Archive for August, 2017

Country Chronicle by Gladys Taber ~ 1974. This edition: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1974. Hardcover. ISBN: 0-397-01023-0. 220 pages.

Gladys Taber needs no introduction to many of my fellow readers, but to those of you unfamiliar with her gentle body of work, I’ll merely mention that she was a domestic affirmationist who wrote well-received periodical articles and columns, journals, cookbooks and a few novels, from 1925 to 1980. Her last memoir, Still Cove Journal, was finished by her daughter Connie and published posthumously in 1981.

Country Chronicle falls into the pattern of the best of Gladys Taber’s rural-living journals. Arranged in seasonally progressing sections, in it she examines in some detail the natural world surrounding her 17th Century Connecticut farmhouse, her neighbours and current society, her pets, and her reminiscences of the past. There are, predictably, a few recipes thrown in here and there, most terrifically dated, but some decidedly good sounding.

Gladys Taber was a strong proponent of respect for the domestic arts, and whenever I read her I come away feeling slightly guilty for my own shortcomings in that area, but also encouraged in my own inner belief that a comfortable house and a well-furnished table are well within the capabilities of most of us, and well worth striving for.

Gladys Taber has enough astringency in her opinions to keep things from getting too impossibly sweet. In Country Chronicle we are made well aware of her past griefs and present physical infirmities; she is 74 at the time of the book’s publication, and feeling the effects of age on her body, as well as the loss of beloved people and animals in her life. Very relatable, which no doubt accounts for her broad appeal. Her popularity in her time is completely understandable; a quietly enthusiastic fan base still exists some four decades after her death, and her old home Stillmeadow, still in the family, has recently been the focal point of a successful land conservation initiative.

Happy Sunday, fellow readers. Fall is in the air here, and the smoke from our region’s forest fires is at last lessening as things settle down with the coming of cooler nights and occasional welcome rainfalls. The wild geese are ganging up and running their practice flights up and down our river valley; the wild things are busy preparing for winter; the humans likewise.

Evacuation orders and alerts are being stepped back throughout much of the area, “normal” is once again becoming just that, as we cautiously take stock of what this challenging summer has meant to our region as a whole, and most of all to those personally affected by the loss of homes and livelihoods.

On the news we see reports of other parts of the world as strongly affected in their various ways as we have been here – fire, flood, storm, political upheaval, physical and moral violence in the most pernicious forms. Through all of this, human decency encouragingly frequently prevails.

On that note, I will leave you with a warm nod to this author, for at her best she is thought-provoking and affirmative of the values most of us, rural and urban dwellers alike, would like to live by. Gladys Taber is all about being a good friend and neighbour, giving and receiving help gracefully, surviving sorrows and setbacks, being kind to animals both wild and tame, keeping your surroundings in good order, and in general living lightly on the land and leaving things better off for your presence. Worthy goals, all of them.

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I kept writing and rewriting this post, and it just wouldn’t come together.

Delete it all, condense and post the darned thing. No more funk. Here we go.

As many of you know, I live in central British Columbia, Canada. Smack dab in the middle of the region known as the Cariboo-Chilcotin. The Fraser River flows past my door. We are surrounded by forest on all sides. Beautiful forest, miles and miles of it, millions of acres of it. And it’s been really, really dry.

Now a bunch of it is on fire.

A month ago, July 7, this started up in my neighbourhood. This picture was taken from the upper hillside of our farm, an hour or so after a dry lightning storm passed through our region, sparking over a hundred forest fires, including these two.

The good news is that in four weeks these two particular fires have basically burned parallel to our river, above the escarpment, and joined up to form a united “complex”, as the forest service wildfire people call it.

Topography has been in our favour, as have been the prevailing winds. Fireguards have been built around some of the more troublesome bits, air support has quenched worrisome flareups. While anything could still happen given the right extremes of hot weather and strong wind – or another lightning storm – for now we’re looking good.

That tragically can’t be said for a lot of the rest of our region. Many of the other fires are bigger and angrier, and they are raging along out of control, being beat back here and there by the efforts of thousands of professional firefighters, logging crews, farmers and ranchers and First Nations “fire warriors”. Whole communities have been mass evacuated, major highways closed. Life for many is standing still as they wait things out far from the flames and the dense, stinking smoke; others are very much on the front line, fighting to save their homes and those of their neighbours.

People we know have lost their beloved houses; some have had hair’s breadth escapes from personal disaster. So much has been consumed!

This is utterly personal. The fire map looks like a guidebook to places we’ve lived in, wandered through, known and very much loved. We’re in a state of quiet grieving for the changes to our special places, while knowing that for others the loss is much more immediate and tangible. Survivor’s guilt lurks in the corner of one’s mind.

So there it is. Summer of 2017. One to remember, and it’s far from over yet.

I’ll leave you with a lighter note, book related.

When the smoke plumes on July 7 billowed ever higher, and a further investigation from a higher point revealed us to be surrounded by a total of six big smokes and numerous little ones, we made haste to develop a get-out-quick plan. We rounded up our pets, discussed a strategy for the farm creatures, and threw together some crucial belongings.

This done, we looked around to see what precious things we should save, if worst came to worst. Photo albums were obvious; these were packed up and stacked by the door. Computer back-up drives, cameras. My daughter collected her writings and her artwork. “Are you going to take any books?” she asked me, as I dithered between peering out at the status of our personal smoke plumes and checking and rechecking the forest service’s wildfire alert web page.

Where would one even start, in a personal library consisting of thousands of books?

It was easier than you’d think, and perhaps odder.

I must report that in the case of natural disaster, my most treasured possessions to be salvaged from flood or fire apparently consist of the four earliest (and exceedingly hard to come by) novels by my beloved Margery Sharp. (And my mother’s wedding ring.)

I’ve now had a month to mull over that book list, and it has remained exactly the same. In the meantime I’ve unpacked and re-read all four, and kept them handy, just in case. I might just add several more…

Onward we go, looking over our shoulders but basically getting on with things, feeling a bit like we’re living in the eye – or at least on the edge! –  of a fiery hurricane.

We sure could use some rain.

 

 

 

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