A Chinook Wind

Back when we lived in Moose Jaw, I awoke one morning and noticed right away that the air had an unusual scent. I took a deep sniff and smiled. A chinook was blowing.

This weather pattern is born in the air currents moving from northwest to southeast across the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Winds suck up moisture from the water’s surface and carry it along in billowing white clouds until the air mass crashes into the North American coastline. And there the air-land temperature difference causes the clouds to dump their payload on the hapless residents below.

In western Canada this means the British Columbia coastline, including Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria. Terrific rainfall ever year! But then the now-lighter air mass rises upwards over the mountain range leaving the clouds behind to dribble onto the coast. The interior of British Columbia is desert-dry a lot of the time.

canada-map

L to R: BC, Alberta, Sask, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, the Maritime provinces

These air currents climb the mountain peaks and pick up speed sliding down the other side into Alberta. Still warm from the Pacific this air blow across the southern prairies. The Indians called these winds chinooks. If it’s winter here, a chinook can melt a lot of snow in a day, picking up the resulting moisture and carrying it along at almost ground level until the wind plays out.

Under the map of Canada above I’ve listed the southern provinces that border the US. The Rocky Mountains, for the most part, follow that squiggly line between BC and Alberta. Because of the way the Rockies angle as they run along the border of the two provinces, the southernmost chinooks sometimes blow as far east as central Saskatchewan. Moose Jaw, dead center in south SK, gets the tail end of some, whereas Regina, 44 miles east, rarely ever feels a Chinook wind.

When one is blowing, we get that classic “chinook arch” along the western horizon. Our sky is clear except for an arc of grey cloud hovering at the western edge of our world.

It was this warm, moisture-laden air I got a whiff of that morning. In the dead of winter a chinook has a pleasing smell to it! Later, when I was outside, I saw the accompanying chinook arch. A chinook means a sunny day, a rise in temperature, melting snow. We get a tiny respite from frigid winter’s grip. We prairie folks love our chinooks.

Word Press daily prompt: Interior

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A Panoply of Gray

Our Word Press daily prompt word today is panoply, one I am familiar with, but will probably never have a use for. Unless I talk about our personal panoply of books (as in impressive or complete collection.) However, we’re not the Library of Congress yet. Now that place can boast a panoply of books!

The word immediately brings to mind the old hymn, “The Promises of God”, with the one verse ending… “but with panoply and shield and the Spirit’s sword to wield, I have conquered through the promises of God.” An inspiring thought.

Maybe I could use it to describe our gray heaven above. A panoply of cloud (full suit of armor) has protected us from the piercing rays of the sun all week. One day we had just a faint white streak on the SW horizon where the sun was obviously favoring the next country with a polite visit, but we haven’t seen it here for so long. We’re not in Saskatchewan anymore, Toto.

On the other hand, it’s not snowing. Our ground is bare and so far the temp has stayed above freezing in the daytime, dropping just below at night. The weather man says this is going to change next week and we’re going to KNOW it’s December.

My husband and I haven’t been as well protected from germs as we have from sunshine. Bob’s been fighting a sinus cold for a week now and my own throat was sore this morning, too. Now I have a headache. I may wake up with one occasionally but they’re a rare daytime occurrence for me.

For the past few days I’ve been working on a story I wrote three NaNoWriMo’s ago. My grandson wanted me to write a story similar to the Hardy Boys mysteries so I made a stab at it as my 2013 Nano project. I finished the first draft, then left it sit, my health issues occupying the center of my attentions since then. Now I want to get back at it, get it polished up and ready for the grands to read.

I have four chapters done and ready to go, but have the awfullest feeling I’m going too have to delete two of them. The experts say you must plunge your main character into trouble practically on the first page. My story hints at trouble right off, but the characters aren’t being tossed into the soup pot yet.

I’ve been told the main character has to be in Terrible Trouble by page 2. A 95% chance of being fatal-type situation. “Hanging from a bridge by his fingernails,” says Jerry Jenkins. (This better be a him; these days girls with their glued-on nails would have no hope at all.) With the villain pacing up and down the bridge, releasing the safety on his gun — and the crocodile below filing its teeth in anticipation.

Or a romance where Act One opens with Trish and her sweetie walking down the street and he’s just starting to propose. Suddenly this drop-dead gorgeous thing, jumping back from a speeding car veering her way, throws herself into sweetie’s arms. And he says, “Well, hello! Where have you been all my life?”

