From Loon Lake Road – Hard to depend on memory without subjectivity interfering

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column on community news and events in Loon Lake

How things have changed from one month ago. Nature has covered the land with a nice blanket of snow and the spruce trees are looking like some super Christmas decorator has sprinkled them with lots of snow and sparkles.

I have no need to make up a Christmas tree or two – I can enjoy the view of hundreds from my window – all unique and very beautiful. The shimmering frost flakes blown in the breeze add to the festive atmosphere.

Poor city people – they need to hire a super yard decorator and pay as much as a thousand dollars for the service. At Loon Lake Road nature does a better job for free.

In the middle of the snow and frost, the paving contractor finally moved in to pave portions of Loon Lake Road.  Snow, ice and -15 degree temperatures were not the best conditions for laying down paving and I had great sympathy for those  doing traffic control, standing still in the cold and holding up a sign with only the deer, coyotes and one vehicle to direct.

To finish the shoulder work they had to scrape away layers of snow and ice to spread the gravel abutting the new layer of pavement. Residents are grateful for the work done and I am sure the contractor crews are grateful to move on to warmer conditions.

This time of the year at Loon Lake Road, winter outdoor activities begin and those who enjoy them hope for plenty of snow. We have had a good start so far but people await the lake to freeze over.

It is also a time for moving the quiet enjoyment and relaxation indoors, although a nice outdoor fire with mulled wine still goes over well. I have been pulling out my boxes for Christmas ornaments that I have collected over the years with the intention of reducing the volume down to about half of what I have now. So my first idea was to just keep those items I have used in the past several years.

As I held out many of the items that would then have gone in the recycle box, memories of the time when the item was either acquired or used came back to me and I couldn’t put it away.

While I have the idea that material things are not so important – the memories of people and places that they sometimes represent and bring back are still important to me and so I have six boxes of Christmas stuff collected over the past 50 years from all the places I have lived or visited. But why is memory important?

There are people I know who seem to start each day with a blank memory and they seem quite happy. In fact, having a good memory at my age can result in simply more work and effort. It is so much easier when someone asks for information to say you can’t remember than to remember and pass it on to them – once, twice or maybe even three times; of course without any suggestion that you have told this to them once already.

I don’t have a really good memory; things that aren’t important or of interest to me go away really fast. I am an absolute disaster at playing various board games that require knowledge of sports or of entertainment figures. Don’t ask me about TV shows or movies, I know nothing of them.

Of course memory can also be quite misleading if you expect that memory can reproduce an event as it really happened. We will only remember how we experienced the incident or event but it will not be accurate description of what went on. Sure I can remember snippets and specific incidents and even the taste of my grandmother’s chokecherry cordial and that she often served us warm milk with coffee when we visited her in the winter. Then I try to picture her kitchen in my memory and find that a number of the corners are quite blank.

I read an article yesterday about a young family in Alberta who have decided to eat only (or mostly) the foods that they themselves can grow on their farm. Their goal was to try to eat as their ancestors did in 1900s on the Canadian prairies. That can be a very good learning exercise and I would expect one that would result in the family involved learning to value quality in food.

For example we recently had a discussion about sauerkraut in our family. I make my own and do quite willingly put up with the odour of fermenting sauerkraut because the result is so delicious. Others pointed out that a large bottle of manufactured kraut is not so costly and is much more convenient.

True enough, but I personally do not like the taste of the pickled cabbage that the manufacturers try to pass off as sauerkraut. In fact the majority around the table admitted that the only time they will eat sauerkraut is when I serve my homemade stuff. Then they can’t get enough of it. Authentic sauerkraut never has vinegar added – it is just shredded cabbage and a bit of salt with a six week fermentation period – done. Simple and so good.

There is a special quality to many of the foods produced and prepared or preserved in traditional ways but I appreciate that some special foods brought from far off lands are really a wonderful contribution to both variety and taste in our meals. I do try to grow or source much of my food locally but I would never agree to do without spices like vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, or forego coffee, teas or citrus fruits.

I can quite easily do without a trip to Tim Horton’s for a coffee but let me buy my coffee beans and grind them my way. I have tried chicory root “coffee” and it doesn’t do much for me nor does the barley coffee substitute.

Beside I don’t think I would want to eat the same way as our forbearers did in 1900 – it really wasn’t all that healthy a diet. Sure the vegetables, fruits, egg, dairy and meat were locally sourced but ways of preserving them were limited, with a lot of sugar, salt and fat used as preservatives.

The lean times were the early spring months when the winter stores were nearly used up, the vegetables in the root cellar turning limp and sprouting, and warmer weather made it difficult to keep meat. Young shoots of stinging nettles became the first “spinach” of the season and rhubarb was eagerly greeted. We would pull up a stalk out in the garden and eat it right there. Dandelion and other wild greens were used in salads.

Ah, the good ole days. I wonder what the grandkids will consider as good old days when they hit 70 years or more?

Merry Christmas and happy memories to all.

Barbara Hendricks