Second Quarter Books (2021)

Second Quarter Books (2021)

Another quarter of the year down. Summer usually brings for me depression, envy, and doubt in myself as a mom. This year I am countering that with a goals reset and a Summer “would be cool if” List. And more books of course.

Here’s what the last three months looked like for me books-wise. 

I read 24 Books in total between April and June.

  • 1 non-fiction
  • 5 Canadian authors
  • 4 Indigenous authors
  • 17 Women authors
  • 12 POC (person of colour) authors
  • 3 short story collections or essays > I achieved my goal for the year

FAVOURITES

I read a lot of memorable, gut-wrenching, laugh-out-loud, gasp-inducing books this quarter so I couldn’t pick one favourite. So I picked 5.

  • Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark
  • Mind Spread Our On The Ground by Alicia Elliot
  • Burning Roses by S.L. Huang
  • Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather
  • How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Three science fiction/fantasy/horror novellas, and two essay collections. I’VE GOT A THEME AND I’M NOT AFRAID TO USE IT! Ha!

TRACKING NOTES

I have been tracking some demographics of the authors in relation to the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. These goals were set to help me stretch my subject matter, and not just read the same old white dudes. But now I can see the white supremacy in that and I don’t know what to do.

SPEAKING OF WHITE SUPREMACY

For white people living in Canada who are confused/angry/sad/etc. about the uncovering of the graves of Indigenous children at former residential school sites and just now realizing that you live in a super racist country. Hello. Welcome.

I have not been posting about this to social media lately, because I don’t want that to be my activism. Because social media is not real life, and the folks who control it are not my kind of people. I know that I don’t do enough in real life, and I know that book-learning will only get me so far and I am upset with myself for that. But here we are. I get stuck in my own head, that’s no surprise.

If you are a learner like me, here are some books by Indigenous authors I have loved and learned from this quarter:

  • Unsettling the Settler Within by Paulette Regan. It is very academic, but if you take it slow it’s really good.
  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The author is a poet and a botanist, and she combines science, the heart of the living world, and Indigenous knowledge so beautifully.
  • This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples. An openly gay Ojibwe man living on a reserve, trying to find some online hookups, while he’s being haunted by a ghost of a boy who’s taken up residence in a dog.
  • Indians on Vacation by Thomas King. It’s mostly a story about an elderly husband and wife bickering on vacation, but also somehow pokes at a deeper story.
  • Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. Epic fantasy inspired by pre-Columbian Indigenous cultures of the Americas. Gods and gore. Ooh baby.

While you’re learning from Indigenous folks, don’t forget to pay them.

WHAT’S UP NEXT?

Climate crisis. I’ve got a book on the go right now (by an old white guy) that is getting me fired up about the mess we’ve made. To be honest, it doesn’t take much. I’ve already started looking for more material by Indigenous folks, Black communities, and vulnerable communities in the Global South (aka “Third World”) where it is hitting the hardest. Any recommendations are welcome.

Day Trip Adventure in Clearwater County

Inspired by my pal Nadine, who took her family to Jasper for the day last month, I chatted with Dan about doing something similar for us, but in a different location. He said “sure”, and so we did.

This may come as a surprise, but I am not much of a planner when it comes to vacations. I usually scratch out a list of things to bring that is much longer than warranted, and then throw a bunch of things in a bag and head out the door. It is very helpful that I have a partner who hears “road trip” and does a full inspection on the car before mending his raincoat, and inventorying his travel bag and first aid kit.


For this particular trip, I knew I wanted to hike in the mountains and eat road trip snacks. That was it. The lack of planning is often assisted by the fact that I have deliciously low expectations.


