Friday, September 28, 2007

Emergency Recall

This afternoon, as I was roaring southbound in my 140,000 pound semi, I passed a working ambulance heading north. Now, in the course of my travels, I pass many emergency vehicles, but for some reason, this particular one seemed different. Somehow, as the red flashing lights filled my eyes, it also filled my soul. Unexpectedly, I tasted the bitter and raw sadness of a loved one fading. I recalled some of my own hospital encounters.

The first that came to mind was with my young daughter - the one in the photo at the top of Crowsnest Mountain (See my blog entry for Sept 22th, 2007). She had contracted a depressed skull fracture in a sledding accident, and had had a seizure right in her mother's arms at the scene. As young parents, we were scared! I think it was still February, and snow and ice smothered and challenged our prairie landscape. A flurry of activity soon whisked us to the Alberta Children's Hospital, in Calgary, where some skilled doctors and fancy surgery began our child's recovery. After a couple of days, when we arrived home to our other children, I naively wrote in my journal. I concluded that perhaps this trauma would be all we got for a while. I suppose I leaned to the distorted notion that life is a math equation consisting of good and bad experiences separated by an = sign. When some trauma is added to the bad side, an equal amount of smooth sailing must, by necessity, be added to the good side of the equation, thereby maintaining balance. As the years have passed, I have amended that narrow view.

My son, also in the photo at the top of Crowsnest Mountain, was born with kidney trouble. When he finally required medical intervention, the event made my daughter's head trauma seem like it belonged on the "good" side of my deluded math equation!

Diana and I spend months at Ronald McDonald House, both supporting and being supported by other parents of distressed children. I witnessed sadness like I have never imagined! Such innocent babies, toddlers, children and teenagers - all with one thing in common - suffering! Tears were abundant at Ronald McDonald House, and fell without apology from the eyes of both tender-hearted mothers and life-toughened fathers. I saw some kids recover and other kids die. My heart still aches at the memory! I wondered why my son was spared while other families had to suffer such unbearable loss.

The realities of driving my 82 foot semi returned, obscuring my poignant memories. I glanced in my driver's side mirror and noted the ambulance's light fading with distance. I negotiated a left hand turn in heavy traffic, and began mechanically shifting up through my myriad of gears. The roar of my 475 horsepower engine drowned out all other sounds, but my memories returned to the surface.

At first glance, life is not always fair. Perhaps not even at second glance, yet in some ways, life is extremely fair. The fairness does not, however, lie with external forces, but within the quiet chambers of the human soul. Each human soul is endowed with two great capacities: the ability to endure intense suffering - without complaint, as well as the ability to assist others who are also struggling in the war-torn trenches of adversity. I reflected again on the ambulance. Moving rapidly in the opposite direction, there was only one thing I could do. I offered a short prayer to my God. A prayer asking for the stricken victim and his or her loved ones to be comforted during this traumatic event. After all, when all is said and done, it seems like life's biggest tragedy has its roots in our own rebellion against undeserved trauma. Accepting our lot in life and moving into the sunshine of life in spite of our troubles seems to be our greatest triumph. It is a triumph that I, personally, don't have often enough! If we can change something to make ourselves better, then I think we should do all that we can, but if no power of change rests in our hands, then it is probably better to accept life on its terms and move on as best we can.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What do you think?

When I finished the maps, and showed them to my wife, her first comment was, "What part is the water?" Well, that got me thinking.

On an ocean chart, the water is white and the land is yellow, so I made some changes. However, I could use some additional opinions. So, which map do you like better, the one with the colour green with white water or the one with yellow land and blue water?

(Other than the colours, the maps are identical)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Crowsnest Mountain Adventure

I've been working hard at my job as well as on the photos for Three Seconds On, Three Seconds Off, but last Saturday, I took a break for some fun. Now to everyone reading this, my "fun" may not seem like fun at all, but I found it awesome!
Two on my children and I arose early and drove to the Crowsnest Pass in southwestern Alberta. Once at the trail head, we, a group of ten of us, proceeded to climb the highest mountain in the region.
The trail was familiar to me, as was the burning muscles in my legs. Mysteriously, I always felt much more powerful when I wasn't fighting gravity with every step. It was my eighth attempt to climb this mountain, and I was going to make it!
As the minutes melted into hours of ascending, the struggle became more mental than physical. My lungs were straining and my heart pounded in my ears.
With 800 meters below me and 340 more above, the air began to thin and my respiratory system took notice. I sat at the top of the second chimney, panting while waiting for our entire group to assemble. My feet felt hot so I unlaced my boots, then scanned the horizon. I had seen the view from this barren, windswept place seven times before, yet it was as if I was taking it in for the first time. Several meters from my booted feet, small cascades of monotone scree chirped and cascaded under the fingers and toes of scrambling climbers as one by one, all ten of us reached the open area at the top of the chimney. To my right, Seven Sister Mountain jutted into the sky, but its breathtaking, towering peaks were now below me. To my left, I could just make out the steel pipe holding the summit marker. I was going to make it to the top yet again!
Once the last of our group had struggled to where I sat, I re-tied my boots and trudged onward and upward. After another hour, I overheard something that made me grin through my pain. Another seasoned climber and my good friend, Decon, said, "So... you want to climb it again next year?" The lady, who had been asking Decon to take her up Crowsnest Mt. for two years, panted her reply, "This will be... my only time... going up here!" She was determined to reach the top, but it would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. We struggled on.
As I slipped and slid on the unstable scree, the wind began to intensify. The day was warm, but the wind chilly. I scrambled onto the thin edge of the mountain and got my first look into the expansive valley protecting the twin communities of Blairmore and Coalman. The shear, two thousand foot drop, beginning only centimeters from my tentative toes, churned butterflies in my stomach and dizzied my head. The view was amazing! The summit was close, but the fierce wind tore at my exhausted body. I smiled and plodded on.
About ten minutes later, I reached the crown of the mountain . The view was breathtaking under a deep blue sky, punctuated randomly by a few puffy white clouds. With my head 2785 meters into the thinning atmosphere, I scanned the expansive horizon, absorbing the rugged beauty and splendor. A light breeze swept the summit while warm sunlight streamed down on us. One by one, all ten of us gathered at the pinnacle. It was sweet to have made it to the top for my eighth time!

