Friday, July 18, 2014

Return to water

Last night I went in the water after sunset
Where the 2 rivers meet

Rough sand underfoot

I waited until fire centre released me
And the heat of the day had gone

Cool, twilit evening

Just me and the dark water
Nothing else under the surface

Fresh, swift current

Tinkling laughter echoes in the distance
Twisting, diving and dolphin kicks

Liberated, joyful dance

Last night I left the river after dark
Twinkling lights reflected

I return always, to water




Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goodnight 2013 ~ Good day 2014!

You know, I don't believe I have had a more staid New Year's Eve in my life. No 3am skinny-dipping. No polar bear dips. No dancing on the beach. No roaming Sucre streets til 4am. This year I was fast asleep before 10pm. Fireworks woke me at midnight, and so I stumbled onto my balcony and lit a sparkler for magic and love.

I cherish 2013 with all its ups and downs, and there were lots of both. Fortunately - as always - the ups outweighed my downs. I was human and made many mistakes last year - some far more foolish than others. Luckily, for the most part, I can say I learned from most of them, and can laugh at a lot of them. "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger,"is what my parents used to tell us siblings about each other when we were younger, so I recall anyway.

I made some amazing new friends this year. And developed some wonderful existing ones. One friendship in particular especially coloured the latter half of my year with joy and love. I am so very lucky to have finally found him. To me, he continues to be extraordinary and exotic. I am grateful for his fortitude during life's stresses and his continued faith and long-vision. We have had such fun doing a great variety of things together - proving him to be exactly the right kind of partner for me.

Summer Solstice quadding


It was not a 'good' fire season (from the helicopter industry's perspective) but I personally had a very productive year all in all. This fall I finally left - on good terms - the company where I have been working for the past few years, and signed on to be a heli-ski support pilot. I likely won't rack up the hours this winter but but the demanding conditions and weather should greatly improve my flying skills and so far I have been enjoying the challenge. Variety is the spice of life - so it is great to finally be doing something completely novel. Who knows where I will be for the summer - good thing I have a few more months to figure that out. 

Perched at landing high in the Monashees


Last year was the best year since I started flying for travel and adventure (outside of work anyway). 

Machu Picchu in January- particularly the Inca trail trek with my parents and brother Jeremy - was, of course, incredible. Rainy and muddy but also full of smiling co-trekkers, strong and nimble-footed porters, great food and pre-dawn coca tea. I missed doing Kilimajaro back in 2001 with them when I was doing my thesis research in Kenya, so I knew I couldn't miss this trekking opportunity. Hopefully there will be chances for a bunch more hiking adventures in the future - after we give Dad a little time to recover from his imminent hip replacement surgery. 

Machu Picchu - with a pesky llama blocking most of the view....

In June I joined my roommate for a birthday week of marlin fishing, diving, enchilada-gorging and margarita-imbibing in Cabo San Lucas.

Roomie Darryl's marlin - caught & released
 It was a fantastic spur-of-the-moment trip and a much needed emotional reset for myself.

Birthday diver in Cabo


Travellers came our way too. My cousin Sarah (Tink) and her hubbie and offspring made their way to Canada and I managed to sneak home from work just in time to catch up and cavort in the lake with them.

The Gibbons - family contingent from England - enjoy the balmy Okanagan at the Lakehouse


At the end of August I was vetted by my man's father in a most unusual manner. Considering we all survived, and indeed thrived, together on a 28 foot boat for almost a week of fishing around Bella Coola, I figure I passed with flying colours. The only time I ended up overboard was on a self-imposed swim to the Eucott Bay hot springs. 

Time for a luxurious scrub at the hot springs
It was incredible exploring the wilds, beaches and the ghost towns of West Coast Canada with my best friend. In addition, after the salmon and halibut practically leapt out of the ocean into my arms, I definitely feel more like a legitimate BCer. 


Dolpins, whales, eagles, crabs, rock-cod, seals, a black bear and (unfortunately) mosquitoes rounded out the experience. Unforgettable. 

Catch & release the lady-crabs on the coast


In November, I visited Jeremy, Tepita and Faramir in Gatineau, QC (Ottawa). 

