ser·en·dip·i·tous Nature

It was way too early in the morning to be getting up. We had to be at my brother’s house in Duncan at 0830 in the morning to supervise the unloading of the drywall. Snow was going to hit sometime that day. It doesn’t snow much over here on the West Coast. This is like the Hawaii of Canada. Oftentimes at the beginning of February spring-like conditions are already abundant. There are birds and blossoms that are just ready to spring forth bringing with them a flock of Japanese tourists who appreciate this marvelous natural wonder. This will have to wait this year. This early in the morning there aren’t many people on the ferry. Those who are using this service this early in the morning shuffle quietly among the sleeping passengers. We were such passengers but I could only sleep so much. There was an element of restlessness within me that wouldn’t let me continue sleeping. What awaited us was partially known my recollection of what had to be done fogged by the events since then. I went outside for some fresh air and to my astonishment encountered snow beginning to pile up on the ferry.

As we drove off from the ferry snow swirled in the air beginning to coat the surface of the road with it’s properties. People were driving slow except for those that knew better. We saw an empty logging truck slide it’s ass outwards as it made its turn left onto the highway. My dad was surprised that he was able to do that. There was that car further on that tested the strength of the divider between our sides of the road. I’m glad that it held. As we drove by the authorities were not yet there but other motorists stood by after inspecting the scene. We continued on deeper inland where the conditions continued to worsen. We got a call from my brother wondering where we are. We told him that we were driving. “So you are going to be catching the 0830 ferry then?” I didn’t have the heart to continue the ruse that we were on our way from the ferry so when he asked when we were going to be there I said “fifteen minutes.” This kind of cheered him up as he told me off for pulling his leg.

There is something wonderful about the snow. The way that freshly falling snow has the ability to change the environment is unmatched by any other weather phenomenon. Falling snow quiets the environment and changes it’s appearance due to the way it reflects light. Stare out into a forest or up into the air and the patterns of snowflakes or in this case clumps of them create an ever changing three dimensional grid as the collective impression of each instant in time overwhelms the visual cortex. Off in the distance the snow added to the dwindling remaining snowpack. Those little houses in front of the mountains with their chimneys spewing vapour in the air look quaint and like outposts of safety among this wilderness. As we got closer to my brothers house we drove slower as the roads haven’t been cleared yet. We caught up with the delivery truck as it turned onto the street leading up to my brothers house. When the truck stopped I cheekily called him informing him of our and the drywalls arrival at his house. He wasn’t in the mood.

Snow has only been falling for a few hours but the rate of snowfall was such that it already accumulated to a depth of a few inches necessitating a clearing operation of the driveway. My brother only has one snow shovel so it became a case of many watching the one worker. The truck had trouble backing up the driveway before the clearing started. It didn’t get any easier after some snow was cleared. My brother even paid for the unloading. We were going to get the boom to reach up to the second story window and they would thread the eight and ten foot sheets of 5/8ths through the window. This maneuver put a tremendous strain on one side of the lorry when the boom was out. Every few sheets it had to be readjusted as elastic forces eased the frame into a more favourable energy state. I was closely supervising this portion of the operation. I was worried about those sheets sliding along the new window frames. The guys put on a window guard to protect it. Some scrapes inevitably happened. Thirty-six sheets  went upstairs. It would have sucked to have to carry them upstairs. The boom has eliminated two to four jobs due to it’s existence. I don’t think that joke went down well with the two guys who were unloading.