LOCATION DETAILS

Clearwater County is one of those places in Alberta where if you know, you know. And if you don’t, it’s hard to explain. Highway 11 West is the main access point, and cuts straight across the county. It eventually takes you to Saskatchewan Crossing, and then you have the choice to go north into Jasper National Park, or south into Banff National Park. Big Horn 144A is a local Indigenous reserve, currently home to some members of the Bearspaw, Chiniki, and Wesley (​together known as the Stoney Nakoda) First Nations. The biggest “tourist draw” in this part of Alberta is Abraham Lake, a manmade lake controlled by the Big Horn Dam that is a lovely seafoam colour, and creates some spectacular bubbles in the winter. A lot of land here is designated “crown land”, which means you can hike and camp (mostly) wherever you want, and there is a lot of that going on. There is very spotty cell service. As you drive into the county, there are a lot of ranches. And then it is just forest and mountains.

WHAT WE DID

Every time I try to use All Trails for these excursions, I forget that I won’t have service. So we end up guessing on the trailhead locations, and stumbling along until we get tired. As I mentioned above, with this being crown land, there are trails crisscrossing each other all over the place. And if you see a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road, chances are there’s something good to see if you’ve got some time to find it.


Both “trails” we tackled started where the Cline River meets Abraham Lake. First up was a trail from the Pinto Lake Staging Area on the south side. This one was the tougher of the two, and we faced a lot of steep inclines. The All Trails comments all stated “when faced with an intersection, take the trail that goes down”, which proved to be mostly handy. We didn’t find the waterfalls I was expecting, but we got some lovely canyon views.
Next up was the Coral Creek and White Goat Staging Area on the north. Again, having no idea where the Coral Creek headed, we just started walking into the forest. We found a big lake, and then got a different view of the canyon from trail #1.


The vegetation and bird song were a bit different on each side, which was an interesting development. Big destinations like waterfalls or spectacular views are fun, but I like just wandering in the forest too, and that’s what we did!


After trail #1, we drove down to the lake and laid out a picnic blanket for lunch. Always pack a lunch and snacks on a day trip. That’s a very important rule. After trail #2, we drove to Rocky Mountain House and ate McDonald’s in our car before making our way home.

BUT SERIOUSLY, WHAT TO PACK

I have no big tips here. I pack a few layers of clothing and a rain coat. Hiking boots and driving shoes. Snacks, food, lots of water. Dan has the first aid kit and other outdoorsy things I’m sure. We didn’t bring any bear spray along this time, which was dumb because we were hiking in grizzly territory. Good thing I know lots of songs and can sing them loudly as we hike. A towel, bug spray, sunscreen, and picnic blanket rounds out the list. Day trips are nice because you’re not gone for so long that you need a lot of stuff. Plus, we were only an hour or so away from the closest town if we found ourselves in really desperate need of something.

STRUGGLES AND PRIVILEGES

The main struggle on this trip was the fact that I am currently not permitted to drive. That meant 7 hours on the road for Dan. In one day. That’s too many hours for him.


This is also our privilege though. We own a car and we’ve got a driver in the family. This especially felt like a big deal knowing that I could never get out here on my own.
Lucas doesn’t love hiking because there are no cars to ogle on the trail. But seriously, he is a trooper, and only started asking “how much longer” when we were all thinking that. When we told him we were on the way back to the car, well, that was the fastest I’d seen him walk all day! He carries his own water canteen, stops when he needs to, and thanks to many years of hiking in the mountains, does a great job on the more technical spots.

AND FINALLY

This day was loads of fun. I would love to do more day trips this summer, but will most likely stick closer to Edmonton. The mountains are lovely, but when we only have one driver, it makes more sense to keep the drive time to around 2 hours or less.

These are the traditional and contemporary lands of the Tsuu Tina, Niitsitpiis-Stahkoli (Blackfoot), Ktunaxa Nation Yagan Nukiy (Kootenay), and the Metis Nation. Clearwater County is in Treaty Six.

Earth Month 2021 – The Great Garbage Challenge

At the beginning of April I went for a walk in my neighbourhood and I picked up 5 small bags of garbage. And that got me thinking (more on this below). On this particular walk, I was alternately told “good for you” and “you’re a saint”. The rest of the folks I passed said nothing. And no one else was picking up garbage.

