Sunday, March 28, 2010


The theatre manager at Crowfoot Cineplex knows the names of his opera patrons. "Hello, Mr. Johnson," he said, and then pointed Kelvin to a seat that was roped off, so that no one else would take it.

The encore for Hamlet is April 24th. If you are interested in "mad scenes" Ophelia's part in Hamlet matches the intensity of Lucia's in Lucia di Lammamoor. Stunning, though you may not want to take your kids unless you are willing to sit up with them after their nighmares.

When the opera was over, the theatre manager called out to everyone, "Stay in your seats. The intensity of the colour in the satellite transmission was not that good today and I am giving you all passes so that you can come back and see this production or some other production of Live in HD from the Met. I am starting from the front of the theatre so don't leave until you get your pass."

So it is off to Hamlet at the end of the month for us again.


Recycling Information

I am a disbeliever. I couldn't believe that all of the material that is put into our Blue Bin, the tin, the glass, the cardboard, the paper, is sorted and recycled.

Your kids might enjoy the u-tube site that Ed Saiedi, one of the guys who lives with us, sent me when I expressed some negaivity about the recycling programme really working.

I know everyone isn't interested in this kind of information, but I am pretty sure Lurene will read this note and comment. She has been on board about recycling for years.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hamlet at the Met Today

I am going to see Hamlet today, Live in HD from the Met. The review below (for which I have inserted a link, but if you can't get to it, try copy and paste) is so delicious that I hope you at least get a chance to read it if you don't get to Hamlet, either today or at its encore broadcast, April 24th.

It doesn't matter how many times I have seen the stage production of Hamlet, each time I go I have to refresh my mind about the characters: Ophelie, Gertrude, Laerte, Cladius

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On Growing Old and Trip Planning

Kelvin was remarking last night that he is watching from the side all of the fun I am having planning for the next trip to London. I was too tired last night to have a conversation about that, for my life wasn’t looking like that much fun to me. My overwhelming objective at 11:30 pm was to drop myself in bed. There wasn't much else on my mind.

This morning when I woke, I could feel myself laughing. Yes. I am having fun and I don’t even know it. In the first instance, yesterday Laynie called to say she was buying pounds and euros and could get a better price if she bought more. She was calling her parents, her brother, everyone she knew who was going to London so that she could get the best exchange for all of our money – so her questions was, did she want me to have her pick some pounds and euros for my trip next month. I was doing some fancy bank work to get the money out of one account and into another for her to take some to the bank, and didn’t know that it looked like fun.

In the middle of the day, when I was eating my lunch, I was at work studying Rick Steven’s Great Britain 2007 and Day Trips Out of London. I am not just studying them – I am taking notes: which of the 25 places listed are more than 2 hours away, which cities offer free tours, which cities have castles that are medieval jewels and city walls that are still standing.

Last night I slipped over to Wyona’s where she was signing up for the Britrail pass for us. Three day-trips to Edinburgh will pay for the 15 days of first class travel. Now that is a deal. She was also printing off beautiful maps of Wales with the names of cities and towns I haven’t heard of before and with names I can’t pronounce when I read them.

Having a restless night, I opened my eyes, turned on the light and picked up the travel book again. I am reading the right book to maximize my pleasure. Last night I read about Blackpool Tower, “kids love this place. With a little marijuana, adults would too.” I will pass on Blackpool Tower. My medication of choice is Tylenol 3.

Another of the lines that stuck with me into the early morning reading hours was about the Trefiw Woolen Mills and its pleasant coffee shop. "The grade-school next door is rambunctious with Welsh-speaking children -- fun to listen to at recess." How fun is that kind of reading.

Kelvin is right. Half of the fun occurs long before getting on the plane to go to London.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shirley's Funeral with Pictures

In addition to Arta's beautiful written description of the moments we experienced this weekend saying goodbye to Shirley, I am adding photographs.  It was a pleasure to be at the events celebrating her life and these are a few moments we shared together.

