Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Timing is everything in life

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hospital room in Regina, watching my mother sleep. This morning, she had a fairly significant stroke and now she’s sleeping peacefully. Of course, we don’t know what kind of shape she’ll be in when she wakes up. We’re hoping she’ll still be able to walk and talk and feed herself, so she can stay at the senior’s home she’s been living in, but we won’t know for awhile. So for now, I sit and wait.

I marvel sometimes at how things work out. I live a long way away from Mom now. It takes me three days just to get here. But right now, I’m working in Regina, so when my sister called me to say Mom was having another episode, I was able to be there right away, and I’ve been able to be with her all day. Talk about good timing.

Life is like that, isn’t it? Sometimes, things seem to work out and you’re not sure why. Your timing is good or it isn’t. I’ve been so fortunate when it comes to helping loved ones leave this world. My father was sick for three years...and after awhile, we weren’t sure what to think. The doctors kept saying it wouldn’t be long, but Dad didn’t agree, and he just kept soldiering on. When his time finally came, I was a long ways away, in the midst of covering a provincial election campaign. I got a call that said I should come home soon. So I did. It turned out that Dad didn’t die that day, but I took a week off, just to be able to hang out with him. And not too long after that, his time did come, and I was right there by his bedside, in the house he’d built for his family. It was a privilege to be part of such an important part of his life...and mine.

And there have been others as well. My wife’s father died at home, surrounded by his entire family. It wasn’t a happy time, but it was as good as it could have been. And it happened just a couple of months after the birth of my son, who was born at home. Little did we know the roller coaster of emotion that we had climbed on to when Cory came into this world. No one knew that his grandfather would be leaving it so soon. But there was a sense of balance to the two events as well. Birth and death are equal parts of life. You can’t have one without the other.

For now, I’m glad my timing has worked out. And we’ll see what tomorrow brings for my mother.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Country living, and loving it

I like to think that I’ve brought this wonderful weather with me to Saskatchewan, but who knows? All I know is that this poor province hadn’t had more than two nice days in a row all summer, until I showed up just after Labour Day. Since then, it’s been nice here.
That’s worked out well for me, since the cottage I’m staying at is not a year-round place. Calling it a three-season home might be stretching it a bit, although the fireplace does work, and I’ve been using it in the evenings and mornings.
Thankfully, there is a new addition (well, new 20 years ago) and it has some electric heat. Especially in the bathroom. Call me an old fogie, but give me a home with a nice warm bathroom, and I’m happy. I can put up with a lot, so long as my bum is warm when I’m doing what comes naturally…
It looks like I’m going to be here in the wild west until Thanksgiving. Then I’ll be hitting the road on my way back to Hamilton and my patient family. But my time here will have been worth it. I’ve been able to hang out here at the cottage during a beautiful time of year. But best of all, someone is paying me to work while I’m here. The commute into Regina is a really nice, 30-minutes. And there’s almost no traffic…not at all like home.
So, I’ve been having such a good time walking the dog, enjoying the weather and just generally hanging out that I haven’t kept up these postings.  But that’s OK, I figure. And if any of you want to know more about what’s going on, just comment on this. I’ll get your comment the next time I log on and I’ll be happy to elaborate.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Back to the basics

I've been enjoying my time here at the lake. The cottage in the fall is a nice place to be, with the leaves turning like crazy. So far, the weather hasn't been too bad, but having to make a fire in the morning to warm up is different from turning up the thermostat. Sort of puts you back in touch with more basic things. Same with Internet connections (now there's a tenuous segue for you). Out here, I've got a phone line. So when I need to log on, I can't use the phone. Fair enough, although the connection is a little slow. But it works.

One of the benefits of the Internet is chatting across the miles. Every night, Heather and Kelly (in Hamilton) log on to MSN about 9 their time. Jaime, our daughter is going to school in Victoria, so she logs in from there, and I log in from here at Buena Vista (just outside of Regina). Its a fun way to catch up on the events of the day...and it really does work. It's a bit slower than talking on the phone, but in some ways, it's more satisfying. But it does get comical when everyone starts typing at once...and the messages flow thick and fast. Sort of like supper table talk after a particularly busy day.

