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November 28, 2019

Writing Mind

By Maryanna Gabriel


I have been struggling with some of the teaching that I am getting which seems to be pretty universal as a writing goes these days. We aren't supposed to say things like "she said sadly" we are supposed to make it like on-screen drama and show that she is sad with props and body language, "...her eyelid twitched as the wind moaned against the shutters"
. We also aren't supposed to use adverbs and adjectives, or to at least minimize them, which is a bit like eliminating half the English language. I am having a tough time with some of these rules. There is a lot of referencing to Hemingway's style and writing like him. I find myself gritting my teeth (see how I tell you how I feel instead of showing you - yikes).

I work at my dining room table. I try really hard to keep papers under control. If I have to do something for the house I switch to the other end of the table and if I am journaling or writing letters I move to my desk which is an elegant piece of furniture but there is no heater there. My house is like a kleenex box so getting up in the early morning I perch over one one of the heaters and hove to. I seem to think best in the quiet of the dark, and as the light comes into the sky, I remember I have to do things like eat and move my body about. It is a bit-by-bit thing, while negotiating self talk that entails questions like, why am I doing this again? I have grown used to it and am getting better at ignoring the peanut gallery chit chat and am just getting on with it.  

November 27, 2019

Writer's Cough

By Maryanna Gabriel

Part of being a writer is getting it out there - I have worked hard in the past with not keeping it on a shelf. I have three books I have created and market locally, all different genres, and published by Magic Cottage Creations, but now I seem to be going after prize money with the creative nonfiction stories I am working on with the university. It is more a bid to try and recoup fees, than fame and glory. If you corner an artist financially long enough something is bound to cough up. I coughed.

Feeling encouraged by the feedback from my class I sent a story out to two magazines and then tried to forget about it. The other day a package appeared in my mail box. After some puzzled hesitation around it's arrival for I could see it was a publisher, I dared to open it. It was one of the magazines, the winter edition, no note, just it by itself. I wasn't quite sure how to take this and then realized it was a lot nicer to receive a magazine than a rejection note. So I have decided to take it as a good omen. 

November 26, 2019

Public Reading

By Maryanna Gabriel 

     One of the requirements for the writing program I am taking from Simon Fraser University is doing a public reading. I was rather encouraged by the support of my class mates and feeling emboldened appeared this month at a place in Vancouver called The Hood, a restaurant with stage, at Main and 29th. It was quite a to do for me as you might imagine. I had to write a bio. Forest dweller, really Maryanna?
https://www.sfu.ca/continuing-studies/events/2019/11/tws-reading-series.html

     I had seven minutes, the organizers were quite emphatic about it, so I practiced out loud and edited the piece so that I could deliver. I made my way from the island to the big city and was rather gratified to have the support of some of some Vancouver friends who joined me.

      There was a hitch. En route to The Hood we got stuck in a traffic due to an accident. We
 crawled five blocks in a little less than an hour. I began to think it wasn't going to happen, that I would miss my curtain call, and that it would all be for nought. My already taut nerves definitely frayed but as fate would have it, we sped through the city and made it well in time. Concentrating on breathing to calm my beating heart, I used everything I knew about public speaking, as I was introduced. 

     I read a story about my walk on the Camino that was mine to tell. Fortunately, I had entered a dead calm place from within the eye of my physical storm, as I read. It went well and the audience clapped appreciatively. Photos were taken and I was tweeted. I have never been tweeted before and I was trying to understand how I felt about that.

     On our way home we drove through Stanley Park enjoying the lights of the city, the Lion's Gate Bridge was so pretty with art deco lighting which my friend told me was called "Gracie's Necklace". Vancouver really is a beautiful city and I always enjoy it. I am glad the reading is over but now I think I could do it again more easily, should the need arise.

November 25, 2019

T'is The Season

By Maryanna Gabriel
     I have been gasping a bit as probably most are for t'is the season and one wants to keep up. One of my writing courses is just about finished and between being critiqued and rewrites I have been madly working on an advent calendar for my grandsons.

     I was puzzled about structure and somehow this is what I came up with. I was so excited to get to the end I rather forgot about the doors so have sent instructions that the contents may need a forceps delivery. I have gummy worms, fruit buds, sesame snap crackers, chocolate Santas and coins, the odd toy, sunflower seeds and packaged Paw Patrol cookies. My grandsons are really excited and Owen wants to know how many days is it until December first. 










November 24, 2019

Reunited

By Maryanna Gabriel

     Singing Pass was a bonding experience. It was all we could talk about after we returned to school and all of these years later it seemed ridiculously impossible that we had been in such a situation. Many hikes and camping trips ensued as a group but none were as memorable as Singing Pass. 


     We were gathering for the first time since graduation. Not satisfied with just one day together most of us came a day or two early from some distance, as we shared walks, lunch and dinners out, photos of our families, and pure joy at seeing each other again. Our math teacher and wife were able to come. They were both so happy to see us. That night in the snow had been a life turning point for them.

     Some of us went on a hike to one of our old haunts in the rain, Hollyburn Lodge on Cypress Mountain, and then later we joined the others for soup. Stories were shared and we had some good laughs. I heard tales about my father that I had completely forgotten about and which were heartwarming to hear. This wonderful photo is of some of us starting out in a sleet storm to see the old lodge where we used to stay at times. I am to the far left. 




November 23, 2019

Lost In The Mountains - (part three)



By Maryanna Gabriel


  Not one missing soul had found the hut in the night. They were out there somewhere in the storm and there wasn't a thing we could do about it. Too worried and tired to eat much I curled myself to the wall wondering about our teacher and friends. Eventually I fell asleep. 