  A picture of the chapel as the final prayer was being said for Shirley, at the end of the funeral service.

The grandchildren sang "I Am A Child Of God" during the chapel service.

The pallbearers performing their duties at the graveside.

The trombone players serenading those assembled.

Family at the graveside service.

Balloons were one of Shirley's favourite things and in her honour we launched them at her funeral, and watched them float into the heavenly clouds.

Saying goodbye with flowers.

We moved from the graveside back to the church where we talked, enjoyed stories, smelled beautiful flowers, ate, and enjoyed pictures of Shirley.

Wyona and Arta volunteered to have a family dinner in the evening.  We enjoyed talking with family and talking about Shirley's life.

Flowers sent by famiy and friends that honoured Shirley's memory.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Tribute: Shirley Treleaven

Shirley Treleaven’s Funeral

The day before Shirley’s funeral, Wyona and I wanted to say our quiet good-byes to her at the funeral home. We slipped over there Thursday afternoon. What we did not know is that Shirley’s mother, two of her sisters and both of her daughters would be there dressing the body that afternoon.

Wyona and I both count it as a privilege that they had us join them and that they let us help them. Shirley’s sisters slipped her dress, sash and apron on her. Loiya put on Shirley’s shoes, white with bits of lace on them. Sheryl watched while Anita placed some pearls around Shirley’s neck.

Embroidered pink roses were on the inside lid of the casket. The room was redolent with the smell of roses and sprays of lilies that sat along the side of the wall. There was sadness in the air for me. I am glad I went. I needed that peaceful moment with Shirley.

The next day, friends who wanted to meet the family before the service, began arriving at the church at 9:30 am. The church foyer had in it a display of snapshots on 2 photograph trees. Groups of people waiting for the service to begin enjoyed them, some even taking them off of the clips to get a better look at them.

Dalton, Ceilidh, Meighan and I explored the church while we were waiting for the family prayer to start. We had some time on our hands. Dalton agreed to be the tour guide of the church for it is the place where he went to cubs a few years ago. He showed us how to operate the stage lights, how to make them go from green to red to orange, how to pull the curtains so that we could see the gym, and he warned us about the dangers of walking on the stage in the dark, for it was filled with hockey nets, planks on the floor and odd chairs. Then he turned the lights off on the stage for us, so we could tell what he was saying was really true. The only room he didn’t know about in the church, he told us, was the chapel, for the cubs weren’t allowed to explore that room.

As we walked the halls, we spoke with the female funeral director whom I had met the day before, asking her how she choose her job and if she knew she would be in that profession when she was younger. And we also wanted to know what her favourite part of her job was. She is the one who had done Shirley’s hair and put on her make-up. She told us her favourite part of her job is what happened the day before, when we dressed Shirley.

We also introduced ourselves to Jerry Palmer who was to give the eulogy. He told them he already he knew their names, they were in his talk.

We met other cousins in the hallway. Zach, who is in kindergarten, followed us around the church for a while. His mother had given him strict instructions about his behaviour, “no running in the halls”. I watched him for a while after he was given those instructions. Zach cannot walk a straight line. He skips, hops, jumps, sidesteps and tries very hard not to run. At the door to the stage, he stopped and read out loud, “plat ... form”. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

The chapel was filled and into the overflow by 6 or 8 rows of chairs. I missed my chance to go sit by Molly and Kelvin who were four rows from the front. I was helping with the grandchildren until the casket was moved into the chapel. Molly was firm in her determination to come to the funeral. Shirley had worked for her, driving a school bus when Molly taught kindergarten. Molly is on antibiotics that have to be administered 3 times a day at the Taber hospital. She had Corinne drive her up to Calgary and then back to Taber in time for her appointment at the hospital.

