Showing posts from March, 2017

Late night thoughts on that snake on the fence in Oliver

Kerry Boyd laid it out on Twitter, and got me thinking about reptiles.

I saw an iguana at the Mayan ruins in Uxmal last year. Iguanas, like lizards and crocodiles, are exothermic creatures, I have learned. They cannot, like endotherms can, generate heat through metabolic processes in their own bodies. They need to find suitable microclimates. They need to find the warmth of the sun.

Snakes are also exothermic creatures. I think about snakes more than you might think a winter bicycle rider in Edmonton thinks about snakes. This is because there is an image of a giant snake and a naked woman emblazoned on the fence of a house near Oliver School. I pass the biblical seen twice a day. 


The potential socialness of a bicycle is built right into its roofless and windshieldless and doorless frame. It is easy to say hello on a bicycle. Like this morning.

These sidewalkers nodded to me in unison at the exact instant I nodded to them.

I said hello to the jogger, and he waved back.

Hi, I said, to the dog walkers and the dog, and they nodded a greeting back.

Both joggers smiled and said hello as our lives passed.

I said hello to the squirrel.

I said hello to the woman walking with poles and she returned the hello.

The jogger looked over and I said hello as she said hello.

I said hello to this fellow egg picker upper and we talked for a couple of minutes. Her bicycle comes out April 1. She is excited.

Hello, I said.
Hi, she said.

I said hello to the  man on the other end of this leash and he said he and his dog were enjoying the beautiful morning.

I said hello to this woman and she said hello, and we laughed about her trying to keep up to the lively pup.

I said thankyou and …

St. Patrick's Day

There is a feeling I get on St. Patrick's Day that I have never been able to make sit still and reveal itself. Because I am not a reveller. I don't make a point of wearing green and I don't line up to get into an Irish-themed chapels with friends and people I have just met. With those bright, imbibing bands I have no claim to be.

I don't tip this way and that walking with a friend along a sloshy pathway, turning to address an approaching bicycle rider and gesturing as if moving my hands through water, and saying, just a little too loud and just a little too slow, that it's St. Patrick's Day and why can't we all get along!

And I don't walk uphill along a flat intersection wearing a green leprechaun hat and sporting some kind of green colour in my moustache while I flash an okay sign to traffic letting me pass.

But, and here is the point about not quite understanding St. Patrick's Day, I feel a kind of warmth as I ride into and through these scenes. L…

PSA: Distracted Driving

Here's a concept for a public service announcement that I started to think about this morning after seeing yet another automobile driver speaking on a phone driving by me, gambling that distracted driving is not a life-and-death gamble. This is just off the top of my head. The genders of the actors can be swapped in subsequent versions. There are a lot of people able to be killed. And saved.

 I offer this to all who can make it better.


[Viewer sees a young girl walking along the sidewalk. She is walking to school. She is carrying a knapsack. She is happy. Light music.]

[The point of view changes to inside the back seat of an automobile. We are looking through the front windshield at the neighbourhood street scene ahead. It resembles the scene the young girl is walking through. The driver is holding a cellphone to his head. He is speaking to so…

102 Ave Multi Use Path, Winter Snow

This is the first winter of the multi-use path along 102 Ave in Glenora. Between Original Joe's and Glenora School there are approximately 33 houses, two bridges, one school and one vacant lot that front on the new, wider path. There is a variety of approaches to moving the snow along this stretch of pathway.

The portion of path next to the school was clear.

A narrow path had been shovelled here.

The method left a kind of tributary of path from the gate to the artery.

The sidewalk that faces the street was cleared, but the multi-use path is under thin snow.

The bridge deck was scraped.

Here a chunk of pathway was visible, a kind of concrete bridge from the avenue to the private property.

Here, another sliver.

Here, the approximate width of a conventional sidewalk was shovelled.

The entire path was cleaned here.

This remained au naturel.

The bridge was bare.

I present these photos for science only. No judgment is implied.