You get the picture. Dire Distress.

I’ve been feeling a lack in my writing life lately. I’m a moody person by nature and my muse is even more so, plus I’m having a hard time keeping her enthused when the skies are so dull and gray. I have lots of stories I’d like to write, both short and long, but for some reason I just can’t seem to get motivated.

Would the discipline of a group help, I wonder? The pressure of needing some new work to present every week? I started searching on-line for a writers’ group where participants exchange writing samples and get feedback. Do any of you readers belong to a group like that, or are you interested in joining one? Is anyone interested in reading and giving some feedback on a story for teen boys?

On the up-side, it’s December and we’ve already gotten a few Christmas cards. Last night we went to Bob’s office Christmas supper. He actually only works at this office one day a week, doing book-keeping for a local veterinarian, but we get an invite to the feast. Everyone’s friendly and the meal’s a tasty one — the last couple of years it’s been a potluck. They draw names for gifts and the exchange is done after the meal.

Have you all got your plans made for the holidays and your Christmas, Year-end, or New Year’s greetings written up, ready to send? Since we’re both retired it’s needless to plan for “holidays,” especially with only one child and her family to arrange a meal together with. I’ve always had it easy this way — no big crowd to arrange for. And a lot of our gift-giving these days can be reduced to gift certificates.

The Smell of Murder at Midnight

Word Press Daily Prompt: Pungent

Account taken from my Journal, May 16, 2013

Have you perhaps driven through a town with a pulp and paper mill spewing out sulfurous fumes? Have you ever had a bag of onions go bad in a cupboard where you perchance forgot them for several months. You know the whiff you get when you open that bag and dispose of the stinking things? Have you had a gas leak in the house and smelled the odour they put in natural gas? Or sniffed some perfume gone rancid?

Now imagine all that rolled into one and think of sleeping through it. No way. We were wandering around outside at 1am, seeking some relief.

It’s not that we didn’t know there was a skunk hereabouts. Michelle actually saw one on our step and warned us. However, we never saw it again and, in a supreme act of wishful thinking, we assumed now that spring is here he would have ambled off into the woods beside us and we could all live in relative peace.

It appears said skunk, before he ambled off, started a hole at the edge of our trailer with thoughts of burrowing under – or maybe just hunting mice? However, this past week we caught no more traces of whiffs of skunk and our cats have been using that hole to prowl under the trailer – which they sure wouldn’t have done had there been an occupying skunk. Bob put a log over the hole to discourage this, too.

It was on the To Do list to fill in the hole and put an end to this nonsense.

Thus it may well be that the skunk lived elsewhere and just happened to be passing through the yard last night on his way home. Or maybe he happened to remember his past efforts and decided to see what had become of the burrow he’d started. And he checked around under our step, too, for old times’ sake.

Some people like to portray nature as a gentle force, even speak of Mother Nature and her care of the little critters out there. They say if we could get back to nature a bit more, life would be better and we’d live longer. Nevertheless, our Creator has blessed the pokey skunk with a powerful deterrent spray just in case there are altercations.

It’s hard to imagine that ANYTHING would want to attack and kill a skunk. I’ve read that great-horned owls will because their sense of smell is very poor. But we know this was no owl.

Something frightened that skunk in his amble past – or whatever he was up to. It smells like he was near our back step when this happened, for when Bob opened the door he remarked on the aroma of skunk outside. In skunk’s apprehensive state, he remembered that old hole and chose to take refuge there. That we know. In fact it looks like he dug himself in frantically beside the log Bob had put there to keep him out.

And something went in after him. That we smell.

Just before bed one of our cats wanted in urgently. And yes, I caught the familiar acrid smell, but surely our cats would never tackle a skunk. Angus came in and began sniffing all the registers. The bathroom was taking on a very bad smell, as if a skunk were coming up through the plumbing opening beside the vanity.

My hearing isn’t the best. Even with my hearing aids I didn’t hear the squealing Bob heard, but I did hear a number of thumps just a few minutes later. Slow to catch on, I assumed our cat Pookie was bumping around on the step outside, wanting in. I opened the door and in he rushed. Both cats began sniffing around the heat registers (set in the floor) and the trailer was now full of the stench.

I put old towels over all the register openings; it didn’t help much. We lit candles, opened windows and took refuge outdoors for while. The cats came, too. Out there we could catch a faint whiff from our farmer neighbour’s pig barn, but this was infinitely preferable to the reeking air inside.

