Safety of railways should concern us all

Esther Darlington MacDonald's Cakewalk Chronicles column looks at issues around town and elsewhere

Soothing the senses

There is nothing more soothing to the senses than growing things. In years past, the faces of persons who grow things have always seemed to me to be the most wholesome, and the happiest. I don’t think it is a romantic optical illusion. For more than half a lifetime I have lived with people growing things: farming and ranching people, household gardeners, greenhouse workers. When I can’t paint those visual images that tell stories about our country and its people, I love to work in my garden. It’s a soother and a smoother, which re-adjusts the senses. You can sit and watch the bees looking for nectar on the tiniest flowers; and my wild flower garden, now a turbulent series of broken waves punctuated by everything from tiny blossoms of a blue that has no description, through the bright miniature faces of the sun, to tiny splashes of red, are a beehive feast. Those small dashes of colour make a palette under the eye that can’t diminish the broader spectrum of our incredible land of mesas, mountains, buttes, and gorges. Every morning I hand water my small estate, and then I sit and look and wonder at the wonder of growth. It is renewing. After a few minutes, I can get up and begin the day’s responsible chores, cope with what must be coped with. What say you?

Sad event makes us ponder

It could happen here, or anywhere across our broad country with its network of railways that bring us the goods and services necessary for growth.  The horrific tragedy of Lac-Mégantic, which resulted in the violent death of more than 50 persons on the main street of a small town much like ours, has prompted a wave of concern from many areas. The final news is that our railway companies are going to make some changes: changes that will reinforce the safety of those boundless rail cars filled with so many toxic and terribly hazardous goods. A demand has been made to have the railways ban the shipping of older type 111A tanker cars. This has not been mentioned in the latest news, but let us hope that pressure will be brought to bear. Those of us who live across the rail tracks have probably noticed that oil tanker cars are increasing. I hope municipal councils across the country, including ours, show support and provide reinforcement to bring about improvements for the safety of industrial rail transport.

Death of a good man

It came as a shock to some of us who knew him well; who chatted with him in the post office in Cache Creek; who knew him as a neighbour who would help with yard work, or anything that needed doing, from looking after the dog while we were away on holiday to watering plants, mowing grass, and trimming hedges. We knew him as Jean Guye, and he lived on Frontier Street for many years. His cottage was immaculate, his vegetable garden carefully weeded and watered, and the fruit trees along the perimeter of the walk, which Jean started from the earliest sprigs, grew to abundance. He was a passionate man, given at times to fulminate on issues that related not only to the church, but to people. But he was also kind, generous with compliments, and genuinely glad to see you and greet you with a kind remark. Jean suffered from several health problems. He lived alone, and his most private thoughts were his own, but he gave himself to the community in ways that do not usually gain attention. When he took his life at Seton Lake, he chose one of the deepest and most beautiful lakes in the country. He will be missed with sadness, but with gratitude for our association with an independent soul who gave of himself and to others, far away.

Doves and freight trains

Who hears them?  Complaints are something like the national debt: they just keep growing. But there are some complaints that seem downright ridiculous. I have heard more than several complaints about the cooing of a bird that has made its home in Ashcroft and Cache Creek for several years. My question is, how is it possible to hear the roar of freight trains day and night, and complain about the cooing of a dove? The bird is identified in our National Geographic Dictionary of Birds as the Eurasian Collared Dove. Ashcroft also has its pigeons. They, too, coo. I’ve heard no complaint about the pigeons, even though coveys of the delightfully plump squabs feed on the droppings of grain from the passing freight cars. But if we consider that the cooing of a dove – or a pigeon, for that matter – is a problem, then consider the poor Brit of coastal England, where gulls squawk day and night in a cacophony that defies sleeping without a pill. And then there is that splattering of white gull poop that can assail the poor pedestrian and hiker, no matter where they hike, sit, or walk. Gulls must fulfill some function. As with doves and pigeons, however, we do not know exactly what it is. Let’s face it: we live in perilous times.

The fall

I had a hard fall downtown in Ashcroft a few weeks ago. I suffered more from shock than anything else, but my glasses took a beating. So did my nose – though it did not break – and my knee was skinned and a hip bruised. It happened in a parking lot. Two men rushed to my aid, helped me to my feet, and put me in my car, then told me, “You cannot drive.” They were right, of course, though I would have tried. Tanner, our dog, was at the groomer’s and I was due to pick him up. Instead, one of the gentlemen drove me home and the other followed. In my shock, I did not ask their names. If they are reading this column, they will know who they are. I just want to thank them so much for their kindly treatment of this senior lady. You were two angels.

On arriving home, the home care worker took one look at me and called her supervisor to say she would be late. She then called Debbie Muir and told her what happened, and Debbie brought Tanner home. She took one look at me and said, “Call the ambulance.” The paramedics came with their usual efficiency, looked me over, put a cold compress on, and told me to rest. Seniors fall all the time. It’s so easy to do. And when you go down, you go down like a ton of bricks. I was lucky that day. It could have been so much worse.

Medical marijuana

It seems a misnomer to me. How can you inhale the smoke of marijuana and call it “medical”? Those who use the weed for medical purposes are upset because the federal government has changed the regulations. Because of the concern of fire chiefs and others across the nation, the new regulations will no longer allow the growing of weed in private dwellings. The government wants it controlled better and, presumably, made a commercial commodity and then (of course) taxed. New studies out of Sweden link pot (weed, marijuana) with cancer. Heavy users are more likely to get cancer than non-smokers, which is not a surprising result. Apparently smokers of marijuana are twice as likely to get cancer. That’s a very high percentage. S’funny about smoking. So many of us smoked years ago; but that smoke caught up with us later on. You don’t notice it when you’re young. It’s in mid-life that symptoms of COPD, bronchitis, and a whole host of other medical problems develop. It is a terrific drain on the medical system, smoking, whether it’s tobacco or marijuana.

The monarchy of Britain

The similarity between what is happening in Egypt today and what was happening in Britain for the last two thousand years was brought home to me the other night. The TV series Monarchy, Professor David Starkey’s excellent narrative – part drama, part documentary – is a history of unremitting wars and violence, where in a single afternoon 3,000 men can perish on a field of wild flowers and grass. Power. The wars and the battles were all about power. That is what the ravening cries of young men on the streets of Cairo are all about, as well as the bloodletting in India and Pakistan and Afghanistan. You wonder when it will end, when power will be a shared thing. A thing built with checks and balances, compromise, reason. Don’t you wonder?

The Wellness Festival

Sherman and I found the heat of Saturday too much when the Wellness Festival was underway, and Friday was a day spent in Kamloops getting measured for new lenses. But on Sunday, we ventured down to the Trackside Diner, had coffee, and were then ushered into a seat under the canopy to hear the gospel music of the Elvis impersonator. He was a terrific entertainer, and had us all clapping, moving in our chairs. A good audience seemed much appreciated. Sherman, as most of you know, has limited speech ability, but he sang some of the gospel songs, knowing the words from beginning to the end. It is always a joy to hear him singing. And the look of joy on his face! The Wellness Festival and the Plein Air event are new and lively reminders that Ashcroft’s cornucopia of ideas that work is growing by leaps and bounds.

So long for another month.

Esther Darlington MacDonald