Jerry Palmer gave the eulogy. He is a relative of Shirley’s, from a larger extended family. He told about their common roots, about what has made them all family and how connections between the extended families have been cemented. He read a letter from Tom Evans, Shirley’s employer, when she worked in Tom’s dental office. Tom was her bishop as well. Tom said that if Shirley was doing a job in either of the capacities that he knew her, that a person could be calm. She would take care of things as they should be taken care of. There were no sleepless nights for others if Shirley was in charge.

Jerry told a well loved family story to the congregation. Shirley was helping pre-school Dalton to learn how to say the blessing on the food. She said to him, “Fold your arms, bow your head. Now say after me, Father in Heaven.”

Dalton said, “Father Treleaven.”

That just about broke up the prayer session.

But Shirley continued, “Thank you for the food.”

Dalton said, “You’re welcome.”

Jerry said that he looked up at the clock, could see he was only 1/8 of the way through the material he had collected and that he felt his time at the pulpit was up. I am one of the people who would have liked to have heard 8/8ths of the tributes that have rolled into the emails to the family about Shirley.

After the reading of the biography, listed on the programme was an entry: Tributes – Open Sharing. I have seen this done at other funerals, but never at a Mormon funeral, so I checked with a second funeral director. He said yes, it is being done at Mormon funerals. I asked what percentage. He said, maybe 2%. An open mike – so I went to Wyona and told her I was going to say something and she said, “I am going to, as well.”

Wyona beat me to the mike. She told the audience that when Marcia called Wyona to say she was getting married, Wyona had asked Marcia, “What is Art’s mother like?” Marcia had responded to Wyona, “She is everything you are not.” Wyona said that when she saw the funeral sprays, she was reminded again of that statement, thinking of the bouquet that contained both lilies, roses and snapdragons, and thinking of herself as that snapdragon. Many of the children afterwards asked their mothers to show them, which of the flowers was a snapdragon. I liked the line best in Wyona’s talk where she said that each time she leans down to give her grandchildren a kiss or a hug, that kiss will also come to them from Shirley, through her.

Linda Witter, another of Shirley’s friends, spoke next. Knowing that opening sharing was going to happen and she had prepared some beautiful words to say about Shirley.

I came to the funeral unprepared: no pen, no piece of paper. I asked one of the funeral directors for a pen, and any piece of paper. He could deliver the pens, but no paper. Even the back of a tithing receipt would do, I said. He knew how to get into the bishop’s office for paper. Here is what I scribbled down as I sat waiting for my turn for the mike.

“Shirley and I share the greatest of all treasure, common grandchildren. That gift allowed us to see deep into each other’s hearts. Like you, I loved Shirley. She was dutiful, a duty that she combined with such tenderness and care.

Shirley loved her kitchen and I loved her kitchen as well, her hands rolling the pie dough, dipping the chocolates, and serving food to others. And when the food was cleared away and the bridge cards were shuffled, I knew I was going to lose a lot of bridge rubbers to Shirley that evening.

Shirley and I grandmothered at family parties, on holidays, at common kitchen tables, on the beach, in the water and under the stars. She set the bar high.

There is a common practise to plant a tree in people’s memories. Shirley reversed that practise. I won’t need to plant a tree for Shirley already planted one in my yard, a shoot from her lilac tree. The name of that variety of lilac describes Shirley – Sensation. I will think of Shirley when that lilac tree blooms in the spring.

The Relief Society had been in the kitchen from 8:30 am the morning of the funeral, preparing a lunch for 400 people. Some of us went directly to the cemetery and then came back to join those who stayed behind.

The graveside service was beautiful. The grave site is on a knoll. Because Calgary is right on the line that divides the prairies from the foothills and mountains, it is possible to look to the east and see the broad expanse of prairie that moves thousands of miles across Canada. The sky was full of high white clouds. The horizon was flat, a line rimming the Canadian prairies where Shirley had been born.