     At three in the morning one of us got up and made food, we had hot dogs, the buns being with our friends, and most of us joined in. We whispered to each other that they may have been able to bivouac if they were below the tree line. Hopefully they were together.

     The day dawned in diamond brilliance  and so we began our descent in the
I come down from Sining Pass. 
blinding sun. With the deep powder, I put on my snow shoes. We could see smoke in the trees. There they were in a wet huddle around a fire and just as glad to see us. Slowly their story emerged with angst around the hot dog bun dinner.

     The bigger story told, and worry shared, was our teacher and wife. They had been caught between the two groups well above the tree line. Not able to go on, they had dug into a snow cave and while branches had been put down for bedding they had gotten wet to the skin with soaking wet sleeping bags. Hypothermic, they said their goodbyes to each other. It was night that would change their lives forever.

     And so we were all alive and together as we made it down the mountain.

November 22, 2019

Lost In The Mountains - (part two)

By Maryanna Gabriel

     It had been ten hours of hiking and we found ourselves rounding a snowy crest in the starless night, well above the tree line. Below we could see Russet Lake, reflected dimly by the snow and as we scratched our heads, we wondered which direction around the frozen ice we needed to walk. Of course we didn't have a map.
     All I wanted to do was lie down. I remember thinking about the Inuit and how the grandmothers would just go out into the snow and fall asleep. It was so tempting.
     We began to circumnavigate the edge wondering where the others were but too absorbed in our own survival to stop and wait. There was no stopping and waiting involved. It was out of the question. Our cheeks and toes were frozen. It is a curious warmth that starts to happen with numbness.
     Someone shouted. A person ahead had just tripped over a guy wire from the outhouse to the hut which was barely visible in the darkness. We had chosen the long way around the lake - happily, I fell into the hut in an exhausted heap. I could see bunk-lined walls as someone started a dehydrated soup on a propane stove. We realized we had half the dinner and the rest of the food was with the missing members.
     Where were they? They would die of hypothermia out there. A search party was sent out. One of us rifled through packs for flares.
The clouds lit up as one glowing orange light was shot up into the stormy night after another.

November 21, 2019

Lost In The Mountains (part one)

By Maryanna Gabriel 


"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
- Alexander Pope

     It was a high school trip. What in the world were we thinking? Hiking the mountains
High school newspaper article. 
behind Whistler in November? You have got to be kidding me. Well, it happened.
     Nineteen of us
, on a school outing accompanied by our hiking club sponsor, our math teacher and wife, drove from West Vancouver to the Whistler Mountain area and headed up the trail for Singing Pass with the goal of spending the night in a mountain hut on Russet Lake. Weighted down with overnight gear, and the best of intentions, we made our way up a muddy, snowless trail with a late morning start.
      Wel-l-l-l, the slow ones fell behind as I found myself leaving the tree line with the front half of the group. It being the mountains, it began to snow. 
      "Should I put on my snowshoes?" I asked myself. Darkness fell as the wind picked up, okay, it was a dark and stormy night. Leaning into the wind we took turns breaking trail - hard work as the drifts were waist deep. The last meal was long ago and fatigue was setting in. 

October 16, 2019

Writing On My Mind

By Maryanna Gabriel


Just because you've decided I'm worth hanging around...
doesn't mean I feel the same way."
-Author Unknown


     Quince Jelly is sublime. Who knew? I plan to leave some in the same bag as the person who left all of the fruit out on the roadside. "Dear Quince Person - Please find within a jar of Quince Jelly. Yours with gratitude". More good news. The rafters are quiet. No more happy scampering of little feet. Sigh. Thank you. Please stay away.

     I was so silent when I came home from the Camino. Almost a whole year of integration. Now I
am Miss Chatty Pants. It is these courses I am taking. Writing is on my mind. It is starting to be a constant. These blogs feel like exercises and little teeny tiny novels. There is a term for it now that I am getting the lingo - "flash writing". When the ideas  come through I am going with it in the hopes it transfers to the other projects I am working on.

     I take it as a good sign that owls swooped around the house last night calling and and hooting. I think it was a family of Barred Owls. I always feel so honoured when owls come close. I turned out all of the lights, wrapped myself in a blanket and listened, totally enthralled. Maybe they found dinner. What a happy thought.

     Meeting with some friends very soon who I almost died with. That was quite a sentence, wasn't it? Well not just me, a number of us. We got into trouble up in the mountains long ago. We are very excited about seeing each other again. It should be a lot of fun.

October 14, 2019

Quince Conundrum

By Maryanna Gabriel

"They dined on mince and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spoon."
- Edward Lear 


     The affront of it all. My cheeks puffed in and out. A line has been crossed. It's a security breach. I stared at an avocado with bite marks taken out of it. That's it. The game is on. The fiesta is over. Buckle up, fellas. The Thanksgiving Guacamole Special has sold out. We're closed.

     A quick survey of the trap lines reveal the bait taken but the spring not depressed. Clever. Very clever. Like something out of the movie "Jaws" I see the missing trap has resurfaced on the outside
kitchen deck, regurgitated without the wire that attached it. Consoling myself I went for a walk down a quiet country road. There by a mail box was a bag with a sign on it. The sign said "Free Quince." In a moment of spontaneity and feeling militant already, I took the sign at its word and liberated it.

     I once picked quince in Greece for about 25 drachmas. They were fuzzy, peculiar, yellow things at the time and I realized as I stared at them now that I had  no idea what to do next. I cut into one. Rather unyielding, I thought. A quick internet search gave me to understand one has to cook them. I tried frying one with butter, brown sugar and rose water. Hmm. Tasted like honey. I was beginning to see the attraction. Motivated now, I realized that if I was going to live through the day the quince needed to be boiled and the juice extracted, this peeling business being an unenjoyable way to spend one's life. The resulting pinkish nectar is so pretty. I understand now why I saw so much Membrillo, or quince paste, in Spain while walking the Camino.