The real treat of being here at the cottage at this time of year is the colours of the trees. This year, I've been lucky that the wind hasn't blown all the leaves off yet, so the views in the valley are stunning. There's a riot of colour around and in the morning and evening, the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. I'm enjoying them a lot. Of course, fall is a chilly time and I could use some more good wood to burn. I'm working through all the scap wood around here, but that doesn't throw off a lot of heat. But a friend is coming out to visit tomorrow and he'll be bringing a truckload of firewood. That should help get through the cooler days ahead.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Loneliness and the Long-distance Traveller

I decided to drive across the U.S. to get here to Saskatchewan. I like the way the Americans treat people driving long distances. The Interstate Highway system is an amazing accomplishment. It connects the entire country with fast, straightforward roads. They’re all limited access and they have plenty of rest stops along the way.

As someone who needs to stop fairly regularly to “inspect the facilities” (my old dog feels the same way) I appreciate the rest stops along the highway. They’re all built along similar lines. You exit the highway and there’s a parking lot with clean bathrooms, some local information brochures, a phone and some vending machines. But there’s no McDonalds, Tim Hortons or any other kind of commercial activity. They’re quiet and friendly and they make for efficient travel.

It’s interesting that all across the US, you see taxpayers’ money used to keep up the highway system and the roadside stops along it. Sure, there are restaurants, hotels and businesses just off the highway. But if you stay on it, there’s always a place to stop and rest without being assaulted by commercial activity.

While the cost to build a similar system in Canada would be prohibitive, I wouldn’t mind seeing Canadians decide to put more tax dollars to work on our road system to make it as efficient. If I want to get somewhere, I like to be able to get there quickly, and not be forced to look at a lot of signs advertising everything in every town. In Saskatchewan, it seems like every small town has erected one or two signs for every citizen, just to tell us about the cobwebby antique place, or the dirt for sale, or the best place to get your septic tank emptied. As a traveler on the road, I don’t really see why I would ever be interested in who has the best septic tank truck…it’s just not a service I need to know about while I’m driving.

For Whom the Tolls Bill

Another item of note is the Yank's attitude towards tolls, whether for bridges, or for special high-speed highways. In America, you roll up to a toll both, toss in your quarter, or whatever, and away you go. At each of the booths, there are people sitting there, ready to make change and help you out. The system puts a lot of people to work. Sure they may not be the most glamorous jobs, but they’re steady and dependable and they help a lot of families put bread on the table. And some of them are automated, with special lanes for people who travel through regularly. But there's still lots of people working.

In Ontario, we’ve got a different system. The 407 ETR is an electronic toll collection system. You drive on and a camera records your license number and sends you a bill. It doesn’t matter where you’re from either. Out of province people get the bill as well. It’s a slick, automated system that uses the latest in technology to collect the money. And they collect a lot of money. It’s the most expensive toll road in the world. And the money goes to a private company that doesn’t even have to ask anyone to raise the tolls. They just do it.

My problem with this system is that there are no people involved. Sure, the technology is neat, but it’s put a lot of people out of work. And it must cost a lot, because they charge a lot more money than other roads. In New York and Illinois, and Michigan, and other states I’ve visited, the tolls are collected by a public authority which hires the people and puts the money back into the highway system. You know what your tolls are going to pay for and you know that a lot of people are making a living from the tolls you pay. It seems like a good system. Sure, it could be automated, but why bother?

Technology is a great thing, and I like it as much as the next guy…maybe even more. But sometimes, I think we get carried away trying to use new technology just because we can. We need to consider a different measure of when it’s a good idea. Taking away a lot of reasonable jobs just because it will improve the bottom line for shareholders isn’t always in the best interests of our community. At least, that’s how I feel about tolls. So there.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

On the Road

It's been quite awhile since I updated anythng here...Oh, the joys of summer (such as it has been!)

While it doesn't look as though much has been happening, that's not quite true. There's been a lot of travelling and my oldest daughter is off to school in Victoria. And today, I'm off to Regina, driving across the country with one of our dogs. I'm going to be spending a month or so at the cottage at Buena Vista, just outside of Regina. I'm going to be helping a friend with some writing work he has there, as well as visiting old friends.

And if I have some time (and I expect to) and an Internet connection, I'll get around to updating this log and improving my website as well.

More to come as I hit the road...