Jeremy, Faramir & Tepita
Faramir is so full of energy and enthusiasm and is an adorable (but burly) cuddler. My brother is a lucky man to have found such a kind-hearted and beautiful wife. They always make me feel so special when I visit. 

Faramir and I feed the wildlife at Parc Omega


I was also able to make a side-trip to Niagara Falls to visit my friend Doug Smith. At 94 years of age, he proved to be an excellent host and tour-guide. We met years ago when he came to take a tour flight where I first worked as a pilot. To accord him the respect deserving of a WWII pilot, I made sure he got the co-pilot seat! We have been pen-pals ever since. 

With Doug at the falls


This year I spent Christmas day working with new friends, co-workers and guests at the ski lodge. A fun crew for sure. 



 Luckily I was still able to send season's cheer to my family and my love via internet-phone. We are spoiled by technology! Christmas with Mom, Dad, Kenai and Mistaya happened a few days later. I think the animals are still recovering from their Christmas costume torture.... We waited another couple of days for Mom's xmas dinner til my man and his dad could make it. It was worth the wait. The turkey, and the company. 

Us McLean girls just love dressing up for Christmas!
And now, here's to 2014! May yours be full of laughter, adventure, joy, magic, love and inspiration!

Sunset enroute home from Bella Cola in September

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratitude II

I am so grateful for my parents. I know I can count on them. They will listen when no one else can.  They won't judge me when I emote like a child but they will advise me as an adult. They are not perfect but they are good parents, friends, supporters and advisors. 
I am grateful  

Friday, November 22, 2013

How to remember

I remember the darndest things. And can forget the things that come naturally to others - people's names for example; if you are a Mark or a Mike, it is highly likely I will confuse your name with the other. I remember all the birthdays that were important to me at age 10. Do you think I can remember any of them for my best friends from college? Not a chance.

It is just over 6 months since I met my love. And just under 6 months since he rolled into my heart. And now I have just 6 days until he comes home. Tomorrow will be 6 weeks since he left. I guess I am good at counting. Sometimes. I think my mind enjoys finding patterns like mnemonics to help me remember.

My love says he is terrible at remembering things like anniversaries and birthdays. I think he must be lying just so he has an out to avoid trouble that one awful awful time when he does get so caught up that he forgets something key. I think he is also telling me that he doesn't mind if I am a little less than subtle when I want to remind him of something important to me. Fair game. But he does remember. He counts better than I do sometimes. Like how many sleeps til he gets back to me. And bus trips I am supposed to take. I don't mind if he wants to encourage the illusion of his poor memory - it was a survival mechanism he needed in another lifetime. I too have my own baggage I am trying to burn.

I don't mind if he forgets numbers sometimes because I know he remembers so many of the important things (most of the time). Like the kind of wine I like. And how to reach out for me when we are driving together in the car. How to turn around and wave to me as he disappears through airport security. How I love to talk with him as often as possible. How I appreciate my toes not being neglected. How to treat my family with respect. How to have a conversation without it devolving into an argument. How to treats me with such respect. How to laugh with me. How to quote Buzz Lightyear.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

What made you happy today

Life is sometimes the greatest conductor. I do not think I could have orchestrated a more idyllic week. Or 5 weeks. But this last week is, obviously, the most recent and therefore most vivid as I relax at home blissfully reflecting. These are the seemingly ordinary moments that have made my past week extraordinary: Chocolate cheesecake (the baking and the eating); red wine and Live; potluck with parents; double rainbow; faraway friend chats; 5 shooting stars & wishes; a waterfall, picnic and a beautiful surprise; not-crack-of-dawn cherry drying; scanning jaunt to Alberta; 999,000 bottles of beer at 11,000ft; hot summer motorbike ride; hugs and what made you happy; serendipitous beach/park friendship morphing into a private concert and more; exquisite wind-buffeted moonlit cruise home; deep talks & walks; nuts and icecream; bedside notes. I am so grateful for the bliss. What made you happy today? Carpe diem.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 in Review


Wow. It appears I have been a total slacker in the blog front since May! I will review as best I can.