October 11, 2019

Thanksgiving Visitor

By Maryanna Gabriel

     There has been a scrabbling of late high up in the walls and the sound is turning my blood to ice. A rat. A happy relay across the ceiling in broad daylight has given me to understand that something has to be done. Everyday now I have been out checking the trap lines. One trap was broken and
Holly Before Thanksgiving
although the other was wired to the porch it has completely vanished. I peer through the darkness beyond the porch lattice and notice the poison I had laid down is nibbled into. I wire a new trap to the collection with hope in my heart. Last night did the scrabbling sound fainter possibly less enthusiastic I wondered? I have to be ruthless. Damage can be done to wiring. My neighbour once had to replace the piping for his washing machine which involved ripping open a wall. For now the birds have to look elsewhere for their treats.

     The season has turned a sharp cold as nights have been below zero. The holly is blooming which is a little strange as it is before Thanksgiving. I have picked some and brought it into the house feeling a dissonance with the season. Merry Christmas I say to myself. I am  wondering if this is going to be a cold winter and have been grateful for the crackling fire in the evenings. Reading at night is new for me. I am taking a Children's Writing course and am into a book called "Zellig" by British author, Adam Pullman, written for middle readers. It is tons of fun. It is about a boy who finds a strange creature in an old abandoned garage where rats dwell.

October 6, 2019

Nurturing The Inner Fire

By Maryanna Gabriel
"Fertile solitude..."  
- Adam Phillips


     This year has involved some drastic changes in order to accommodate what now needs to be done and the heart-stopping costs of tuition. There is
Me Nurturing My Inner Fire
(Portrait by Sebastian, 3 yrs old)
opportunity here for growth and it isn't to be thrown away. I just can't. Too much is at stake. Certain activities of yesteryear have had to be crossed off the list. 
I am hoping that those that know and love me will forgive me as I sink more deeply into this learning process. Fortunately, I never feel lonely. It isn't like when one is younger when being alone was more difficult. Time is needed for the right brain process and for some reason the dial on the clock seems to rotate like something out of a cartoon as one day whirls madly into the next and weeks are impossibly gone.

     The funny thing about writing is that one actually has to do it. It is rather astonishing how life poses such a rich array of distraction and from what is supposedly a primary focus. Somewhere I have read that our creative specialty needs to be at the top of the list of the day, perhaps Julia Cameron wrote this, in order to nurture our inner fire.

     Sebastian is my grandson and I believe I have either three arms in his splendid depiction of me or else it is five legs. I'll take them all.   

October 2, 2019

Writing Like A Mad Thing

By Maryanna Gabriel



"Child, to say the thing you
really mean, the whole of it,
nothing more or nothing less,
or other than you really mean,
that's the whole art and joy of words."
 - CS Lewis


     I am in the thick of it now. No more waxing on and being prosaic about this place or that to you as I scramble with hearth and home trying keeping up with
Writing Like A Mad Thing

courses from two universities. I thought it would be a good idea, you see, to improve.

     Last night was brutal. We sat in an online session for just under three hours- I was the first to get critiqued by ten other people who I have never met or talked to - a creative cross-fire hazing that at one point brought me to tears in the nicest of ways. So this is how we are meant to grow and prune our creative endeavours. I had no idea. It is an honour I suppose to have so many people wanting to move me forward. I will be doing the same for them. 


     Since I walked the Camino there is a solid resolute core that is holding fast - a surprise to me when I find it within. I am not sure what to attribute it to specifically. I was writing about the Camino with a story I shared with the class. I had a lot of positive feedback. A hopeful indicator. 

October 1, 2019

Texada Island

By Maryanna Gabriel
Landing in Van Anda
    Disturbed and dredged - that is what this island is, I thought to myself. As the ferry docked in Van Anda  mountain high piles of tailings greeted us. Heaps of gravel were everywhere. It started to become a joke between Sarah and I. Texada Island is huge, larger than Salt Spring Island with 150 year history of mining and logging behind it. In addition to limestone, copper, iron, Texada also had gold.The gold rush apparently even brought the construction of an opera house but I saw no traces of former glory but rather the opposite. 



     Our accommodation was mildly
Gillies Bay
disappointing but we did have a fantastic view so we set about to do what we do really well which was explore. We drove to Bob's Lake, I was worried about my car. The road was bad. The temperature dropped and a wind came up but we made the best of it. We decided to head to the Texada Market. It was from noon to 2:00 pm and there were about six tables with a couple packing up. I wasn't sure what to think. 


     We were happy to leave Texada and back on the Sunshine Coast we found a park with a lake to enjoy. Sarah had been regaling me with travelling tales of Newfoundland where she had just been and her stories of Gros Morne National Park were fascinating. We are old chums who met in the Yukon at age fifteen. We walked and chatted along a well kept path that bordered the lake and enjoyed the day. 






September 30, 2019

Lund

By Maryanna Gabriel


      Were we in for a surprise. I have been wondering about this most northerly town of the Sunshine Coast's Coastal Highway, with a population of roughly 350 people. I expected a sleepy backwater. There were people everywhere. It was a veritable vortex of souls from all over the world with the languages I was hearing, wearing dress that seemed out of context. I knew Lund was the gateway to Desolation Sound, the Middlenatch, and Savoury Islands but I was still astounded by the throngs. These are remote destinations, aren't they?

     I found I wanted to interview people. Where do you live? What are you doing here? Where did you sleep last night? Where are you sleeping tonight? A survey of the small marina was deceptive. There weren't too many boats. Of course I didn't actually interview  anyone but I did speak to a group of women who had come from the Duncan area on Vancouver Island. We talked about how we can see this coast from where we live kibbitzing on how great it was to finally come and edify ourselves geographically. 

