The Lion King

THIS is why I was so insanely busy during April!  Tatla Lake School put on The Lion King.

Rehearsals started months ago.  They took place in the school library, which would be emptied of furniture and tables for the performance.  Clare, the principal, is on the right.We are very lucky to have a musical family (whom I’ve mentioned several times) in the area – and even luckier that Grandma and Grandpa are prepared to come all the way from Victoria and organize the plays.  This is the third musical that the school has produced.  The school bought a kit for The Lion King, which allowed them to use the script and costume ideas.Carol (on the left) is a marvel.  She had the vision to pull the whole thing together.  When I looked up various school performances on line, I saw that most were done by Middle Schools, and most had casts of 60 – 80 kids.  Tatla school has 20 kids this year and only six are teenagers – we even added a couple of kindergarden children into the mix.  One or two mums helped fill out the chorus.  Carol is grilling them above.  Somehow, also, the kids were squirrelled away for lessons.  Fortunately the school had been built for many more students and there were a number of empty rooms for making props and storing materials.

The seamstresses had been busy for a long time.

The Lion King is an extravaganza of costumes.  I was the painter. I did not design much – I was given instructions and followed to the best of my ability, adapting to the materials available. Note the unpainted refrigerator box that will be used for scenery in the background above!

My first job was the wilderbeest masks.  A couple of the older kids helped cut them out and paint the backgrounds – I just did the details.  (The kids would have helped with that, too, but they did have to go to school and there wasn’t time.)Easter and spring break intervened, and my house became my studio.Then we had to do the giraffe.  Here is Jude who will use the crutches for the front legs.I made a head out of styrofoam (several sheets of which had been donated to the school.)And here is the full outfit!I also painted styrofoam gazelles, which were cut out by someone else.Here is Sarah holding two of them.It was great fun being able to use all the school paints!  I also constructed the elephant’s graveyard. (some real bones but mostly cardboard tubes.)And painted all the backdrops and Pride Rock.  One morning I went into school early and arranged all I had painted on the stage.As you can see, I also painted my pants! Then, at the last minute, Carol wanted an elephant!  She shaped the head from a cardboard box and we made the body from scrap metal and chicken wire.Finishing touches (by a volunteer of mine – more about him later.)Here is the couple who will wear the elephant costume.  They are practicing the moves.Here they are loaded up and heading for the stage.  Their son, Liam, is a baby elephant holding on to his mother’s tail.LiamOne of the fun parts is that, because it is such a small community, everyone in the audience knows all of the kids.

The full elephant ensemble!  I love the way the giraffe is looking at it!The school was to give 3 performances.  For the first, other schools were invited, and kids came form both directions, some from over 3 hours’ drive away.  The principal was amazed when over 100 kids came – chairs had to be rounded up from the church and the hall.  It was for this performance that make-up was used for the first time.  Rafiki took an hour to receive his face paint.   (Kai is one of Carol’s grandson’s – being painted by his dad.)The finished product.Next most complicated was Scar, the bad guy.

And Zazu

Everyone helped.Because there were so few kids, most had to take multiple parts.  During the play Simba grows up.  Here is Teo getting his hair done for the part of young Simba.

And his brother, Jude, once upon a time the giraffe, plays the older Simba.The following day we had the gala performance with a dinner at night and the performance in the evening.  It was wildly exciting for everyone. The three Thompson brothers.Serena who did an excellent job as the young lioness, Nadia.

Saturday saw the matinee – and the big cleanup!  It was the best fun!

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While the Lion King was absorbing 95% of my energies, a small part of my brain was observing the reluctant spring.  There were two warm days, but mostly we get cold, cold winds, often very strong, and quite a lot of cloud.  The migrant birds started to appear despite this.  The purple finches have at last added some colour to my bird feeder.
Usually, when the ice on the pond starts to break up, it goes within a few days.  This year it took nearly two weeks to finally leave, which mean the last of the ice was gone a month later than last year.  (A Bufflehead near the ice.)And the upper pond, which usually opens first, stayed frozen for another week!White crowned and gold crowned sparrows arrived.  The white crowned will stay but the gold crowned move to the higher country to breed.Ruffed Grouse started making their extraordinary gas motor noise by beating their wings.  And of course the robins started to sing.I went to town to pick up a couple of volunteers. There were mule deer everywhere, hard to see in the early light against the tawny winter grass.  In spring and fall one might encounter 40 or 50 of them along Highway 20.They leap the fence with ease.Williams Lake is warmer, and on the way down the hill to the Fraser River, I saw the first aspen catkins.While in town, I took the dogs for their annual shave.The lower pond finally opened.Now a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye have taken up residence.A green-winged Teal comes and goes.The inevitable Mallards have taken their usual places,And a species I have never seen before is hanging about.  The Gadwall.The early species of pussy willows were now in full bloom,And when that happens, the humming birds soon arrive.I have taken down the tray feeder so I can clean up the garden plot below the bay window ready for planting (if we EVER get any warm weather) but I still toss a bit of seed onto the deck. The dynamics of the creatures that eat it are interesting to watch.  Here are two of the 5 chipmunks, and a few of the dozen or so purple finches.  (The brown ones are females.)  The chipmunks have little spats all the time if they get too close to each other.  Then along comes the squirrel and frightens them off.The squirrel is not allowed to eat in peace, however.  There are two others of his kind and they fight constantly!It is time to stop feeding the birds and animals altogether, however.  For now the brown-headed cowbirds have come.Mrs cowbird lays her eggs in other birds’ nests and the unwitting adoptive parents raise them at the expense of their own young.  I don’t particularly have a problem with this behaviour – it is nature and quite a few other species of birds do the same.  But when other birds are less interested in the food, it seems unfair to give the cowbirds an extra edge by fattening them up.