Tim and Lurene were the lone figures against it, dressed in trotter length and long black coats, the glint of gold from their trombones could be seen as they played duets from the Mormon hymnal. I have always loved Cardinal Newman’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, as well “For the Beauty of the Earth”. There were probably others beside me who could feel the strength of the words of those songs going through our minds, as we listened to the melodies of them, the blended notes of the lines of the music, plaintive in the quiet silence as we waited for the dedication of the grave.

Tim and Lurene had played for Shirley before. Anita reminded me of the Christmas Party we had where Lurene and Tim had played for family members, choosing their performance site the second floor of Anita and Doral’s house, by the wooden railing, letting the music waft down to those of us below. Shirley had talked about how fun that was in the months that were to follow.

At the graveside,Tonia, Charise and Marcia had turquoise and green balloons filled with helium and passed 40 of them out to the children. On the count of three, people let the balloons go. They were breathtakingly beautiful, floating far into the heavens, some seeming to make their way through the holes in the clouds. We watched them as they lost their brilliant colour, soon only specks in the sky, moving upward and far out of our sight.

Before the grave was lowered into the ground, those who wanted could take flowers from the casket spray, take one home to press it, or put it on top of the casket. Meighan is only five, but she learned how to gently place a flower there, after her first one fell through the cracks. Anita told me that it would not be possible to count the number of flowers on the casket that were put there by Meighan.

By the same token, during the funeral, Audra could see tears spilling from more than one cheek, and she began to deliver Kleenex out of boxes and into the hands of those who needed them, which turned into a full time job for her. Both little girls were hard at work.

I lost control of my own composure when the casket was rolled out of the chapel. When I saw the casket move by I stepped out into the isle to watch it. And then the mourners walked by and I couldn’t keep my sobbing under control. You know, the kind where your chest heaves and your shoulders involuntarily shake. My lips are tight but still some of the wild crying that is going on inside of me gets out in the form of taking in short breaths of air. Hard to believe that the good grandmother left and that the Johnson/Treleaven grandchildren are now left with only the two bad grandmothers.

Ron had invited all of the family members of the Treleavens and Heggies to join him back at the church at 6 pm for a family dinner. Wyona offered her help to him. There was an abundance of food for a main course for all. Three buffet tables were filled with a variety of meat, and potato, bean, seven-grain and Caesar salads, cheeses, fruits and desserts. Only Wyona would think to make sure the feta cheese stuffed red peppers and the dill pickles were there.

The Heggies are amazing people -- a family of helpers, the larger extended Mormon family operating quietly together to take care of what needs to be done, people stepping in at every turn. When there is a job to be done, they slip into the kitchen and help to get food on the tables. And when the food is to be packaged up at the end of the meals, they are there to do the work as well. They put away tables and chairs when it is time to clean up. And in between those times, they know how to gather around a table and enjoy again the stories of their collective past.

The women provided the desserts – bringing in huge trays of slices – cherry filled shortbread, brownies, ju-jube filled blonde brownies, caramel-iced Rice Krispie squares and gooey, chocolaty puffed wheat squares for children. I could tell they know how to do this – not just because they have pans from their kitchens the right size to fill the tables of a banquet, but because when one of them begins to slice the squares they do it deftly, making generous sized portions and quickly getting them out of the pans and onto plates for beautiful presentation. I would say one of them can outwork 3 of the rest of us.

Ron stayed afterward to help with the clean up. The only glitch was that he had a can of orange pop in his hand that he had set down for a minute. In our clean-up the pop went missing. When he came back for it. “Who tossed out my drink,” he asked? I didn’t know who. It could have been any one of us.

A few minutes later Wyona spotted Gabe, sipping pop from a can of orange drink, which she didn’t believe he had opened on his own. At least the drink had been put to good use.

When Ron’s guests were gone, Art took on the job of vacuuming the carpets in the halls. One of Shirley’s sisters swept the kitchen floor. Dishes were divided up to go back to the homes that had provided them.

A funeral does not give time for all of us to voice what it is that we loved about Shirley. I did not have time to frame one of the qualities I adored in Shirley. In fact, I still am not to the core of it. But in the course of knowing her, I saw on occasion, times when she counted on others and they let her down. Her reaction to these events is what I watched closely. Whatever it is about those hard times that Ron, might have heard, I didn’t see articulated to any who are on the circle of Shirley’s and my collective friends. I always wondered how she did that and wondered if I would be able to rise above what my reactions might have been.

I was talking this morning with Ceilidh. She said she already misses grandmother -- that the best thing about her was that after dinner, if you wanted something sugary Grandma Treleaven would always give it to you. And she would offer you many choices and then ask you how much of each choice you wanted. Ceilidh said she really loved that part about Grandmother Treleaven. Doral just had to interject, “Yes, in opposition to your grandmother who is left who only offers oranges.”

Wyona has told me a number of times since Shirley died, that at the last gathering at the Treleaven house, there was food to be ordered in for supper. Some of the family wanted to have Chinese food. Others, like Zach and Gab were more interested in cheese pizza. Shirley said, “It is grandma’s house and we will order both.”

Shirley set the bar a little high.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

London: Camden Walk, Southwark Cathedral, Chicago

Greg offered to take Dave and me on an early morning walk to Camden. “The Camden Stables, Locks and Market are just on the other side of Regent’s Park.” So we left at a leisurely pace at 8 am to walk directly through the park, make a quick turn down some stairs by a Chinese restaurant, and then through an underpass and along the canal. Joggers and cyclists were using the path. House boats, small barges really, line the side of the canal. “Seven days free,” says the sign under the bridge.

The market was being set up. Steaming vats of ethnic food were being stirred. I watched a woman roll a large bun that was to be deep-fried, and I remembered Billie Bates teaching me that technique of letting the dough roll around the palms of my hand years ago. So I thought about her for a while. Small retail merchants were lining the tops of their scaffolding with rain proof tarps and decorating the bottom of their stalls with fabric. We paused by Greg’s favourite booth, one that sells wares from South Africa. I already have the reed place mats from there.

Then we set out for home, for we had plans to pick up Wyona and Moiya and go to another space.

Borough Market is a fruit and vegetable wholesale market held under London Bridge. on Saturdays, the Borough Market transforms into a superb, gourmet retail market David, Moiya, Greg, Wyona and I visited the market and passed by an exquisite array of specialty foods: Roquefort cheese made with unpasteurized milk; paper thin slices of ham cut from the whole leg of a pig, the cloven hooves of which are held in a vices in front of you; succulent bread pudding steamed in sugar and cream is delivered to your hand in an 8 oz serving dish; fish and chips passed over the counter to you in a container the size of a shoe box; goat cheese, surrounded by a skin of leaves and hulls from the first press of olive oil is passed over the counter for you to taste. Wyona sets the standard. “Why would I come to a market and not buy anything.” The spectacular purchase that we enjoyed at our last supper together the next day was meat pies: one chicken, one beef Bourgogne, and one steak and kidney.

Southwark Cathedral is just at the corner of the Borough Market, one of the oldest and most beautiful gothic cathedrals, over 1000 years old, and a church that claims Shakespeare as one of its former parishioners. I sat for a while on its pews, then walked its corridors, especially admiring a hanging iron and brass chandelier that was indicative of the working out the marriage of the church and the state, having both a dove, a crown entwined in its design. I stopped to find the sword rest that is in the north transept and to enjoy a photocopied page of one of the registries of parish members in about the 1600’s.

But more interesting that the gothic ceiling vaulted to the heavens or the marble statues of the 20 saints at the front of the church was the female beggar was who doing her rounds among the tourists walking the transepts of the church. As I neared the exit door of the church, a young woman, her hair in a head scarf, socks on her feet and wearing a kind of Birkenstock as a shoe approached me. She carried a laminated card in her hand. The print big enough for me to see – maybe 24 point and nicely laid out on the paper.

Please help me. I have two children.

I shook my head.

She came closer, shaking the card in my face, waving it closer and closer to my eyes. I wondered how this was going to go down between us. I looked directly at her and her eyes met mine, each of us holding the gaze of the other.

She shook the card at me again. I could feel the chastisement. I had just come from Rome and the poor have been on my mind. I have seen beggars whose limbs are missing laying on the bridge the leads to the Vatican; a wizened, old woman with all of her fingers cut off at the second knuckle, that hand stretched out to me for money; a severely disabled man with only one leg and the foot of that leg bent up so as to be of no use to him, rocking back and forth, back and forth. A man from one of the shops would come out on occasion and put a lit cigarette in his hand.

While the woman was reminding me that my heart is heavy for the less fortunate our locked gaze was interrupted. A man in a black business suit came up behind us, with a loud voice singling her out. “I told you to leave. No more begging. You can’t do this.”

His voice got louder and louder. “I have told you to leave before. You keep on begging and I have told you you cannot do that. You can enjoy the quiet of the church. No begging. You go out the door. I will call the police. Do you understand? The police. They will take you to jail. The police. You leave.” By now his arms were gesticulating through the air.

She shuffled ahead of him, twisting her head back at intervals, give him angry looks over her shoulder.

When she got out the door, he kept walking behind her, escorting her out of the grassy courtyard his dialogue still berating her. People were sitting on church benches and eatng their lunches. He contined moving her onto the city sidewalk. He was still talking, and now his voice was the loudest of all and very slow. He was but hitting his own hand and saying, “Naughty. Naughty. Do you understand?”

Greg only saw the last part of the encounter and commented, “There is a paradox that is hard to understand here, tossing the beggar out of the church.” He and I talked for a while about what we had seen.

And now on an unrelated topic, we went to Chicago last night. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery. All those things we hold near and dear to our hearts..."

That musical ends up being one of my top picks – at least a place in my top ten. At the end of the show, when Roxy and Velma take the bouquets of red roses that are presented to them, remove a few of the flowers and toss them into the audience.

Twice when I have gone to Chicago, I have ended up taking home one of those roses, but that fact is not the charm of that show for me. The dark satire is what draws me to that show. Sassy, sexy and sublime. That is what the reviews call it and I do too.

I have a high need to be at the theatre 15 minutes ahead of the curtain going up. Greg shares that with me. Wyona knows that it is possible to get there just on time. She is usually our leader, which means that the fear factor of being late is there every evening we go out the door to catch the C2 or the 453 or the 88 Double Decker. Last night as we stood on the marble steps of 96/100 Camden street with just enough time to get there, but none to spare, Greg got out the tickets and looked at them again. “Oh, show starts at 8 pm and not at 7:30 pm as we had thought,” he said.

Kind of takes one of the thrills of the evening away when we had a half hour to spare.

No running for buses, hopping from one to another, whipping our maps out to see if we are on track, looking at our wrist watches to see how many minutes until the curtain goes up. But what a chance to walk leisurely to the Cambrdge Theatre at Seven Dials, a small and well-known road junction in the West End of London near Covent Garden where seven streets converge. At the centre of the roughly-circular space is a pillar bearing six (not seven) sundials.

Samuel Johnson says it best: "Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life ...."


Sunday, March 14, 2010

La Moufette 101

Dear Family,

Life is an adventure. I was recently enrolled in a course called La Moufette 101. Translation: I, out of desperation, took an online crash course titled An Introduction to Skunk 101. Thought I would share with you the highlights--

So, the course started shortly after the fire in our electrical box. When the electrician came to redo the electrical box, he had to disconnect the power to the house from our Hydro Quebec line. This line runs under our back porch. When I arrived home from a day of jobs, the electrician announced to me, "I have bad news." I assumed it had something to do with the wiring of the house. Wrong! He announced to me, "You have a skunk under your porch." I was relieved that the problem was merely a skunk and couldn't quite understand why the electrician looked so mortified. I just figured that the skunk had traumatized the electrician when it attempted to spray him while he was working under the porch. Indeed, I could still smell faint skunk in the basement, but luckily for the electrician the skunk had missed him and eventually wandered off. And so the story begins.