     Parking was at a premium. Cars were lining the sides of the road well out of town. Were they all going to Savoury Island? I
t explained the high prices of booking there. We were backing off of the idea of taking a water taxi to sight-see Savoury. Like Wylie Blanchet in "The Curve Of Time" crowds are not my thing. After a leisurely walkabout we quietly exited. We were headed for a more affordable locale, Texada Island. 









September 29, 2019

Powell River

By Maryanna Gabriel


Gentleman

Friend to all who came here
Whose monument is this place of beauty
Given by him to the yachting fraternity
Of the Pacific Northwest so that it will
Remain forever unspoiled.  ~ Mac



     Clearly after all was said and done women didn't fit into the occasion with James MacDonald's final eulogy. We said goodbye to this special spot. Our heads bobbling, we experienced the afternoon no-nonsense winds that come barreling down so we zoomed home. Our driver was working on the theory that if we went fast enough we would stay on top of the troughs. Needing a neck transplant we decided towards evening to walk up to Skookumchuck Rapids and watched the river kayakers playing in the waves and currents.

I have been curious about parts north, Powell River and Lund, and so in the morning we set about exploring. I was rather envious of the ferry that took us to Saltery Bay, ours on Salt Spring Island being far less friendly and accommodating. Powell River seemed like a place caught in time either the 1960's or 70's with the odd heritage bit thrown in. The town-site has a waterfront view as it is perched invitingly on a hillside and because it is logged everyone has sun. Sarah and I found a postcard perfect place to eat our lunch. It is clear the setting of this area is beautiful with snow capped mountains, lakes, and inlets everywhere one looks.




September 28, 2019

Laird Of Princess Louisa Inlet

By Maryanna Gabriel


     A burning question remained. What happened to the log house of James MacDonald? I couldn't see it anywhere. A path to the Park Warden's house was blocked with mops and I wondered if she was in charge of this legendary home. Apparently Ming had been the warden here for many years and today she had painted all of the picnic tables. We weren't allowed to sit on them. We saw no sign of Ming. I needed to know. I searched out our guide. He was down on the dock chatting with some 
yachters

     He grinned at my question. "Oh, well that burned down," he said. I felt crushed.  "How?" I asked. "Well, there are two versions to the story. One is that he had the stove going and had gone to pick up his wife who preferred city living and was usually not with him. As they boated down the inlet they could see the house was on fire. That was the end of it. It was in 1940."

     "What was the other story?" I wanted to know. I have a soft spot for log homes. "Well the other version of the story is that a woman in Sechelt was not happy he was bringing his wife and that she did it," he finished. "Hell, hath no fury..." I replied. Apparently after that he set up home on a houseboat. Expenses were starting to become an issue. 




This plaque of James MacDonald reads "Laird Of The Inlet~Friend to all who came here."









September 27, 2019

Chatterbox Falls

By Maryanna Gabriel

     James MacDonald must have been a man of privilege for what we were told is that he travelled to many countries and decided in 1919 that this was the most beautiful place in the world. He bought land at the head waters of Princess Louisa Inlet for $420 from the provincial government.      

Princess Louisa Inlet
     The story goes that the log house he had built was magnificent with beautiful
Chatterbox Falls
furniture, books and Navaho rugs. He wrote articles in yachting magazines and papers inviting the world and came to be known as "The Laird". In the book "The Curve Of Time" by M. Wylie Blanchett she talks about meeting him and seeing his home. She describes a magnificent stone fire place with a grand stairway and writes of his hospitality. Eventually she decided she was unhappy with how crowded Princess Louisa was becoming and shied away. James MacDonald was quite busy entertaining and had created a large outdoor fire pit so that people could enjoy themselves.

     He was offered $400,000 for the land in the 1950's and turned this down. 
Feeling the area needed protection he felt he was holding it in trust to be enjoyed by all and eventually it was donated and acquired by BC Parks.

     When we landed, Sarah and I happily wandered around exploring. We ate our picnic to the roaring sound of Chatterbox Falls. There were posh boats anchored and so we took it all in as we enjoyed the sunshine. Oysters and mussels were strewn on the beach. Upstream from Chatterbox is James Bruce Falls which is the tallest waterfall in North America. 

September 26, 2019

Malibu

By Maryanna Gabriel



     Princess Louisa Inlet is accessed by Jervis Inlet and in order to enter, most boats have to wait for slack tide. The Malibu Rapids at the mouth are fierce. Our boat was easily able to manage the crossing. To our right was a tremendous sight. Looking well maintained, lined with folks waving at us and jumping into a large outdoor swimming pool, was a huge log resort. Herein is a story. 

     A man by the name of Thomas Hamilton, an American, built this luxury 
Malibu - Entrance To Princess Louisa Inlet
resort. The club opened in 1941. Visitors included John Wayne, John Kennedy, Barbara Stanwyck, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Our tour guide told us that one night, after extensive hardship, Hamilton and his wife and family just packed up and left. They had had enough. He tried to sell it for one million but there were no takers. Eventually he was approached by Young Life, a Christian association, and feeling it was a worthy cause sold it to them for $300,000. He had apparently paid $500 for the land and a homestead so that wasn't a bad turnaround. This was a bit of a trick because the man who sold it to him only had squatters rights. 

     As we stared, they looked like a pretty happy group. We waved back. In the interim we learned of a man who was concerned by Malibu and the future impact of development in this unique area and what he did to preserve the natural beauty, thereby creating a legacy. 



September 25, 2019

Princess Louisa Inlet


By Maryanna Gabriel. 