PS. Today, as I write this entry, Decon is climbing Crowsnest Mountain again, this time with his son, daughter and a few of his son's friends. I have a dog house to build, or I might have tagged along. (My sweetheart just frowned and shook her head at the "tagging along" notion.) Hey, is it possible to have too much adventure? Perhaps, but I'll let you know if I ever find that unconquered pinnacle!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nine-Eleven Remembered

It is September the 11th and I had an emotionally charge day. As the minutes passed and the sun rose and set, I remembered the good and the bad that I knew about this day. I felt glad to be alive and not the direct victim of a terrorist attack, but I realized that I am a victim - we all are. I was pained at the thought! Since the fall of the twin towers, we have probably all looked over our shoulders a little more... Paid attention to things that might have just gone unnoticed in a long forgotten yesteryear. How sad for those many who have lost loved ones. My heart ached for the injustice dispensed so cruelly to them... Fathers and mother who will never play with their children again, or contribute to the good of our society... Hushed children, whose tiny flames of potentially brilliant light had no chance to burn brightly with the others who survived.
In our modern world, so many are so good, yet a few lurk with intent to destroy. The scary part of it all is that as a human being, I have both potentials within me. Only my freedom to choose factors powerful. I hope I never forget the pain that comes from wrong-doing.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Elevations, Tiny Towns, Marker Lights & Nautical Miles

Good morning,

Since my manuscript went off to find its new destiny (with the Editor), I have been concentrating my efforts on finishing the maps for the book. I don't know about all of you, but I find that a good map is tough to resist. Tolkien & Terry Brooks certainly added to their epic fantasies by using awesome maps. Mine are not the product of imagination, however, and perhaps that makes them even more interesting. You can not only look at the ones for my book but you can then travel to the location to get a hands on, eyes on experience with their reality.

So far, I have prepared five maps. Here they are - three of them are ready to go. Do you think they need anything different, or should I leave them like they are? (I've had to reduce their resolution size to post.)

(Just click on an image to enlarge it.) Enjoy....

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Updated Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments --------------------------------- Pg i

Introduction -------------------------------------- Pg iii

Maps Pg --------------------------------------------- v

The Middle of Nowhere? – 1960 -------------------- Pg 1

My First Home – 1960 ---------------------------- Pg 15

A Soggy Halloween – 1963 ------------------------ Pg 32

Terrified - 1964 ----------------------------------- Pg 41

The Secret Tunnel - 1964 ------------------------- Pg 47

A New Flag – 1965 to 1967 ------------------------ Pg 52

Dinah – 1964 to 1967 ------------------------------ Pg 60

A Surprise Start - 1966----------------------------- Pg 69

Over The Edge - 1966------------------------------ Pg 79

Dark Haired Surprise – 1967 ------------------------ Pg 86

The Goat – 1968 ---------------------------------- Pg 90

Tattered Traps & Make-believe Monsters - 1968----- Pg 97

High and Dry - 1969------------------------------- Pg 100

Measured For A Casket - 1969 -------------------- Pg 114

Dad’s Lesson On Mercy – 1693 to 1995 ------------ Pg 127

Windows & Waterspouts - 1970 ------------------- Pg 144

Tag - 1972 --------------------------------------- Pg 154

The Gap – 1973 ---------------------------------- Pg 159

A Wolf In The Forest - 1974 ---------------------- Pg 168

Gloomy Day Miracle – 1974 ----------------------- Pg 176

Ruby Throats - 1974 ----------------------------- Pg 183

Deluge and Oars - 1976 -------------------------- Pg 186

The Good Samaritan - 1976 ---------------------- Pg 200

The Maker of Hockey Pucks - 1976 --------------- Pg 207

A Cruise To Remember - 1976 -------------------- Pg 211

Rivalry at it Best - 1978 -------------------------- Pg 218

One Last Ride - 1979 ---------------------------- Pg 224

Glimpses of the Future – 1982 -------------------- Pg 238

Glossary ----------------------------------------- Pg 241

The Manuscript Is Finished!

Hey y’all,

As of August 30th, 2007, the text portion of Three Seconds On, Three Seconds Off was completed. Since then, I have been working on the maps – which were already mostly done. I have only a little more work to do on them before they join the text.

To say I am excited is quite and understatement! I feel like I am sending my seven-year-old baby out into an unpredictable world, but I expect my new friend, “The Editor”, will feed and tend the emerging child with as much love and concern as I have.. Once he is finished, it will be you turn. Patience… your turn is coming soon.

When I began writing, some seven years ago, part of me wondered if this day would ever arrive. Now it is here, and all that remains to complete Volume I is window dressing. Exciting!!! Be still my heart!!!

Stay tuned… There’s definitely more to come!!!