After those guys left dad, my brother and I walked around and discussed our plan of action. My brother had some errands to run related to his job. His contract is at a critical point in the build. Snow is going to complicate matters for him. His own renovation is complicating the situation but that is life they say. We needed to discuss the strategy that we were going to take. The priority is taking care of the upstairs as that is the first place that has to be finished. That’s where my brother is going to be residing. We had to take down the remaining kitchen cabinets, fill in the holes in the ceiling drywall before putting up a second layer over top. There is too much trouble taking down the ceiling and all the associated stuff that is up there. Reinsulating it would cost too much besides this second layer adds to the structural strength of the ceiling. It is a lot of work though and my dad tried to persuade my brother to just patch it and speckle the ceiling but my brother was having none of that. He and his wife strongly despise that style of ceiling. The fad faded a long time ago for those ceilings as I look up and see my own speckled ceiling. The upstairs had the hallway, bathroom, laundry room, as well as a few associated areas that had to be filled in. The renovation encompasses only as much as is needed. The basement needs to be completely covered in drywall as it was completely redone in order to accommodate a small flat. My brother has put in a lot of hours and a lot of thought into this project. My dad and I are here to help him finish this project as it has dragged on past it’s initial estimated time.

It was time to get down to business as there is a lot of work. We have a hierarchy of priorities to contend with and areas where it is important to have my brother and I installing the drywall. The ceiling has to go in first. The edges along one side don’t have a stud into which we can screw the sheets into. Butting up the wall pieces against the ceiling pieces straightens out that joint creating the appearance of squareness. Parts of the ceiling especially over the windows sags a bit. The house is a bit older and some of the modifications made to it over the years weren’t up to code and created a potential hazard that had to be mitigated. Materials that once were common are now known to be hazardous and had to be removed according to the proper protocols for health and safety reasons. What we are doing is trying to do justice to all the effort that was put into it already. I’m glad my brother is a stickler for details. Things lined up quite well and the original studs are from good timber so that the whole place with the improvements done to it will be quite sound structurally. We are helping to form the aesthetics by carefully and methodically covering the structural elements with the drywall. This board adds to the overall strength and integrity of the building.

The set of couches that my brother acquired from my parent’s old house couldn’t fit through the hallway so they remained in the kitchen. We had to move them when we got to them. My brother had a new furnace installed recently and because of the filtration system we had to vacuum often when a buildup of drywall dust developed during the shaping process. The rasp that we used to even out the cut edges created a lot of dust when we used it. Because there was a lot of cutting to be done and the precision that we incorporated into our measurements these fine adjustments were necessary. My brother borrowed a device for lifting drywall pieces into place. this made the installation of the ceiling boards a lot easier. Those ten foot sheets are heavy and having to hold them would have been very arduous. After filling in all the holes and clearing the debris from the ground we managed to start installing the ceiling pieces on the Friday, the first day of our weekend. Dad and I were tired as we woke up quite early to get here. I haven’t had good sleep in a few days and it would be nice to get a good nights sleep. There was one problem that developed. My brother’s wife’s mom was stuck in Duncan. She attempted to drive home but because so much snow fell the roads were kind of impassible. Dad and I would have to share a bed. We were both too tired to be bothered.

It can’t be said enough times that this amount of snow at this time of the year is unprecedented. Here on the West Coast by the Pacific snow accumulates up in the mountains. In the winter time there is a lot of rain but the temperature stays on the positive side of freezing. The mountains accumulate snow as clouds shed weight trying to get over them. The higher one goes the colder it gets thus at certain temperatures and altitudes it is a perpetual winter wonderland making this part of the planet a mecca for snow enthusiasts. Vancouver itself has a number of such mountains. Vancouver Island has some places like that too. As we worked within the heavily insulated confines of this house we had a great view of this snow fall phenomenon that was happening outside. This throws a whole bunch of kinks into my brothers work plans. He had to finish off some things before they were going to be installing trusses for the roof. He has some apprentices that he has to supervise and this was giving him some stress. The building site would be covered in snow and one of them is gung ho and the other is timid. These extremes are both recipes for potential problems. We have day two ahead of us. I slept like a log and since my clock is two hours ahead it limited my sleep. I thought about coffee and the lack of it in this house. I put on my stuff and walked the route to a local coffee shop. The Fishbowl was a pleasant shock to my senses at this time in the morning. The environment enveloped you like a warm hug and the pleasant lady behind the counter made my coffee with a smile. It was a good start to the day. I didn’t want to wake anyone up with my activities but there was no chance of that. I was asked to bring a coffee for mum. The message reached me just as I was leaving with my cup of joe in hand.

