Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Riches

A couple of years back I worked here. I gave walking tours to grade 4 and 5 schoolchildren primarily from Calgary. High River has 3 elementary schools, and the year I did the tours there, only one class from High River came out. The lakebed was dry enough for a few years at the end of WW2 that it was used as a landing strip for pilots in training to practice take offs and landings. Now it's a carefully husbanded series of basins that serve as a natural water filtration system. (isn't it amazing what nature will do if we just let her?)

Over the years it's had a varied and sometimes tragic history. It was fun taking the kids along the shore, pointing out various birds and talking about their habits and how all the animals, birds, reptiles and insects lived together in a food chain. My favourite part though, was at the end of the walk, within site of the buses waiting to take them back to school. We'd stop at a rock, like many of the rocks surrounding the lake. We'd talk about the way the glaciers had left behind the rocks like discarded running shoes and socks as it melted back to the mountains. I'd ask them to sit quietly (not that huge a hardship, we'd just hiked 1.5 km) and close their eyes to listen to the symphony of sound. Often enough that it seemed prearranged the various birds would oblige me with a background sound of the Franklin Gulls, the occasional lone cry of the Arctic Tern and for effect, the screendoor creaking cry of the Yellow Headed Blackbird, all birds we'd spoken of on our hike. I'd ask them to listen for the sound of the wind through the grass and it was amazing to watch their faces as they picked out sound after sound.

I'd ask them to imagine the lake 50 years ago, 100 years, 300 years ago. We'd talk about the buffalo and how the last one seen in the area was seen in the mist of an early morning some time in 1952. I'm not a treehugger in the sense of living without to save the planet but I do think it's important for children (and some adults to be honest) to learn about what we're giving up for all our mod cons.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Riches on my doorstep.

I pass by this place every workday on my commute. Twice technically, but the highway is divided through town so it's only on my way home that I'm greeted by the two period planes on their stands, forever lifting from the ground, forever grounded. I've driven by it approximately 170 times, just commuting. It's a way point on our drive. It means we're nearly home, safe and sound with only the last stretch of 20 or so kms ahead of us. Often we stop for gas or at the grocery store for something for supper. The planes off to the right and to the left above the model train place an over sized flag with a Union Jack on a light blue background. I'm not sure if it's flown by the Legion, or Friends of the Air Museum or the town or a combination of the whole lot. Recently, it flew at half mast in honour as a local family mourned and celebrated the sacrifice of their son.

I'm a 'newcomer' though, so I don't know the family nor the soldier, but it made me remember every time I drove through town. Unlike many of the 'memorials' (and frankly I'm using the word very loosely there) at intersections and along various roads to mark where someone has died in a car accident, it didn't make me angry or annoyed to be reminded. It made me proud.

But enough of that.

A week or two ago, after much nagging and a chorus of "please can we go..." with an encore or twelve I reluctantly set out to drive to the city for some watersliding swimmin'ing time. For one reason and another I wended my way through town instead of following the north bound leg of the highway and so found myself just down the street from the museum.

The bomber was out for a cleaning. I stopped, much to the chagrin of the 'chorus' in the backseat (and front for that matter) and grabbed my camera to snap a few shots.

I've never gone through the museum. I've stopped in once and had a quick peek in the foyer as I asked about upcoming events but I never went back.

Here is history, carefully and lovingly preserved, right on my doorstep and I never even stop to look. Shame on me.