Sunset over Steamboat Rock
Reunions was reunions.....not that I'd ever been since graduation but it was what I expected and I don't think I need to go again til my 25th. It was mayhem and alcohol-drenched and wonderful old friends and too short-a-time-to-REALLY-reconnect and forgotten but familiar faces and territory and nostalgia and orange and black and rugby and rain and dancing and misappropriated golf-carts (and bottles of wine). I was so lucky to spend a bit more time on the East Coast afterwards thanks to the homes and hospitality of my wonderful friends Ginny, and Bri-Bri, and Carlito and James. Those too were too short visits but at least we were allowed more than a few screamed sentences on the grass above the P-rade. 


2002 PUWRFC starters: Pauline, Kimo, Sappy, Me, Ginny, Suzanne, Reagan (honourary), Moira-missing due to hangover
After an excellent mountain flying course in Creston, there was rather a long lull without much flying but still long hours in the office and being on call for cherry blowing, some tours and some film shoots. 


 
Darryl and Dad enjoy the view from our deck
I have to admit that it is hard not to crack a cold one in the late afternoon sunshine, basking on my deck overlooking the lake and Okanagan Mountain Park because I *might* have to fly... But indeed, there are worse things in life than resisting a little temptation.


In my happy place
I got lucky in August when we won a big aerial survey contract for Mountain Pine Beetle. It meant I got to take 5 days off and then go fly my tail off. Chippy and I booked it for the border and spent a few days camping, hiking and skinneydipping around Steamboat Rock Park by the Grande Coulee Dam.


Atop Steamboat Rock overlooking the Grande Coulee
Not to mention eating enchiladas every time we went past a Mexican restaurant. Back North of the border, I spent another couple nights camping - this time in some wild land next to the Ashnola river. Mom, Dad and Kenai even joined me for a night.
With Jeremy at Johnstone Canyon near Banff
After the MPB survey stint in Alberta where I timed out for the first time in my career I had to have another bunch of days over before I was allowed near a helicopter again. The timing was perfect to visit my bother Jeremy who was in Banff for a geeky scientific conference.
Alpine lake near Canmore, Alberta 
I figured things would start to die down on the flying side since it was September, but it was rather the opposite! There was a fire in Peachland which had me hired on - out of home base - for 2 weeks. Indeed there were lots of other little fires around the Okanagan due to an extremely dry late summer (in contrast to the Juneuary we had earlier in the season).

By October, I figured I could count on being bored in the office but instead I got sent off to a fire in Northern BC with our new scanning guy, Bill. In October!!! I bribed the camp staff for turkey on Thanksgiving and they delivered.  Eventually the snow came and we headed south again.

Since I missed a home-cooked turkey for thanksgiving and I knew we wouldn't find one in South America, I created a holiday - Thankmas and invited an assortment of my dear friends from a variety of circles. Dad missed it because he was volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Nicaragua but he does not have such a fowl addiction as I do. My roommate Darryl made a fantastic BBQed bird (on his first ever attempt!) and everyone else brought delicious trimmings. I love my friends.


I was not home for long though since the ground survey portion of the Alberta MPB contracts commenced and I got to head Grande Prairie/Grande Cache way to fly crews into hard-to-access sites. Usually the crews will hike, snow-shoe or sled into their sites if they can but in some places - as long as there are big enough clearings (which there tend to be in Alberta) - it makes more sense to move the crews around via helicopter. I have to admit that I have spent more time flying in the tropics to date than in sub-zero climates....so when I descended through an inversion to land at my Chinook Lodge base at the beginning of the contract, I thought the heater had broken and a door had popped open. Alas no, I had gone from -7C at 9000ft to -22C at 4000ft. Damn! The first day working up there was rather miserable with the bitter cold, heavy snow and  terrible visibility - just what I wanted on my first day in almost year of winter ops :/ My crews were excellent though and after I started considering the weather and the work as an adventure as opposed to a trial, I had a lot more fun.

