and whale country.  And there will be more stories to be told, undoubtedly, after this camping excursion as well….

Camping in Clayoquot Sound

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A Crop Circle, but Not.

A week ago I hopped a Regina bound plane to go visit my grandmothers, and my parents and other family members.   It had been a year, and that had been more than long enough.  Though I’ve spent more than half my life at the Pacific Coast, I was raised a flat-lander, a prairie girl.  I am familiar with the multi-toned hues of the summer fields, but my children are not; so I thought I’d snap a few photos from the air so they could see what it’s like.  But I was in for a surprise.  Never before had I seen fields like these.

July 2010, Saskatchewan too verdant for the season

Saskatchewan fields pocked with water, the wettest July!

They were shades of green reserved for the early days of May and June, not July.  They were pocked with water where the land dipped and drained into pools like the inland deltas of the Okavango.  These wet fields belong no where near Southern Saskatchewan.

Green Saskatchewan from the Air

I scanned the fields below me in awe.  The earth curved in the distant horizon beneath a mist of cloud as the surface water evaporated.  A storm in the distant twisted grey clouds into angry purple masses.  We would land well before any storm would threaten our descent.  And then I saw it, the circle carved in a nearby field.  It made me smile.  This was clearly not the other-worldly work of a mysterious artist, nor of energetic orbs dancing over the crop.  It was the handy-work of a farmer operating large agricultural machinery.

Several years earlier, on a similar voyage, but westward bound, I glanced out the plane window to glimpse not one, but two perfectly formed discs in a field, far from any road or farm.  I couldn’t even tell if for sure there was a crop, or if it was simply the tall prairie grasses that had been laid down into tight spirals.  I looked at them and thought, cool!  Crop circles. Then I realized what I’d just seen, and I craned my neck to keep them in my vision as long as I could as I whizzed at 450km/h through the sky.  I said nothing of it to my seat-mates, who were nodding asleep with headphone glued to their ears.  What could I have said anyway, “wake up you just missed these cool crop circles?”  No, I let them sleep.

I did tell my family when I got home, and despite not having snapped any photograph of them, they believed me.  So this time when I was privy to the swamped fields of the prairies, I snapped my digital camera for posterity.  The circle in the field that was not a crop circle, was bonus.

Not a Typical Crop Circle

Not a Typical Crop Circle

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I am the Mother of an Adult… Happy Birthday Son

Did I ever think about this day, eighteen years ago…. most certainly not.  I saw his tiny toes that were the much more elegant version of my own–his pools of ebony blinking up at me as he took in his new world, his rosebud lips that pursed as he suckled in his sleep.  He was a happy baby, an easy baby, a baby that made me want more.

Eighteen years later, I am the mother of a six year old son, a nine year old daughter, a sixteen year old son and an adult– a legal adult.  He can vote, get a job, leave home, get married, be tried in adult court, make me a grandmother, and and and, I could go on, but I may have heart failure if I do.

I can no longer carry him on my back, nor send him to his room.  His time-outs are of his own choosing.  He will always be my boy, my son, my baby, but he is also so very much his own man. There I said it.  Man.  How can I be the mother of a man? How did this happen?

Akask (15 years old) Mystic Beach

Wolf, Finn and Akask at Mystic Beach

Akask and Dad 2007

Okay a moment of serious joking.  It was funny, but perhaps you had to be there….

Akask in the Hayloft at Grandparents former farm near Moose Jaw

In and under the hayloft…. a place I remembered from my early childhood, a place that seemed like a dream, and now returns to that state.

Homemade sail and raft in 2004.

Akask at Pearl Harbour

Akask skateboarding in Hawaii

Akask skateboarding?

Akask in Spring 2010

The biggest brother, my eldest son!

Akask and Youngest Cousin Sydney 2010

This wasn’t intended as a full photo retrospective, and given his age, most of my photos of his early years are in print in physical photo albums.   It is easy and hard to see your child become an adult. It is a process that is impossible to slow or halt–it is a journey not a race I try to tell them.  But like so many things, I am not sure how much they hear… Ah, love them all.

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