    The season has turned. The deer have been up onto the front porch pillaging the geraniums and I have just realized that the lettuce is not growing because there is a rabbit ransacking the garden. I have also been in a tizzy. The writing courses I am taking have started and I still have not written about Princess Louisa Inlet.

Resting At The End Of The Day
     About a month ago a dear friend who was visiting from Tasmania and I travelled to the Sunshine Coast and we stayed in a little place called Egbert. We were looking to travel up to Princess Louisa Inlet, a place I had heard so much about. It took me a long time to understand the convoluted geography that I stare at so often from Salt Spring and The Big Island. I worked out three ferries to get there, a feat in itself, and by the end of the day if felt great to finally arrive.    
   
     Even although it was the height of summer it felt restful and we enjoyed 
Downed Totem At Back Eddy Resort

a relaxing glass of wine overlooking the water as well as the challenge of getting the gas burner started so that we could make tea. We had an old cabin right on the ocean and we couldn't have been happier with the arrangement. 



     We left in the morning on a steel bottomed tour boat. It would be good for the strong currents and winds that frequented these waters. A thirty mile trip lay ahead that takes five hours. I had been hearing about this famous place for many years and we were both excitedly anticipating the day. Our guide was a veteran of Yellowknife and his favourite thing to do is ice fish in Northern Ontario so we got along fine as he chatted away with a few of us about locals, now and 
Waterfalls On Way To Princess Louisa Inlet

from the past, as we gradually made our way up the coast. I was surprised that the landscape was open. I think I rather pictured it would be like a Norwegian fiord. We saw other waterfalls and glaciers named after Queen Victoria's children. He stopped and showed us pictographs demarcating fishing runs made by Shishahl, the Sechelt Band, from days gone by. He talked of when cod was fifty cents a pound and how the waters used to be teeming. Now the catch is limited to one cod a day.
    
    Princess Lousia Inlet would be inland up two long arms of water and interestingly was only twenty miles west of Whistler and on the same latitude as Campbell River. The famous scenic Chatterbox Falls was a huge drawing card as was the rugged scenery in a landscape that is not accessible by road. The clouds seemed to lift and the smell of the sea was inspiring. 

September 22, 2019

Him ~ chapter ten

By Maryanna Gabriel


     The driveway was smashed up. Stones were thrown across the street. Someone with a big truck had deliberately driven into it creating deep grooves. I walked over to my neighbour. Had he seen anything. Yes, he had heard the noise. It was a white truck. He told me that a white truck had been parked outside his house for half an hour. He described the driver. 

      It was him. 

     He had been sitting there waiting for me to leave parked between a bunch of cars. Living with this was wearing me down. I spoke with a dear friend. "Most people I know would be a gibbering idiot by now," he said. I phoned the RCMP. The tiny officer came.  "We are building a case," he said. "We need hard evidence." He advised me to buy a security camera. I decided not to fix the drive. What would be the point? Let him admire his handiwork.

     I realized a line of solar lights had been cut. My. I found what had made the smashing noise. He had smashed a chair. It had been placed carefully in little pieces far to the back of the property. I hadn't realized that before - I could have told the police. That was my last call to them.

 
Growing Again
   I thought it was a good thing I had phoned the police at the outset because without that strong of a message it is not clear what would have happened. I did order a video camera. I eventually sent it back losing out on the customs tax because I needed a VCR for it which I don't have and that hadn't been clear at purchase.

     Time passed. I fixed the driveway. The rails eventually stopped being moved in the front. A big black dog came as a most welcome visitor and stayed for the summer. He had a great bark. Things seemed to settle down. Until this. The slain plants. 
I keep hoping he will leave but I still see his ads from time to time.

     The plants are growing again. I just ordered my annual load of wood for less than half of what he wanted for his. Needless to say I won't be dropping by the Kingdom Hall Of Jehovah Witness's to say hello. We can all live happily ever after. Hopefully.

September 21, 2019

Him ~ chapter nine

By Maryanna Gabriel

    A new day dawned and I was fairly skipping out of doors checking on things. I stopped. I went cold. The gates were wide open. In fact, all of the gates were open. I know I had closed everything before I went to bed because I had changed the locks.

     He'd been here.

    I phoned the RCMP. They started another case file. "This is believed to be connected to events last night," I said. "How do you know how to correlate events?" The administrator in me was puzzled. No answer to that but a constable was on his way. This was a new officer. He chuckled when I showed him. "No wonder he didn't want to leave. All this and you did laundry? I want to move in." I looked pained. There was nothing he could officially do. There was no evidence linking events. I sniffed. There was garbage strewn throughout the cottage. My main goal for the day was working on clearing the debris so that I could eliminate the smell. Several trips to the dump were in order. The mattress topper had to go. So did the rug. He had left Jehovah Witness pamphlets carefully positioned for my edification. Apparently he thought my soul needed saving. Marveling at this thought I busied myself. 
I bought chains and locks for the gates. More expense but I needed to sleep. 

    The following morning I came out and rails that I had used to border my property from my neighbours were thrown into the next yard. Sighing I put them back. My main mission was getting the duvets dry cleaned. They reeked. I was gone for ten minutes at the most. When I returned my jaw dropped. 

September 20, 2019

Him ~ chapter eight

By Maryanna Gabriel

     Bless them, I thought. The flashing, rotating, red and blue lights were creating an eerie effect through the trees. The neighbours will be talking. Maybe they won't notice I said to myself hopefully. Feeling brave, I flipped on the porch light, the outside walkway lights, and the interior lights. Hey there, I'm here. I could see they were making him reverse while watching the back-up lights. There were two of them.