Our bedroom is in the addition, on a cement base, so the skunk odour couldn’t come from below us. Enough came in through the hallway, but with windows open and ceiling fans running, I was able to get some sleep there later in the night. Bob chose the recliner in the living room, with all windows open and ceiling fan running.

I’m afraid the smell of murder at midnight is not only a right-then overpowering stench, but will linger for some time to come, too.

Next-day note:
It has. We spent a good part of yesterday away from home.

A Liminal Flicker

Once upon a time there was an old man and an old woman who lived in an old mobile home right next to the woods. This old couple had reached that liminal phase of life so aptly expressed by the poet:
“Those difficult days have come and lit:
too tired to work; too poor to quit.”

One afternoon the old woman, ready for a nice nap, plopped her weary self into her recliner and closed her eyes. A few minutes later she heard a curious sound:

Scritch … Scritch … Scritch

Now this woman, in addition to being old and tired, was also hard of hearing. In this case her handicap made it difficult to judge where the sound was coming from. It seemed to filter in from some liminal place — a hard-shelled bug tapping on the window, perhaps, or a bird hopping on the roof?

SCRITCH … SCRITCH … SCRITCH

Now it could be a student shut in one of the trailer’s liminal rooms, half-heartedly pecking away on a manual typewriter. It would take him years to get an essay done at that rate.

But the old woman remembered she was hard of hearing. Was the source of the sound a lot closer than she first thought? Had some brave mouse ventured out to nibble at the cat food sitting on the dining room floor? Her eyes popped open and she looked toward the cat food dish in the dining area. No mouse.

Now all was silent, so she reclined and shut her eyes. Such a tiny sound she could ignore. Zzz…

CLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANG

The old woman jumped from her chair. This sounded like a chainsaw chewing its way rapid-fire through a drain pipe. She hurried through the trailer, checking every room, but saw nothing spinning or vibrating that could produce a sound like that.

Some madman must be chainsawing his way through the trailer wall! What else could make such a racket? She rushed outside to let this fellow know he dare not mess with her. (A bit of fiction added to embellish the tale.)

She saw no one, no reason for this awful noise. The only living thing she saw was a northern flicker on the roof peering down at her curiously. He was sitting on the…

Oh.

The flicker, deciding she was a wingless, harmless creature, went back to his task of drilling a hole in the steel disc protecting their chimney.

CLANK CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG…

Word Press Daily prompt: Liminal

No Flames For Us!

Our Daily prompt word today is Flames, something we rarely want to see around here. In the fire pit and supervised it’s okay, but otherwise…

We live on an acreage, a small piece of land sliced off the next-door farm yard when our farmer neighbour’s son got married. The son moved away and we were able to purchase the trailer he’d set up on this lovely little property. The land itself still belongs to the farmer, who kindly lets us continue this arrangement.

A small woods lies between us and our neighbour, large enough to give us privacy and yet narrow enough that in summer we get glimpses of each other’s homes through the trees. Once the leaves are off the trees we can see the farmer’s house quite well. This woods was planted over 100 years ago when settlers first came, so many of the trees are old and quite a few have toppled. Sad to say, this woods has been quite neglected; neither of us have the time or energy to mess around with cutting up fallen trees.

It’s sad, really, because the large old willows come down, they fall on the saplings that have sprung up, crushing and/or deforming them. In normal forest situations, lightening will strike one day or the forest floor mat of decaying leaves will get hot and combust. Then you have a raging inferno that burns the whole lot and the forest starts again with new saplings or new growth springing from the roots of the old trees. It’s natures way.

We don’t want to let nature have her way here. Neither we nor the farmer and his wife want an inferno raging between us. He’s very particular, in dry seasons, that no fires be started, outside of the occasional fire-pit BBQ on a calm evening.

Along with the dead trees and tinder-dry broken branches and twigs, in fall there’s the added fuel of dried leaves and the dried grasses along the perimeter. We know that a lit cigarette, tossed from a passing vehicle and landing amongst this potential kindling, could soon ignite a roaring good blaze that would endanger both our homes. Of course there’s lightening to fear as well — but we rarely get lightening strikes here — and they almost always come with rain to help put out any fires that start.

Grass fires have always been a threat here on the prairies as well, as this story, based on a true incident, illustrates. Perhaps there’s an inborn fear of fire in prairie folks. I know I have it and always watch closely whenever we’ve got a little fire burning.