The full moon came and went.  The mornings of the best positioning were too cloudy, but two days after the full I managed this shot.Mostly, however, the storms keep rolling over the mountains.Thanks to my volunteers, the garden is dug and manured, the drip hoses are organized (they will be buried) – now I just need some real spring weather to make things grow!

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Bella Coola May 2017

A couple of days before The Lion King was performed, I went to Williams Lake and picked up a couple of Volunteers.  Florian and Iris are both from the Netherlands although they hadn’t met until they got on the bus.  They helped with the play but as soon as that was over, I put them to work on the woodpile.  The amount of work they did was phenominal.  Between them they cut, hauled and split almost the whole supply for next winter.  Involvement with The Lion King had me feeling way behind in my spring work, but between them and Carlos the cyclist, I now feel well ahead.  Florian and Iris also dug and manured the garden, and helped organize the drip hoses.

They were both huge bread eaters, and so it wasn’t long before I had them making their own.A couple of years ago I built an outdoor stone oven.  The firebox was not high enough to get a really hot fire going, so as Florian was so strong, I got him to left up the roof and split the necessary 3 wheelbarrow loads of wood we would need.The fire burned beautifully – but disaster struck.  One of the roof slabs split and the whole thing collapsed.  I tested the oven for heat but it was not hot enough and the baking had to be done in my wood cookstove.  The volunteers had to leave before the oven could be repaired.

Just before I took them back to town, in early May, we went to Bella Coola, my first trip down the valley for 2017.  Like everywhere, the frost went deep into the ground last winter, and once the gravel road west of Anahim Lake was reached, there were some magnificent potholes.Although the road was bare, snow still blanketed the ground near Heckman Pass, the high point of Highway 20.But half way down The Bella Coola Hill on the other side we saw the first green leaves!The bottom of the valley was so lush!  Florian and Iris spent an hour or so shovelling manure for my friends at Stuie – while I went on an orchid hunt!These Fairy Slippers, or Calypso Orchids, are usually prime a bit earlier than this, but because of the late year I hit them perfectly.  They live on the forest floor among the great Douglas Firs of the coastal forest.Fir bark is designed to survive fires and many of the trees boast dark burn scars.  The bark is full of character. The calypso orchids were a real treat.Then I rounded up my brood and took them down the valley to see the sights.  We were accompanied by a young man from Chile, Jorge, who was staying with my friends.  Not far down the road we saw our first bear of the day.He was feeding happily while we watched, but suddenly a car roared past us and he jumped for a tree.  He was a big guy for a black bear so am not sure how well he would actually have climbed the tree, but he posed nicely for us!When the other car had gone, he came down and resumed eating.

Our first stop was the Big Trees trail.Devil’s Club was just leafing out,Skunk Cabbage was filling the air with it’s unmistakable perfume,And the Salmon Berries were in flower.We lunched in the cold wind on the Bella Coola waterfront.Then visited the petroglyphs.Sun poked through the trees in places.and along the open part of the trail, fir shoots and black twinberry were showing their spring colours.On our way back out of the valley, we encountered our third bear of the day (the second was a young grizzly who ran off too quickly to photograph).  Bear #3 was right at the bottom of the Bella Coola Hill.His feast of choice, unfortunately, was a renowned burdock patch.  This introduced weed might have all kinds of good properties for both bears and humans, but the burrs make a terrible mess of their fur.Our luck had not yet run out, for not far from the top of The Hill, we saw a movement on the road in the twilight.  Two dark-phase foxes were eating something on the road.  Obviously people had been feeding them.  They were asking us for more.

It was really too dark to take pictures.

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The Geese Have Landed

Once again, mega apologies for such a long gap between posts.  This has not been a lazy winter for me – I seem to spend all my time trying to catch up.  First there was more book editing to do, then sorting the illustrations, many of which were drawings, then income tax, and finally Easter weekend with it’s various visitors and consequent spring cleaning!  I have also been heavily involved with another major project but to hear about that you’ll have to wait for the next post!

