Teapot Hill

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Last year we got a Thousand Trails membership which entitled us to thirty nights of camping within our zones (Pacific Northwest and on down into southern California).  We used a bunch of those nights up when we did our trip to Palm Springs over Christmas but we had just over a week’s worth of nights left over, so we decided to book a site at the Thousand Trails at  Cultus Lake here in B.C. to use up the stay.

We loaded the good old motorhome and my daughter, her girlfriend and I “camped out” in it for three of those nights. (Lucky for me, my darling husband drove the motorhome out there for me first. Honestly, I shouldn’t be trusted in anything larger than a Mini.)

Anyway, on the road to Cultus Lake is a trail for Teapot Hill (apparently named because a logger found a teapot on the hill), so the girls and I committed to reserving one afternoon for a hike up to the top.

imageI love hiking, as does my daughter’s friend, so Thursday afternoon, we grabbed our water bottles, parked my car in the lot at the trailhead, and proceeded up the mountain, hoping for a view of the lake from the top.

We got a lot more than that.

About five minutes into the hike, propped up on a fallen log and snuggled into the moss was a teapot.

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Why was I surprised? It’s called Teapot Hill for crying out loud!  Suddenly our nature walk became a treasure hunt and we combed the woods with our eyes looking for more. Screw nature, we’re here for teapots now (haha, just kidding).

And we weren’t disappointed.

It seems there’s a thing going on in the woods here: bring your own pot. (Teapot, that is). Regrettably, the punks amongst us have taken shots at some of the pots, so there are ceramic fragments where teapots used to be, but for the most part, there are many intact pots!

I love whimsy. And a sense of humour. And I would’ve loved to have been the person who first thought of bringing a teapot to leave there, so kudos to whoever thought of it.  There were so many kids and teens on the trail – a couple even toting their own pot made by Grandma (top right hand corner) – so it was great to see that nature was not only being appreciated, but that it was made fun.

Naturally, the girls and I spent some time trying to come up with puns- they groaned when I said I was “bagged” – but the pinnacle pun was “the hike up Teapot Hill was pretty ‘steep,'” courtesy of my daughter.

I don’t know if the pots will be there when we go back next. Apparently a few years back, the parks people cleaned up the forest on the premise that the broken pots were litter (fair enough), and that there was a rare orchid colony growing somewhere in the woods that might be damaged by people looking for pots and going off road to photograph them (um, I plead guilty to this charge. Having said that, in my defense, my childhood was spent in the seventies when it was all “Kumbaya, my lord,” and “Country roads, take me home,” so it’s only natural that I wanted to go off trail and breathe deep the moss and fern and mountain air.).

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Cultus is only an hour away from where I live, so we will try to go back again one day. Maybe I’ll bring my own pot with me, and maybe I’ll try to tuck it into a tree that’s fairly close to the trail – just so I don’t damage any of those elusive orchids. And maybe I’ll tuck a note inside of my teapot -you know, like a message in a bottle sort of thing – if for no other reason than to say, “we were here,”  although I’m not sure why I feel it’s necessary to leave my mark here.  I left my mark on this earth the moment my child breathed her first breath.

Anyway, would love to hear some of your punny tea jokes, if you have any. And hey, maybe that’s what I’ll tuck in my teapot when I go back!

 

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Mr.Chin

So this is another Flash Fiction story that I entered into Writer Unboxed’s flash fiction contest that was held last year… (Just posting it now because a) I haven’t written anything in a while and b) I’m afraid you’ll think I’ve shriveled up and crawled under a rock during spring break…) (Insert goofy emoji face here…)  The rules? 250 words or less, based on the photo prompt. Beginning, middle, and end required.

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The tour guide wore a pair of brown Oxfords, a pince-nez, and a librarian bun.

“This was one of five tunnels built here for the transcontinental railway in the late 1800s,” she said, adjusting her glasses on her nose. “White workers were difficult to come by, so they hired the Chinese. Mostly for setting the detonations. They were cheap.”

The guide paused.

“And expendable.”

The now-defunct railway had left a deep scar carved through the slope.

Melissa stood quietly in the group. A grey-haired man beside her snorted “harrumph”; she noted his hyena-like face and pale rheumy eyes, and she watched as he stared blankly up the mountain’s treacherous incline. As the group started to walk under the archway towards the next tunnel, he brushed abruptly passed her, turning and glaring at her as he did.

“The tunnel that was originally here collapsed twenty years ago…”

She pulled a photo and plastic bag out from her pocket.

“…and then this smaller archway was built.”