      There was a knock on the door. The smallest policeman I have ever seen stood there. I blinked and peered down. "Here to serve, ma'am," he said. For the first time in days I smiled. He smiled back. He held out his hand. "Here is your key," he said. He was taking my key? "There is a heater of his here," the Constable continued. What? I grabbed my flashlight. Together we headed down to the cottage shed and oh my, there was  a five foot high metal furnace that I had never seen before. It looked like it belonged to his trailor. "Oh, so he was going to use my place as storage too," I said. We headed back up the path as the Constable said something about unwelcome guests. I tried to think of a reply but words failed me. Croaking didn't seem like a good response so I clamped my jaw shut. 

     I was back in the house. In the black night I watched fascinated. It was a strange parade. He was wheeling the furnace on a dolly, an RCMP officer to the front of him and an RCMP officer to the rear. They marched in a row, under the cedars, ghostly specters caught in the living room light. Some people have to do things the hard way I thought to myself. He was offered free ferry fare to anywhere he wanted by the agency and he chose this. I jumped at the sound of the knock. A blonde female Constable stood there, the one who I had talked to on the phone. "He has no reason to come back. He has been told to leave and not return," she said. "Good night. Call us if anything comes up."

      "Oh, thank you, thank you." Grateful prayer was in order. Exhausted, I lay down and slept deeply. 

September 19, 2019

Him ~ chapter seven

By Maryanna Gabriel

      I sped to the front door and locked myself in. Carefully I positioned myself so that I could see the yard. The last of the wood made an exit. Whew. I tried to concentrate on my life. What was my life? I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I picked up my knitting. Purl. Slip. My shoulders ached from knotted muscles. Hours passed. I stared at the card the constable had given me. I weighed the phone in my hand. It was decision time. I peered out the window. It was a small shopping bag but he was carrying it to the truck. One, only. Wait for it. Yes, here he comes with another small bag. Relief flooded my being. He was leaving. I phoned the Constable and left a message. "It's okay," I said. "He's leaving." 

      Night began to fall. He was still traversing back and forth. I tapped my foot. This is ridiculous, I thought. What is taking him so long? The place is the size of a button. Patience. The man is disorganized. A pack rat. The plastic bag collection alone is confounding.

     Somehow I managed dinner. At 8:00 pm there was a knock on the door.  Please, no. I backed into the kitchen with the phone and the number for the RCMP asking myself what I should do. Nothing. I am doing nothing. Knocking again. I waited. Five minutes later, more knocking.

     Something in me snapped. I was terrified. I dialed the RCMP number. I got that crazy city dispatch on the big island again.

    "Please send someone - I am so scared. This has to do with the call earlier today." I have a vague memory of them starting a new file number. A new file number? I hung up. The phone rang. A female constable was on the line. "Is there bodily harm ma'am?"

      "No. No. No bodily harm.The man is scaring me half to death." I barely recognized the sound of my own voice.

       "Can you describe the vehicle ma'am."

      "He is just pulling out, it is a truck. White. Oh my - he is turning. He is coming back around. He is pulling a trailor that is pea green, about 14 feet long....oh no, and he has just parked on the front of my property... please come." Was I whimpering?

      "We are on our way," she said.

       I breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh thank you." I hesitated in the kitchen, waiting. 

September 18, 2019

Him ~ chapter six

By Maryanna Gabriel


      I could feel the hair standing up on my arms. Slowly I backed away from the window grabbing the phone as I moved and hunching down I retreated to the kitchen. Should I phone the police? What would I say? I stood there for a long time listening and realized it would be night soon and he would have to stop. The house was dark. Quietly I moved towards my bedroom and settled in. I took something to help me sleep.

      Was this day three? I awoke with the police on my mind. I played with the electrical panel and managed to knock out the porch light. I was pretty sure I had cut the power. I scuttled my way warily across the yard and peered into his truck. Oh goodie. It was filled with wood. He was moving it out of the yard. The drive to the RCMP was short. I knocked. The door was a steel vault. Not sure why that would be. Nobody was home. Slowly my eye focused on a piece of paper taped to the door. Logic seemed difficult. It said that if nobody was there to use the red phone to my right. Red phone. This is weird. Bond. James Bond. I was talking to Nanaimo, a city on the big island. "Did I want to open a case file," asked the metallic voice. Why yes, I did. "A constable will be with you shortly ma'am." I waited. A half hour. I wasn't going home until somebody knew what I was going through. The sun felt good and I tried to relax. He came. I took in the bullet proof vest, the guns, a radio strapped to his shoulder and felt happiness. I wondered momentarily if he would come home with me? I babbled. He listened rather unmoved. He said this was not a police matter. "Right," I said. I headed toward the door and turned. He said, "Tell you what. If he is still not out by this evening give me a call." Oh rapture. Joy flooded through me and feeling brave in the event of reprisal I raced home. 

September 17, 2019

Him ~ chapter five

By Maryanna Gabriel


       He smiled sideways at me. I stared. He said it was okay the hot tub was closed. He would like to stay. I said no that is not possible. His stay has been cancelled. I continued, "You need to move the wood." He looked at me. He offered a new price. I shook my head. "No thank you," I said politely. I half shut the door. He tried a different tack. He then said that I owed him money.

     I replied. "I do not handle the money. If you have questions phone the agency."

       "You owe me money," he said again.

        I repeated, "Phone the agency." 


        "You owe me money."

        At eleven repetitions I firmly shut the door. Holy smokes, I thought to myself. Stay calm. Be calm. I am calm. Breathe. Five minutes later the door knocked again. My heart was thudding. I didn't answer. The phone rang. It was the Case Manager. "He thinks I owe him money." She blew out air and sounded exasperated. "That has already been explained to him. Many times. I think you need to go to the police. I also think you need to do anything possible to get this man out." I paused and thought before I replied, "The police only handle something like this if there is bodily harm or willful damage - I could cut the power..." my voice trailed off. How do I do that? What had he said to her that made her think this way? My stomach was contracting. Fear seemed to have take up residence. Another unwelcome guest. We rang off. 


