The adventuresome life of a Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland dog in Northwestern Ontario

Words on the Street

The other day a lady came into the shop. She seemed to know Elizabeth quite well, even though I had never seen her before (and I’ve been bookshop dog for a long time now). They greeted each other like long lost friends.

And it turns out that that is kind of what they were! Apparently, this new woman, who we’ll call Mathilda, used to work for Elizabeth a long time ago (at least several dog generations…), before she became a poet for hire. That’s right. And now that she has become a poet for hire, she has returned to the great Northwest from Savannah, Georgia.

Mathilda set up on our national holiday, July 1st. Some holiday. Everyone around here seemed to be working! Or shopping. Or sightseeing. But I digress….

Mathilda and Walter hard at work on a poem… for me!

Mathilda set up a little table in front of the shop, and whenever someone came walking down the sidewalk, she would start clacking away on Walter. Walter, Elizabeth informs me, is a pre-computer writing machine. Funny to see it being used to do something as cutting edge as busking poetry!

Writing poetry on the spur of the moment for hire is so cutting edge that most people don’t seem to get what Mathilda is doing. Things were pretty slow that first day. Mathilda sat with Walter and her stack of index cards waiting for requests. I felt a bit sorry for her, roasting under the afternoon sun, waiting, waiting.

Elizabeth came over to where I was lying. “Would you like a poem from Mathilda, Stella?”

I blinked, which is my way of telling her YES.

“What would you like her to write about?”

It wasn’t a question I could give my yes or no answer to, so I waited a minute for her to think.

“What about cookies?”

I just stared at her, which is my way of saying NO.

“What about rides?”

I stared back.

She got a wicked grin on her face and asked, “What about wood ticks?”

I blinked. A dog can only stare so long, you know. And Elizabeth ran outside.

I could hear the conversation through the window.

“Stella says, ‘Wood ticks.'”

Mathilda shifted uneasily in her chair. “There are wood ticks here? Downtown?”

“No. Stella says, wood ticks.”

Well, Mathilda is pretty quick on the uptake. You need to be when you are a typewriter poet for hire. “Oh, I get it. Oookaaay. Wood ticks it is!”

Elizabeth came back inside. I walked over to my treat bag and nudged it, then looked up at Elizabeth.

“That’s okay, Stella. I’ll give her some money. I don’t think she can use those.” She pulled out a five dollar bill and put it in her pocket. I could hear Walter rushing to write exactly what Mathilda told him to. In a few minutes, he was quiet again.

I went out to pay for my poem, but it wasn’t ready yet. I watched as Mathilda and Walter went back to work. Another couple of minutes, and Mathilda pulled the index card from Walter’s mouth, and she turned to me. “Shall I read it to you, Stella?”

She did.

I found my poem very amusing!

It was pretty good. And it made me laugh, too. Elizabeth was laughing, but she laughed at different places, which was odd, but then…

What do you think? Want to get one of your own? Contact us!

I decided I would share it with you folks, in hopes that you will drop by or send us a message asking for a poem. Mathilda is a story writer and is trying to earn some extra money writing these while she waits for her stories to go into books and then into bookshops like ours. It takes a long time for that to happen.

Elizabeth says that Walter can work on post cards, too, so if you are far away and can’t come to the shop, we can have them do up a poem on one of our post cards for you and pop it in the mail. Just add $3.00 to your donation to Mathilda to pay the postage and for the card! And Elizabeth says to be sure and email her with your address so she can  send it. Watch the the Walt & Mattie Shedule on the bookshop site so you know when Mathilda and Walter are here to take your orders in person.

Hope to see/hear from you soon!

Goodbye, Old Friend

Jeff the Tree Man paid us another visit, partly to haul away the Balsam Fir bits left from the fire, but also to take a look at a very old and ailing friend.

The bear Cocoa chased up the White Spruce tree.

There’s an old White Spruce that has stood about twenty feet off the eastern corner of the two-legger house. It used to shade my first house and hide it somewhat from the busy world of two-leggers. It’s the tree, I’m told, that my predecessor, Cocoa the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, chased a bear up one day. The scribe and her brother used to climb it when they were little two-leggers. The squirrels love to climb up to the very top and cut down spruce cones to feed on through the winter. The Robins like to nest in it some years. I’m sure it could have told us all kinds of stories about what has gone on in its branches and over our yard and bay, stories that were from many years before even Kay and Elizabeth moved out here nearly 50 years ago, for, the Scribe says, it was a huge tree even then. Mind you, she was much smaller in those days…

But something happened this year. I guess it had been happening for a while, but it really became noticeable this year. The giant Spruce was dying, and this summer, it seemed to die back an awful lot. Jeff the Tree Man said he’d better take it down. After the fire, we sure didn’t want the big Spruce to fall the wrong way and demolish half the house!