The photo was a young Chinese man standing in a kitchen. She placed it inside the bag and then walked towards the archway after them. Finding a thin crevice in the bricks, she nudged the bag in, recalling the writing on the back of the photo:

“This is my great-grandfather, An Lo Chin. My grandmother said he was good at fixing bicycles and cooking. He limped from chopping off his own toe. He helped build this railroad and died doing it.
Melissa Chin.
Lest We Forget.”

Harmony

Yesterday’s Daily Post Photo Challenge was Harmony.

Some days, I want to scream, “WHY CAN”T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?” (This is usually after driving around in my hometown, shopping at Costco, or watching the news).

It just seems there’s too much selfishness, too much war, too much hatred, too many murders, and I’ve just about had it with the ridiculous and disgusting robberies too.

So, the post was Harmony.  I had no pictures of choirs or beautiful basses, or The Four Tenors, for that matter. But I did have this.

Here, my daughter’s hands cupped around a wee sparrow that had crashed into our kitchen window.

Harmony. Not just about music. We CAN all just get along.  Just gotta stop and think of the other guy first.

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.”
Søren Kierkegaard

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Glory

I don’t know what the statute of limitations is on saying thanks and posting old business, but, “Ha! Better late than never,” I always say.

Well that and, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than to ask for permission,” but that’s a post for another time.

Anyway, so back in 2015 (oh so long ago), my favourite writerly website, Writer Unboxed, held a year-long flash fiction contest.  The instructions? Write a 250 word story (with a beginning, middle, and end) once a month, based on a different picture prompt each time.

I wrote this one and it was chosen as a weiner,err, winner for the March submissions, so thank you to Jo Eberhardt and the crew at WU for putting on and hosting the contest.   It was a great experience!

Oh, and I’m sorry for being late with my thanks, and I’m sorry for my shameless self-promotion.

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Glory

Glory remembers the relevant things: the heavy thumping of the soldier’s boots as they marched near the shallow grave her mother frantically dug for them to hide in; the green strip of fabric ripped from the hem of her mother’s dress to cover her mouth and nose so she could breathe easier under the dirt; the feel of her mother’s hands—shredded and bleeding—in hers as they lay there together, hoping for silence and not discovery.

The coughing up of Nigerian silt for weeks after coming to Canada.

This wall is not her wall to paint. But those girls were not their girls to take. She carries her survivor’s guilt like it was a canvas satchel stuffed with boulders. She was lucky. Five minutes later and her mother would no longer have been at the school.

Photo by Rebecca Pagel
Photo by Rebecca Pagel

She paints a white girl on the brick wall even though she knows there are many colours with fear – white, yellow, black, red—and she paints the bubbles for her sisters.

219 bubbles to be painted in all and, one after another, they float lightly, freely, ironically, out from the paintbrush. There’s no freedom for her sisters yet, but she knows she needs to keep hoping.

In the bubbles, where the small white reflection of light would go, she paints their eyes as she feels them now: dark, terrified, resigned, frantic.

And underneath each bubble, in her beautiful cursive writing, she writes all their names: Esther, Maryam, Yagana, Awa, Rejoice, Lydia, Comfort…

State of Mind

Newport, Oregon. January.  2016

The sun is setting, throwing its last rays of light down onto the streets and into the crooks and corners. The wind is brisk, and my daughter and I walk the pier with our collars up and our chins down. The fishing boats have come in from the ocean, and the men have settled their crab traps down on pallets behind the buildings.

They all wait for tomorrow so they can start again.

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We try to teach our children about the value of hard work; the importance of manual labour to strengthen their minds and their bodies; the meaningfulness of being in the outdoors; the beauty that is calloused hands and sweaty brows. But it’s hard, because their moments of idle play outside in the sun, the rain, and the snow, and their willingness to do hard work, have been usurped, disrupted, by Steve Jobs’ and Bill Gates’ toys.

Sigh.

“If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy, and sick.”

John Steinbeck in a letter to Adlai Stevenson.

1959.

The Daily Post Photo Challenge: State of Mind : “Photos show us the surface of things, but they often tell much deeper stories about the objects they depict — and about the people who take them.”

Time

“When the shadow of the sash appeared in the curtains it was between seven and eight o’clock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch. It was Grandfather’s and when Father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it’s rather excruciatingly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father’s. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it.”

William Faulkner, The Sound and The Fury

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Veteran at NLCC Cadet Corp 2012 Inspection

The theme of today’s photo prompt from The Daily Post is Time.

Lest we forget the gift of their time for us.