Snow still covered the ground when last I wrote, but spring was trying to nudge in.  The first junco appeared.  He was alone for a few days – then suddenly there were about 50, although the numbers soon halved then quartered as the main migration passed through.  Several stay and breed here.Soon the redwing blackbirds increased to about 20 in number – fewer than normal.The nutcracker continued to beat at the window for a while but his visits were much less frequent and, although he still appears at the suet every day, he now seems to have forgotten his rival in the glass.When the snow started to go, it went fast.  First it left the sunnier slopes.Kinnikinnick berries were exposed.  They last under the snow all winter and are much sought after by spring migrants and rodents.  (They are not poisonous to humans but taste like cardboard.)Badger now had a hard time to find a snow patch to lie on.Needless to say, the road continued to be a terrible mess – due to the frost lying deep in the ground this winter, breakup has taken a while – indeed, as I write, over a month after the road started to go out, one area is still difficult to negotiate.The various willows in the wetlands have put on their spring colours.Mistletoe is doing its reproductive thing.And chipmunks got out of bed.  (Unlike squirrels, who are active all winter, chipmunks hibernate.)But the weather stayed cold, often with strong winds.  The snow soon vanished, but the ice hung on everywhere.Storms constantly raged over the mountains.It kept snowing.These flurries never lasted long, and in between were gems of light.  The sun sets so far round now that it lights up things in a different way in the evenings.One day I made time to go up onto the dunes.I made the first visit of the year to the spider tree.Coming back, I was intrigued by the mountain abstract reflected in my window.The river is opening up.The last of the melting snow had a strange texture.

Time to make another trip to town.  I didn’t have to leave until 5.30:am this time, and caught the sunrise at Tatla Lake.All the way to town, every lake and puddle was frozen hard.  Only a few hardy  geese were visible.  They kept their feet warm by standing on one leg and then the other.  As a struggler with yoga, I envy their effortless balance!The main reason for the trip to town was to pick up hearing aids.  I am no deafer than a lot of people I know, but come from a family background of severe age-related deafness and remember the struggle my ancestors had to adapt to their hearing aids so I thought it wise get them while I could better cope.  What a strange world I have been missing.  All that hissing and crackling.  I can hear the floor and cupboard doors squeak!  A crumpled bag is like an explosion and turning my head inside my Gortex coat is deafening.  And I don’t think they’re helping that much either.  I went on an owl prowl the other evening with friends.  I could identify the lower-toned great horned owls no problem (with and without the hearing aids) but still could not hear the bell-like whistles of the sawwhet owls.  My friends recorded 8 of them – I heard one and it seemed so croaky to me I thought it was a corvid.  I will be going back to the audiologist in a few days and see what he suggests.  As far as I am concerned, the main reason for me buying the hearing aids is to be able to listen to the birds.

More snow.More blackbirds.The migrants are pushing the season’s envelope.  Not only the birds and wild animals, but also the first humans! The Mum-and-Daughter duo who are skiing from Whistler to Alaska completed the second leg of their trip from Bella Coola to Terrace.  They had foul weather (remember the constant storm clouds over the mountains?) Here is their latest blog post.

Next was Mike Ranta.  In 2014 He took his canoe across Canada from Vancouver to Cape Breton, mostly by water, but towing the boat over the land parts.  This year he is doing it again but this time he started in Bella Coola!  A friend is with him this time, also towing a canoe.  They have a tracking website (doesn’t seem to work with Safari, I have to use Firefox )- I checked daily so I would know where to meet them on Highway 20 near my turnoff.  Totally crazy guys – but nice crazy!

Easter brought the full moon.  I had my own personal street lamp.One day, without much warning, the pond suddenly opened.Two gees flew overhead and landed!  But they didn’t stay long.  The next morning the pond was frozen solid again and more snow fell.Then it snowed for 24 hours and the world was all white again.  Through it all journeyed my next visitor.  Carlos is a round-the-world cyclist who has done mega trips over the years.  He travelled through blizzards up The Bella Coola Hill and down the highway.Carlos wanted to stay for a few days and work.  That suited me fine and I was delighted he was here when I got up the next morning and saw a totally flat tire!  Perfect timing.As soon as the weather cleared, up on the roof to sweep the chimney – a task that was long overdue.Then, straight onto the firewood pile.  He split a couple of week’s worth in no time.  The stock in my woodshed is getting pretty low – I used much more this winter than usual.  So Carlos started on next season’s wood.  A number of dead trees were blown over during a big wind last fall, and Carlos spent two days bucking up like a demon.

I really love visitors like that!

But all good things come to an end.  Soon he was packed and ready to continue the last year of his current 3-year journey.  (Note the mud from the wet, sloppy, snowy roads he has so far encountered.)Non-wilderness-dwellers are always surprised by the number of people I know or encounter.  I remember reading a Graham Green book years ago, about disillusioned priests in a remote part of the south American jungle.  A high-up church dignitary visited and he was surprised how informed these priests were.  One replied:  “When you live in a place like this, you do not need to go out into the world.  The world comes to you.”

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Equinox 2017!

Oops I meant Equinox, not Solstice (previous post.)

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