Wednesday, March 25, 2009

School Days

We have a snow day today: hazardous driving conditions from about six inches of Spring snow. With extra time available I looked through a series of pictures from one of my facebook groups: Hamilton High School. I attended Hamilton from January 1963 to April 1965 -- two years and one school term.

I remember the school, although not nearly as well as some in the facebook group. I wore a grey uniform with a blue and maroon striped tie, grey knee high socks, maroon cap, and black shoes.

I was in Form Three (Grade 10) when we left, and entered Grade 11 in Pennsylvania that September. But Hamilton is the place where I really began to grow up, and the facebook pictures called back many memories. Pictures of the school fields recalled hours spent during school walking over the ground that would one day be a rugby field, picking up stones to clear the field for planting grass. Not a particular punishment: just an activity by which all students participated in upgrading the school. Today the rugby field has virtually returned to the bush from which it came.

Other pictures showed the way that an all boys school puts on musicals. The girls chorus was populated by boys wearing dresses and singing the girls' parts -- which we could do because our voices had not yet broken. I was Ellen in Oklahoma, a minor part with three lines. I still know the women's music in Oklahoma better than the men's.

The pictures recalled a day when girls from nearby Montrose school studied with the boys of Hamilton, until they had enough students in the upper forms to fill their own classes. We were an all-boys school, and the sight of girls on our grounds filled us with fear. Some of the comments under the pictures (posted both by girls from Montrose and boys from Hamilton) recalled how strange and desired the experience was for both. Little wonder that my Grade 11 in Pennsylvania was a bit frightening: too many girls in the classroom!

Most of all the pictures recalled a day when the vast majority of the country's education was directed towards the White minority. I benefited with a superior education unavailable to most Rhodesians of the day. Now the school grounds and buildings are in disrepair. The Thistle on the school gate (Hamilton is a Scottish clan; the Thistle is the Scottish emblem) is faded and pockmarked. Pictures from an old boy who had visited Hamilton recently showed the decay.

I know that Zimbabwe is necessary, and that Rhodesia was an unjust monstrosity. But I mourn the passing of what was good in the old, and its death in the new. They say you can't go back. Except I suppose in our memories. Pictures of a time past, in a country that no longer exists, of people that I haven't seen for over 30 years and don't expect to see again. Even on facebook.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Driving Again

I should take pictures like my sister does, then illustrating narratives would be so much easier! But I am not the photographer in our family; and Lois was sick on Sunday. So I drove down to Minnesota alone.

There was a lot of water out. The Red River is filling up with water, and the Red River valley is on full flood alert. When I candidated at Providence in 1997, the crest of that year's flood was moving through Winnipeg: The Flood of the Century. Now people are talking about a repeat. It doesn't look quite as bad here in Manitoba; but in Minnesota and North Dakota the danger is real.

I saw fields full of water, fields that needed a skiff more than a tractor. They aren't as bad yet as they might become, but they're bad enough. I was preaching at a Covenant church in a small northern Minnesota town -- mostly farmer families. Not everyone was there: at least one family was sandbagging their yard to keep the place safe from rising water.

Meanwhile we wait. Tonight we're supposed to get two or three inches of rain (or its equivalent in snow). That's the fear -- that a major storm will add to the frozen or waterlogged ground and run off into the Red. Then ice jams downriver closer to Lake Winnipeg can add to the problem.

The Red flows north, an unusual thought for most Americans. usually it is a placid, mild stream. Now we're watching it grow and praying that it doesn't get too high.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Updating Spiders

Last October we thought we were infested with spiders. I wrote about our adventures here and here. A lot has happened since then. We bought a new mattress (first one in 30 plus years). We sprayed for the little critters. I slept on my own while we took measures to clear the house.

Now I know that I killed a spider on my ear at 2 am or so, just after the doctor told me that my swellings looked like a spider bite. So our actions were more or less rational. Besides, we found several friends with similar stories. Maybe there was a spider or two involved!

But long after we were sure that the spiders were gone, the apparent bites continued. Finally I had to conclude that some sort of allergic reaction was under way. I tried avoiding peanuts, milk, msg, all the usual suspects. The effort brought no more relief from the swellings than sleeping in another room far away from my sweetie had.

Finally I ended up at the allergist's office, where my arm was swabbed and pricked with 30 or so substances. Only the histamine prick formed a reaction, which said that I was normal. But my arm was itchy the next day where they pricked and smeared me! Blood tests ruled out any other underlying cause, and the reactions continued unabated.

Finally two weeks ago they did start to abate, and finally I am more or less clear of reactions. They may return, but for the moment they have receded. The most likely culprit seems to be some low level allergic reaction, exacerbated by stress. Well, it has been a stressful six months, harder perhaps than any similar period that I've been through. But spider bites? I ask you!

Anyway, they are gone for a bit now. Some time I may try to describe what stress feels like, besides just itchy!