Picking up garbage in my community shouldn’t be a novelty or a saintly pastime.

My challenge for April was born out of this first walk, and I aimed to do four pickup walks a week. Two in my home community and two in my work community. I figure, the more I am out there visibly and consistently doing this, the more people will see that it’s totally normal and not weird. And maybe they’ll start doing it too.

LOGISTICS & SAFETY

Safety is a big consideration when out walking just normal like, but picking up garbage adds another layer. I use a grabber so I am not handling the garbage with my hands, but thick work gloves would do in a pinch. Also, my body is not as young as it used to be, so using the grabber puts less strain on my knees and back. I wear my high vest vest when walking at night, stick to the sidewalks as much as possible, and watch for drivers because pedestrians are mostly invisible to you. I am a woman, so I am (already) constantly vigilant to what and who is in my surroundings.

Other than my grabber, I don’t use any specialized equipment. I’ve got a stash of plastic bags I can’t use for grocery shopping that come with me on these walks. I don’t sort out the recyclables, other than cans, which I leave out for my unhoused neighbours to collect.
My office is in a less privileged/wealthy/white part of town, so the garbage there is of a different quality. Over the course of the month I picked up a condom, some harm reduction supplies, and one needle.

Do not pick up needles or anything otherwise hazardous. In Edmonton, if you find needles on the street you can call 311, or report it using the 311 app.

ON PRIVILEGE

This might sound weird coming from someone who is literally picking up garbage as a hobby, but there is a lot of unearned white and class privilege involved in this act. I am a cleanly dressed white lady walking around a lower-middle class neighbourhood. I am not stopped or harassed on the street for doing this. No one asks me what I’m doing or if I belong there. I am left alone. The cops have never been called because someone saw me wandering around their property. This is a huge deal for me, and I plan to spend this privilege wisely.

WALKING AND THINKING

On my garbage walks I think a lot. I don’t distract or numb my brain with music, podcasts, or audiobooks. I like letting my mind wander. Sometimes I come up with Big Ideas. And sometimes I get sad.

Who wants to befriend someone whose idea of a nice night out is a quiet walk in the neighbourhood picking up garbage? I couldn’t even hold a conversation with the guy outside the 7-11 while I was buying him dinner. I read so much and I know so much, but my brain gets stuck when there are other people involved. And I get snarky when I can’t articulate my thoughts and people aren’t magically on the same page as me. From what I have seen & experienced, people want a friend who watches the same TV as them, and buys the same clothes, and gets their hair done, people who do capitalism the same. I don’t participate in society in the way I am supposed to, so I am a weirdo. Folks tell me how great I am, how inspiring, how interesting, but they don’t ask me out for coffee. This is not a pity party. This is part of how I examine my life, explore my interests, and figure out my goals.

RUN THE NUMBERS

I went for 16 Trash Walks over the month of April, split almost evenly between home and work. The home walks were longer distances overall, with more time spent there, as I was using my “lunch break” 30 minutes for the work walks. I picked up 23 bags of trash, some the size of a (literal) bread bag, and some large black bags that I received in a garbage pick-up kit. I walked almost 24km in total, and found 727 hours in my month to take this on!

NOW WHAT?

I need to take my individual environmental actions and turn them into community actions that have a wider impact and can influence systems change. No more excuses. I have no idea how to do that, but here we are.

I need to make better use of the connections I have in the community, that I often forget about. The Waste Free Edmonton advocacy group, my Community League, and the Master Composter network.

I plan to incorporate garbage picks into the community walking group that I’m (hopefully) spearheading this spring. I have reached out to a local business about how all of their compostable cups are ending up in the garbage, and I sent an email to Bulk Barn asking when their refillable program will be starting up again.
It’s not a lot, but it’s a start.

LEARN AND TAKE ACTION

Watch: Garbage Dreams

Join: Trash Hero World

Register: Edmonton Cart Rollout Info Sessions

Read: