School has resumed and everyone is digesting what is left of a seemingly short, but abundant summer. It has been a time of growth which transitioned into harvest and now it’s time for reflection.
Our summer holidays were ending as we left Vancouver Island in mid-August and that’s when reality hit me square in the face. It reminded me of the times my mind went somewhere else while sitting in a crowded classroom. The times when a sudden whack accompanied by a searing pain in my cheek and a cloud of chalk dust would instantly bring me back to reality. As the chalk dust dissipated, the faces of my classmates came into focus. They tried not to laugh, but that was almost impossible, and of course the blackboard brush then had to be returned to the teacher who threw it. Occasionally chalk was fired at a student who was not paying attention, but it never hit me. I seemed to be a magnet for blackboard erasers, so I was very relieved when chamois cloths replaced most of the brushes at our elementary school.
In those days, if a student got hit in the head by a projectile fired by a teacher, the sentiment was he most definitely deserved it. Furthermore, if a student’s conduct warranted the strap at school, a parent would apply the same penalty when the child got home – at least that’s what we were threatened with. While I never received the strap or paddle at school, I certainly inhaled a lot of chalk dust and that may be part of the reason why a persistent cold continues to give me nasal congestion and great discomfort.
Upon further reflection, I am sure that repeatedly being struck by a blackboard brush is the sole reason for my sinus cold. Who knows what type of health concerns have resulted from the constriction of my air passages. Perhaps it even caused a lack of oxygen at the brain. My wife seems to think it’s possible, and two weeks ago a News-Times reader told me my sense of humour is getting weirder. I have to agree.
Getting back to reality, driving off the Horseshoe Bay ferry at 2 p.m. and hitting gridlock traffic was definitely an eye-opener – not to mention a major cause of high blood pressure – after 1.5 hours of enduring stop-and-go traffic flow. Our top speed in that time period was 15 km/h, but only for a tiny distance, then we would have to brake and come to a complete stop.
By the time we got through Vancouver and were finally able to speed up to 80 km/h, the rims of the truck tires were too hot to touch and the vehicle would pull to the right when braking. The reality is taking a heavily-loaded vehicle through congested streets and stop-and-go driving is not a good idea. However, we were far better off than the traffic going the opposite direction. An accident had closed the other side of the freeway and vehicles were lined up and at a total standstill for at least 10 kilometers. On the positive side, the brakes on their vehicles were nice and cool.
To my delight, we escaped the big city and its suburbs and camped north of Golden in a secluded area that was only a mile or so off the highway. It was there that a big cat sized us up after I had walked up and down the road on which it claimed as its own. Looking through the screen of our camper window at dusk, I noticed something motionless at the roadside and thought an animal was watching us. Then it stood up and I saw long legs. The animal turned sideways and a thick, long tail came into view and the unmistakable silhouette of a cougar. It sauntered across the road and disappeared into the trees before I could grab my camera and rush outside. We have seen cougar tracks while hiking in Cypress Hills Park, but had never seen the elusive animal, so the sighting was a real treat.
To make a long story short, after returning to Maple Creek a cold virus decided to renovate my sinus cavities, so my poor wife has listened to me honk, snort, sneeze and complain for the last two weeks. Being home immediately led to the old routine of listening to news broadcasts and reading newspapers. National and world news tends to be so heavy and full of pain that it weighs me down if I ingest it more than once a day. Besides, what is the point of repeatedly listening to the same negative news reports throughout the morning and afternoon? Hearing bad news once in a 24-hour period is more than enough for me.
Having said that, one newspaper headline recently caught my eye: “Skirts not safe for female tourists.” The story stated India’s minister of culture and tourism had warned visitors that they should not wear skirts or skimpy clothing, and women should refrain from going out at night. While people in the western hemisphere may object to such advice and feel it is their right to wear what they want in public, I think the minister’s words should be carefully considered. All too often we take our values and morals on a trip abroad and expect residents of other countries to respect our standards (or lack of them).
I thought of that while camping on the west coast as a woman on the beach next to us did not like bikini lines and felt the desire to have a uniform suntan across her torso. I thought about telling her that not everyone on the beach may appreciate her actions, but did not since I wasn’t sure I could look her in the eye and say it.