Lesson #1 from Wikepedia - "Skunks are mammals best known for their ability to secrete a liquid with a strong, foul-smelling odour."

Not long after the initial incident, Eric awoke from his sleep in the middle of the night to a foul odour. I luckily sleep like a log and didn't get to experience the strong, foul-smelling odour inside our house until the next morning.

Lesson #2 Skunks are nocturnal.

This was a useful bit of knowledge to have once I realized that we needed to help this skunk find a new home and it led to my first attempt at "relocation". We just happen to have a light under our porch, which I turned on. The internet assured me that this is one way to discourage the beasts from nesting under your house. The day after I illuminated the under porch, we smelled skunk several blocks from our house while walking school. Victory is mine. Sweet success. The skunk is now terrorizing our neighbours instead of us. "What a breeze", or so I thought.

Lesson #3 Skunks smell worse dead than alive.

About one week after my initial success. Eric re-lived his original experience but in nightmare proportions. My studies of La Moufette revealed further information about the notorious anal scent glands, which they use as a defensive weapon

"The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness and is sufficiently powerful to be detected by even an insensitive human nose anywhere up to a mile downwind."

Unfortunately for us, we were not living more than a mile downwind. We were living directly above a dead skunk. Although Eric wasn't temporarily blinded the smell was irritating enough to rouse him from his sleep once again. This was one time when I was enormously grateful for the small mercy of having an impaired sense of smell. Although the stench didn't wake me from my sleep, it was noxious enough to cause me alarm when I awoke from my sleep the next morning. (Turns out our neighbour had the same experience. He woke up and was so irritated by the smell that he left his family at home and went to work to sleep.) Some investigating on my part led to the discovery of the "nearly dead" skunk under our porch.

Lesson #4. The SPCA in Montreal is charge of relocating living skunks that have been trapped in urban locations.
I mention this because when I called the city hotline to get some help, they advised me to call the SPCA. They did however mention during my initial inquiries that if the animal were dead then it was my responsibility to put it in a garbage can and leave it on the curb for garbage pickup. FAT CHANCE. No way I was going to touch the skunk, especially given the fact that our electrician was back and he was telling me stories of rabies and other illnesses carried by skunks. "Very dangerous", he said. "Don't touch them, and make sure you sanitize the area where you found the dead animal." With this information in my head, I called the SPCA. After a brief introduction to the problem, we had the following conversation--
SPCA: "Can you see the animal?"
Me: "Yes"
SPCA: "Is it dead?"
Me: "I don't know, but it is not moving and is clearly injured."
SPCA: "We will be right there".

I figured that was completely honest. I really hadn't made a medical assessed to see if it were completely dead. It wasn't moving and being probably dead is also clearly injured. The SPCA arrived within the hour and took away my moufette. On their mandatory paperwork, of which I received an official copy, the worker wrote. La moufette DCD.

(Lesson #5 French Acronyms-- DCD stands for décédé or in English deceased)
It is always important to learn the correct french terminology when you take a course in Quebec.

Lesson #6 Skunks are crepuscular and are solitary animals when not breeding, though in the colder parts of their range they may gather in communal dens for warmth.
First Crepuscular! Wikipedia again rules as teacher.
"Crepuscular is a term used to describe some animals that are primarily active during twilight, that is at dawn and at dusk.[1] The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight."[1] Crepuscular is thus in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behaviour. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright moonlit night. Many animals that are casually described as nocturnal are in fact crepuscular."
Scratch Lesson #2 Skunks are crepuscular not nocturnal.