Ben Louwerse's shot of me and FANC just after take-off from staging 

 Thank goodness (and my harping roommate) for my Sorel boots! I do need a new working winter coat though -my old  Icefield one is getting rather tattered.

Bill captured me and FANC on very short final in Grande Cache

I hardly had time to pack after I got back home thanks to lots of wildlife surveys up until the day I had to fly South to Bolivia! I do like being busy - especially when it is flying and animals keeping me that way - so I didn't mind really, and I managed to remember to pack everything I needed except a headlamp!

Bolivia has been lovely so far. Most of our time has been spent celebrating weddings, Christmas, birthdays and New Years with our Canadian & Bolivian relatives. They do seem to like late nights here! I have to admit I have probably done more than my fair share of shopping...which is rather unlike me. I pride myself on not being a typical woman. Or tourist. Alas, it has been a long time since I've truly been on vacation, so that is my excuse. My nephew Faramir is having his 3rd birthday party tomorrow and the next day my Mom, Dad and brother Jeremy head Peru-wards to hike the Inca Trail for Machu Picchu. I am very excited for the adventure!



I wish you all the very best for the season (however belated). May your 2013 bring you love, joy, health, wealth and wackiness!




Enfin, I cannot say goodbye to 2012 without a farewell to my fellow friend of the sky - Nino - who died suddenly and tragically, but hopefully without pain, in a skydiving accident while working in New Zealand. Nino, Italian through and through, was my friend and housemate at the Big Blue House in Fiji. Most often Nino could be found with a huge grin on his face and massive camera in hand and I remember him telling me as we walked along a beach as dusk fell how amazing he thought the sky was in the South Pacific - it was always changing and astounding him. I will not forget you Nino. My friend, I can assure you that I do not ever expect to see another man clean a kitchen so thoroughly in just a sarong. Can you believe I once told you that you ought to go put some more clothes on?! Foolish me. Blue skies forever.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tigertown 2012


Greetings from the Okanagan,
 
I figured it was about time for a quick update. Not a ton has been going on since I moved into my new condo over the Christmas break.

 It was a pretty quiet winter on the work front though I did get to do fly some (pine-beetle infested) logging crews around in the snowy woods and cut-blocks just North East of the Rockies near Jasper.

Our heli-wine tours have started up again and we’ve been doing a fair bit of filming and promotion so there could be some videos coming out. It looks like there will be a big fire season in Canada this summer so I may be pretty busy with doing the IR scanning in the jetranger again. In spite of the 3am alarms, I do so love being on a fire. We’ve been doing quick flights at the Vernon speedway on race days which is pretty fun and good for some photo ops.



The boss is talking about sending me and the other jetranger pilot down to Australia next winter to be co-pilots on the medium helicopters that we send down there each winter for fire / flood support.


I had fun skiing on the slopes of Silver Star and Big White this winter but I don’t know whether I could really handle another quiet, non-traveling winter!

I’m headed to New York / New Jersey for my 10 year university reunion tonight. It will be an epic 4 days at Old Nassau – I’ve only been back once since I graduated and it wasn’t for reunions. It is usually a very pickled event but the key is to stay hydrated until AFTER the alum vs undergrad rugby game....
Since I haven’t had a proper vacation for over a year (since I left Fiji) I asked for a bit of extra time off so I’ll be in the NJ / NYC area (mostly based out of Princeton with my teammate Ginny) until Sunday June 10th. Saturday the 9th is my 32nd (!!!) birthday so let me know if you can make it to the celebrations....perhaps at a Jersey City Beergarden.... ? I want to spend much of my time reconnecting with old friends and exploring the city. I won’t have a car but if you are nearby and can let me know how to reach you by train or bus, hopefully we can meet up – otherwise see you on the 9th! If you don’t have a job and want to drag me on a roadtrip somewhere on the shore or somewhere, you know I’d be game.

I hope everyone is doing well and looking forward to summer (or winter for your Southerners....). I’ve certainly been enjoying a martini or two on my patio with its wonderful views of the lake and Okanagan Mountain Park. Late afternoon sun streams down and it is blissful. Hope to share a bevvie or 2 with any of you who can make it my way (if I’m not away working!)