      An email pinged. He wanted to talk. I thought to myself - well I sure don't want to talk to you. I peered out. It was starting to rain. The day was turning to night. I almost jumped. There he was silhouetted against the forest. He was lifting the axe again and again. In the falling dark, under my living room window, with the rain pouring down, he began to chop wood. My scalp prickled. The sound of the axe coming down over and over made a chilling but rhythmic sound. My heart pounded hard. 


September 16, 2019

Him ~ chapter four

By Maryanna Gabriel

      "I need help." I felt like I was croaking. The calm voice responded that they would be in touch in the morning. I felt better. It is a good rental agency that I work with. I slept.       


       My eyes snapped open before dawn and I ran to the phone. "I think that you need to get him out. Immediately." I was talking to a Case Manager in a different time zone. "It is not acceptable what you are experiencing. We will help him as best we can with the transition." I considered. "He is going to feel paralyzed. I don't feel badly though because he has a 14 foot trailor so he will be able to land on his feet," I said.     

        A day passed. Nothing. No movement. Two days. My nerves felt taut. I made a quick dash to the hardware for new locks. The Case Manager phoned again. "Is he going?" she asked. I replied, "No. Nada. Kaput. What is really worrying me is the wood. I don't want him to have an excuse to come back here. The wood has to go." She said she would try again. He was confused she said. He had hung up on her twice. They were offering him a discount on his next stay.

         I mulled. To think I brought him cake. Twice. I ran through my options. Scary dog? No. Really large person in my life who lifts weights and weighs 300 pounds? Don't have one of those. I thought of my walleyed handyman. He used to be a boxer. I gave him a call. Too busy to come. Of course.

       An email came. He said he wanted to talk. Then there was a knock on the door. Squaring my shoulders and telling myself I am very brave, I opened it.

September 15, 2019

Him ~ chapter three

By Maryanna Gabriel


    As I stared at the murky depths a new thought came to me. I began to drain the water and then I unplugged it. Closed for use. Good solution. I felt pleased with my decision. I was starting to develop a fever. I was getting sicker and sicker by the minute. Somehow I had caught the flue, presumably from my grand daughter. I lay on the couch. My body was steeped with fatigue. The phone began to ring. I didn't answer it. A flurry of emails ensued. I carefully and politely answered every one and responded that the hot tub was now closed. I slept a little. There was knocking on the door. Returning to consciousness something inside of me told me not to answer. My temperature was beginning to soar.

     The light began to fade and I crawled into bed. He had just come to the door again and banged it so hard I would not answer it even if I could. A black fear took hold. He was banging the side of house. I could hear he was trying varying plugs in the sockets. I realized with a sickening lurch of my stomach that he was trying to start the hot tub. I felt I was falling into a swoon, a cloud of dark anger that was not mine was engulfing the house. I felt sicker and sicker. It was then I heard it. He was trying the door handle. As he rattled it the lock held. I drifted. Somewhere in the distance I registered the sound of something smashing.

  

Him ~ chapter two

By Maryanna Gabriel


     In the morning I knew what to do. "There is a load of wood in the yard that I never authorized or ordered." That was all I wrote. I felt calmer. Less violated. I began to work outside and a few minutes later he came flying up the path gesticulating wildly. In his thick French accent he said, "I'll move it - I'll move it." He loped past me to his truck, arms still rotating, where his trailer was parked and grabbed his phone. He returned, again wildly waving and repeating his words. I had to smile. Life skills? Not really.

      A half hour later he reappeared as I was panting with some soil. Someone more prudent might have offered to help me carry it but that never occurred to him. What came next was wile. "How much do you want for the wood?" I asked and dropped my load. He eyed me. "I was hoping for $500 but I would go for $450." This man must think I am a fool. I shook my head. "It isn't worth $250," I answered. "You brought this here without my permission. Please take it away." Head ducked, he nodded and retreated.

      Three days passed. Nothing. No movement. I began to worry. I paid a visit to the cottage. There was garbage everywhere. An immediate trip was necessary. Rats and raccoons are a concern living in the forest near a harbour.  I checked the hot tub. Ten days prior it had been pristine. It looked like someone had thrown in a bucket of sawdust. It was horrifying. It would have to be cleaned again. I was angry. My patience had hit expiry.

      

September 14, 2019

Him ~ chapter one

By Maryanna Gabriel


      We were talking about the state of the cottage and I had offered to vacuum. When I returned he was on the phone on a long distance call to Quebec. "I said I would be right back?" I peered at him raising my eyebrows. He looked at me. "I did not think you would do that," he stuttered. He didn't often speak in complete sentences and here was one. Right there I decided that wherever he came from not only had a lot of garbage but people never did what they said they would. "Well, when I say I will be right back it actually means I will be right back. When I say this is when the garbage goes, that is when it really goes. You are responsible for keeping the place clean as well." I was beginning to feel exhausted. It was a conversation that had been repeated too many times.

      The day came when my grand daughter fell ill. A short trip away was necessary. While looking after her I received an odd barely intelligible email asking if I would pay him to clean the hot tub. How strange I thought. I had just cleaned it. "Just wait until I get home, please," I answered.

      When I got home a strange sight greeted me. In my yard there was fire wood everywhere. Some was chopped and stacked against my house. My axe leaned in the rain against uncut rounds where my wheelbarrow sat. My jaw clamped tight. In the falling dark and exhausted from travelling I needed to think. Clearly I was being viewed a money ticket. 