So, one day at the end of September when the sun came out (I think it might have been the only day the sun came out during the last half of September. I was beginning to wonder if it was still up there…), Jeff the Tree Man brought his ropes and all his saws. He rigged up the tree and climbed up very slowly, removing the branches as he ascended. The Scribe and I were doing our Bookshop gig that day so we missed the action. But Jeff the Tree Man wasn’t able to do the whole tree that day, so he was back the next, and I got the Scribe to take some photos for you to see.

 

There’s Jeff away up the tree. I think he sees us…

Watch Out, Elizabeth! Maybe he didn’t see us after all.

We’ll try that shot again. This is the bottom of the big White Spruce.

Look up further…

I told you it was a tall tree. There’s Jeff the Tree Man again.

Jeff came out for a third day to get the tree cut up so we could use it for firewood to heat the house in the winter. He also had to take down a dead Aspen so the Spruce wouldn’t get caught in it and hang, so we will also have some firewood from it, too.

Elizabeth says that the White Spruce was one of the granddaddies of our forest. There’s another one at the edge of our driveway. A third, which was the biggest, down by the creek, was decapitated in a very bad storm about five years ago. It seems to be surviving, but Elizabeth thinks its days are numbered. There are a couple more at the east end of the estate, too.

We all are very sad to see this tree go. The whole area it shaded will change now, and things will never be the same…

A few days after our fire, the rain finally came. It rained for most of the last half of September. In fact, it has been one of the wettest second halves of September on record.

We were glad to get the forest dampened down. Forests need to be damp. The trees need to drink and, well, you’ve just seen on a very small scale how dangerous things can get when the woods dry up.

But we decided to show you another aspect of forest fire aftermath that occurs in this area, something that happens when the rain comes after a bad fire. So, the Scribe and I went for another walk with the camera.

The burned area after the rainy latter half of September. Notice how bare the bedrock is.

Here in the Boreal Forest, the soil takes a very long time to build up. Elizabeth tells me that she used to work as an archaeologist in this region, and one of the things that always impressed her was that in the ten thousand years since the Ice Age (that sounds like it must have been a fun time…), there was often only about 30 cm or a foot of soil built up where she would be digging. Where in other areas of the world whole cities have been buried two, three or more times over and they use backhoes and shovels to dig the remains of civilisations up, here they use trowels and popsicle sticks and those ever so carefully!

So, when a forest fire comes along and burns all the organic matter, there really isn’t very much soil left. And, since it is the trees and other smaller plants that are holding the soil together, when those burn, the soil is washed away by the rain or spring run-off when it comes. You can see how that has happened in our burnt over area. The bedrock is naked except for the dead tree roots suspended above it.

As we surveyed the burnt area, Elizabeth said to me, “Look at those tree roots, Stella. They’re like the bones of the forest.”

Then she looked a bit closer. She always does that. She walks with her eyes constantly scanning the ground. I think that is left over from her archaeological days, too. I could see that she’d seen something odd now, but I had no idea what it was. She walked over closer to the bottom edge of the bedrock and started taking photos. She put the lens cover of her camera down so you could get an idea of size… (Click on the first one to see the photo gallery full size!)

Now, how did I miss that! When I went over to take a sniff, I was surprised to find that it smelled just like all the soil around it. It was so old that there was nothing left to chew on it. I looked at Elizabeth. “In the words of Wilkie Collins,” she said, “What does it mean?”

She poked around in the soil a bit but couldn’t find any more bones. She says it is not a butchered bone, nor has it been cooked (until our fire, BOL).

Elizabeth thinks she knows what it is. She says that she’s not 100% sure, but she thinks it is a bear femur. Bear bones look a lot like two-legger bones, but she thinks this is too heavy for a two-legger. She thinks another animal probably dropped it here after picnicking on it. One thing she noticed about it is that, in the last photo and at the right end, part of the bone is broken off, and she wonders if that might have been a hint of what led to the bear’s demise. But it might have broken off after it died. She’s hoping Lil the Egg Lady will put in her two cents and help us solve the Mystery of the Lone Bone.

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