Watching Curling Again

What I understand about the game of curling would not, melted down,  fill one of those little rye bottles you used to get on airplanes. Okay, sure, I understand that you throw rocks down a pebbled sheet of ice, that the rocks don't go straight as much as they wander off line, and that the whole thing is to figure out how much weight to throw so that the rocks wobble like you want.

There's other stuff that's barely comprehensible, like the role of the sweepers. And the seemingly contradictory orders yelled out by the stone thrower (No! Way off! Whoa!) and the skip (On it! Hard! Hurry hard! Clean!)

And, then, there's some totally opaque stuff, like the way the team members talk it out as they compose the next shot.

I am writing all of this watching the 2017 Brier on TV.  This is what I just heard from Team Northern Ontario's deliberations.

"Either that, or do you go all the way around?"
"Whaddya like? I think we gotta split."
"You gotta try …

Three More Life Sentences

So, I collect sentences.
Here are three more that keep gifting insight.

Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence. 
- Wendell Berry, What Are People For?

I read this years ago, and go back to it whenever I hear outside or start to feel inside the logic that says, you are doomed to fail, so, don't. Don't speak. Don't act. Don't protest. Don't fail. Don't resist. Don't try. This, says Berry, is the voice that destroys a sense of nobility. It makes doing the result of the cold calculus of winning. Why vote? My candidate won't win. Why argue? My argument won't win the day. Why speak up? My voice will be swamped. Berry asks us to contemplate that the answer, like the question, is radically individualistic. The sentence is alive. The interjection I think quietly sets up the stakes involved …

Winter Memories Fall Down

This morning it snowed.

I can't remember the last workday morning it snowed.

For me, snow falls out of memory. Unlike rain or wind or sun or other weather, snow sprinkles down from the past, and it is the past that piles up on sidewalks and curbsides and front lawns, on bus benches and fence posts, on stop signs and traffic lights on a rare morning like today.

I had arranged to meet Nick Ford in the Crestwood Liquor store parking lot and we pedalled in to work together. On the icy ruts of Ravine Dr, Nick fell for the first time. I looked back to see him on his stomach astride his bicycle. He was laughing, On 100 Ave, he wiped out again. One second he had been all balance and grace, and then a slight fishtail started, and it then grew more pronounced, and then it was all limbs and bike frame mixed together and then, as he hit the ground, a thud and a puff of snow.

We laughed. I smelled the wet wool smell of my breath in my winter neck warmer.

After the second fall, Nick dusted him…

Inside Coffee Outside: The Video :)

Thanks to Shaw, the Shaw Conference Centre, thanks to Winter Cities Shakeup 2017, and thanks to Edmonton NextGen for the chance to get up on stage and tell the story of a little movement called Coffee Outside.

Thanks to Shelagh. She was in the front row and could have easily, had I blacked out, delivered the pecha kucha. She had heard me practise it in bed, on a plane, in hotels, in the living room, and you get the picture.

And, of course, thanks to the women and men who make time for coffee outside Friday mornings in Edmonton.

Everyone is welcome to stop by. More at @coffee_outside on Twitter. 

Mothers, Sons, Trains, Artists

I was on my bike on my way to pick up  a dozen eggs when I saw her holding him near the LRT crossing in Belgravia, pointing at the train.

The eggs get released once every two weeks to subscribers of the University of Alberta's heritage chicken program. The idea is to support the viability of breeds selected out of the conveyer belt egg industry. This is how we have gotten to know Brown Leghorns, White Leghorns, New Hampshires, Light Sussexes, Plymouth Rocks, and Rhode Island Reds.

It was chickens I was thinking about as I pedalled along the bike path on 114 St on the way to the University Farm. I squeezed the brakes as I came up to 76 Ave. A mother was holding her young son in her arms just ahead on the path. The three-wheeled stroller stood empty beside them. I heard her say look!

"Watching the trains?" I asked as I pedalled closer.

"Yes," she said. "It's pretty exciting."

I laughed as I passed them. And then I turned around and went back toward…