September 12, 2019

Him

By Maryanna Gabriel


      Of course now that I have had time to think on it could have been, him. He. That person. He has been here before sabotaging the front of the property. The RCMP had scratched their heads as to the reason at the time. None of it made any sense.

      People often don't I have noticed.  


      Last spring I had a tenant. He seemed harmless enough. He was very tall with a slight stoop, middle aged, and peered at me through black thick glasses sideways with a slight twist to his lips. He did not speak English very well. When he did it was through half of his mouth. He was from Northern Quebec. He seemed harmless enough. We managed for awhile but then things became a bit problematic with garbage. He never made it to the weekly deadline and so I solved the problem by collecting it myself. Piles were accumulating on the porch. I began to realize he was a hoarder. Food was on every surface of the cottage. Garbage also piled up around his vehicles. I spoke to him about it and he stopped. We managed and I let a lot slide like the day he spray painted blue on the drive gravel. I started to hide my tools. It seemed they were being used. Then one day he went too far....

August 12, 2019

Standing Down

By Maryanna Gabriel

     Was she going to return? The next morning passed. Nothing. The following day I was watchful. Nothing. No. Wait. A half hour past the expected sighting time I was gardening and heard the unmistakable tick-tick of the diesel engine. I tried not to leap towards the road. The Honda passed my house and parked at my neighbour's right beside me. I peered out. Okay. She was one of those. My neighbour runs a gym and she was apparently showing up for a 6:00 a.m. class. I stared at the vehicle parked just past my driveway. Yup. Black Honda. An Alsatian in the front passenger seat peered back at me. Ohhhh. This explains the odd and stealthy parking. She was letting her dog do his business. I stared at the plate and memorized it. So. Maybe I imagined the whole thing. Maybe she has nothing to do with anything except walking her dog on private property. Honestly? I just don't know.

    Time to stand down. Not enough evidence for a conviction. The slain yellow flowers have the comfort of knowing that many offspring will continue and that they have not died in vein. 
I really have to relax. Clearly.


August 11, 2019

The Case Of The Return Of The Black Honda

By Maryanna Gabriel

     Maybe it was an eco-evangelist. We have quite of few of those. These well meaning individuals viciously flag invasive species with red markers in public parks to the point where one wonders who and what the real problem is when one is just trying to enjoy a stroll. Or the broom. My. People massacre the poor things with their lovely coconut scent feeling quite justified. I have had one turn black on the driveway and at the time I suspected it was poisoned. That was years ago.

     These summer days I am to bed with the dark and up with the light. Once again I was out and about and lo, at 5:30 a.m. the black Honda returned. The steady tick tick of the diesel engine was unmistakable. I listened as it turned into a different driveway this time. It went half way up and halted. By now I knew the modus operandi. It would be several minutes before it returned. What was she doing, I wondered. Maybe she was massacring my neighbour's shrubberies. I paused to quickly change clothing into something dark so that I could be camouflaged. Again the stealthy tick tick as the Honda backed out and returned to the road. I stood in a grove of cedars and watched. The Honda very slowly drove by the house clearly checking out my property. My heart thudded.This situation is clearly flabbergasting. 

August 10, 2019

Sleuthing Amid The Shrubberies

By Maryanna Gabriel
      A hot new day dawned and I thought to make my way to the field of blackberries
across the way in the cool of the morn at 5:30 a.m. The sheep were at the far end and still seemed to be asleep. I began picking.

    A Honda came through. It is a dead end street and feeling watchful I re-positioned myself. It went up a drive. The vehicle halted part way up on private property which I thought was really strange. I continued picking. After some minutes the Honda started and slowly crept down the road as if it was trying to avoid detection. My ear tracked the muted tick tick of a diesel engine. It slowly approached my property and, damn, if it didn't stop at the scene of the crime of the slain flowers of yesterday. Perhaps they were looking for the plastic whorl?

     My heart thudding and colander in hand, I sprang to the gate which was awkward to open and came through. I stood completely still amid the shrubberies. I wanted to be sure to see who this person was and what they were doing. The Honda started up and ticked past me. A pretty, mature, blonde woman was positioning sunglasses onto her nose a slight smile playing on her lips or was I imagining it? She didn't see me. Was I supposed to spring out waving my colander and confront her? What would Trixie Belden do? Or Miss Fisher? Thoughtfully, with black berries in tow, I returned home. 

August 9, 2019

Stealth

By Maryanna Gabriel


 

   "Who could have done such a thing?" I stared, appalled.

     I had just been admiring some wild flowers that were blooming spectacularly in front of the property. I was so moved 
I photographed them in fact. I came into the house
Spectacular Blooms In Front
for a short time and then went back out. Slain. An act of senseless brutality. Someone had cut them down. A black plastic whorl lay beside them as if the culprit, in a hurry to escape the scene of the crime, dropped it. I chewed my lip and wished the loss of the missing piece rendered his or her weapon of mass destruction useless. I picked up the seeds and spread them noting that the roots had been dug out. Nervously glancing up and down the street I wondered at the quiet and speed of the crime. I had heard nothing.

      Does it make any sense? No. Not at all. Sometimes just minding my own business in my peaceful shangri-la trying to avoid the invading hoards isn't enough. There are a lot of people on the island right now. 

August 3, 2019

Being Still

By Maryanna Gabriel

     The neighbourhood is still this morning. Everyone has gone someplace or another, wherever it is that people go on long weekends, presumably waiting in ferry line-ups. I hold still in the eye of the storm and am finding everything I need.

     I love this quiet. No machinery. No noisy neighbours. Just the birds talking to me as the sunlight plays with the raindrops. The branches shimmer like diamonds.