Next to the issue of skunks being solitary animals. With this information, I started my first lab experiment of this course called, "Close up the den". With shovel in hand, I climbed under the porch and packed dirt against my neighbours house to fill in the hole which was the obvious entrance into the den. Next, I cleaned up and sanitized the DCD area. Last part of this experiment was to check on my work the next morning.

Lesson #6 Skunks commonly dig holes. They are good diggers. During the day, they shelter in burrows that they dig with their powerful front claws.
Horror! The next morning, a brief visit to the lab revealed a new tunnel.
Skunks 1 Cathy 0

I raced back to my teacher Wikipedia only to learn that:
"Skunks are not true hibernators in the winter, but do den up for extended periods of time. They often overwinter in a huddle of multiple (as many as twelve) females. The same winter den is often repeatedly used.

I am extremely concerned at this point that this course may not end anytime soon. I can only hope we are not dealing with twelve skunks or worse yet that they decide to mate.

"Skunks typically mate in early spring. Before giving birth (usually in May), the female will excavate a den to house her litter of four to seven kits. The mother is very protective of her kits and will often spray at any sign of danger."

Not wanting this letter to end on a bad note, I share with you one positive tidbit learned from Wikipedia.

"Although skunks have excellent senses of smell and hearing—vital attributes in a crepuscular omnivore—they have poor vision. They cannot see objects more than about 3 metres (10 ft) away with any clarity, which makes them vulnerable to road traffic. They are short-lived animals: Fewer than 10% survive for longer than three years."
This brings back wonderful memories of an artist friend of Rebecca's whom we met in Detroit. His PhD work was titled "Road Kill."
Let's hope this course doesn't last three years but it definitely isn't over yet. Next lectures to include--
1. How to get the smell out of your house.
2. Measures to relocate skunks-part 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
3. Working within the limits of the City of Montreal bylaws which prevent the trapping or killing of animals (including squirrels, skunks and raccoons).
4. Financial, Social and Emotional costs of having unexpected smelly visitors stay in your home longer than planned.

Wish me luck. Thinking of you, and learning to love the scent of Febreeze.



My condolences to the Treleaven family and to all the rest of our family unit.

We lost one of our own this week and I wanted to express my own feelings as I mourn her loss. I awoke Friday morning at 4 am with a tear. Glen and I awake during the night regularly but the reason that morning was to think fondly of Shirley.

I didn't get to spend too much time with Shirley and that was just because of circumstance and residence distance. However, not for the the lack of trying on her part - She always made an effort and we enjoyed eachothers company. Her voice was distinct and I knew instantly who it was when I heard my name initiating each visit.

One of those kindred spirits where we couldn't get enough talking time - we shared books we read and remedy creams for our cracked heels. Made work seem light while working together in the kitchen to make the time go by. She and Ron have been very helpful to Glen, myself, and our children.

Wife - yes Mother - yes, Grandmother - yes, but my relationship with Shirley, I would have to say - SISTER . She knew what it meant to be a Sister - in the true sense of the word - in the world as well as out.

Love to all


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Snow in Texas

No, my post isn't quite as elegant or as eloquent as Arta's London ones, but snow in Texas is no less remarkable, right? Last week, this whole area got a pretty good covering one morning, stayed long enough for us to play in it, and then was gone. Senya had just recently experienced snow for the first time in Ohio when we visited in December and was eager to try it out again. Ivan had mixed feelings...when he was standing up, he loved it; when he fell, he hated it. Who can blame him? That pretty much describes my feelings about snow too.

Loving it...

Not so much...

Senya discovered the snow covered hula hoop on our back deck. (Yes, just a few days prior we were outside hula hooping.)

One of the first things Senya wanted to try was to eat the snow. We quickly laid the ground rules for that (i.e. skimming off the top only, no yellow snow, etc.) Then she wanted to reenact a scene from the children's book "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatball" where a boy catches soup and juice in his umbrella to eat.