My Sunday Coffee as the good shop was closed 😔

Working together on this project was actually quite enjoyable. It has been a long time since the tree of us have worked together. History told me that we could be in for a potentially argumentative weekend. Sometimes the three of us don’t agree and there was one or two topics that we discussed that elucidated the difference in opinion that we have. There was also a bit of banter that we naturally have between each other. That provided some laughs at various times. There was a lot of silence too as each of us were at times engrossed on our own individual tasks or little installation projects. My dad did a lot of patching. He covered all of the holes from the screws that we used to attach the drywall with. All of the joints had to be patched as well as the corners. It is just a long repetitive process. The patching had to dry before it can be sanded and then patched again. The result should be a nice smooth straight wall or ceiling. Putting up the second layer of drywall on the ceiling certainly straightened it out. The original drywall was installed using nails. Over time these nails lossen through the natural expansion and contraction that occurs with buildings. This loosens these sheets and creates sagging. We were putting in 2 3/4″ screws so that it could go through two layers of 5/8ths sheets of drywall. It took effort to drive these screws in smoothly but as they held and gripped the sheets there was satisfaction with each success frustration with the occasionally missed stud.

By the time we called it a day on the second day it was already past one in the morning. We had to quietly enter the house and each wait for our turns to take a shower. All that dust and associated sweat required a good scrubbing before bed. What also makes all of this tough is that my brother’s wife is sick. She has had some kind of a chronic condition that was exacerbated by the little one picking up something too and mutating it before she got it. It’s poor timing but what can one do? We have to do what we have to do but at the same time my brother has to take care of her a bit too. Since the third day is Sunday he took it easy and stayed at home to take care of the missus. Dad and I went to the house to just clean up a bit and to move the couches back. I stuffed a bunch of leftover off cuts of insulation around the tub. This is actually a really good idea. The insulation helps keep the water inside the tub hot. It was a finicky job as it was hard to stuff the insulation into those spaces. This is the day to do it though. Dad and I spent a few hours doing odds and ends like this as well as giving the place a good vacuuming. Back at my brother’s place we ate dinner together at a restaurant and we all took advantage to get some much deserved shut eye. My dad was going to go home for Sunday but due to the snow he was forced to stay. This gave us more time to spend together. Hence the cleanup on Sunday and the opportunity for my brother to stay home and take care of his family personally.

On day three we woke up and as we got ready we knew that there wasn’t going to be any work done by my brother on his site. He would come to his house to work on the drywall. We still had a few more ceiling panels to install and then there was all the walls that had to be done. We were supposed to get more snow. This snow is a really fortunate event for us. With my brother here at the house with us a lot more work can be done. He works in the building trades so he is familiar with a lot of the tips and tricks that are necessary sometimes. I found that on Saturday I was missing something. I had to cut a sheet four times before I got it right. Third time lucky wasn’t. It was frustrating and slightly embarrassing to have to face both my brother and my dad and admit that I messed up. There was a good reason for this. I wasn’t orienting the sheet right and the complexity of the measurements as well as the orientation of the sheet confused me. It was a lesson that I had to endure so that the rest of the job could go well. My brother doesn’t have an excessive amount of material to play with so I had to wisen up. Always cut and measure your sheets from the same side. That is the lesson. It may be harder to orient the sheet properly but in the long run it is the better method that consistently produces the desired results.

I was enjoying this time we had together. It was some kind of a bonding experience. The men all going out in the fierce elements and working together on a project. Both my dad and I could have easily dodged this activity. It is a lot of work and long hours that we were putting in helping my brother out. This isn’t for any material gain on our part but an entirely altruistic act for my brother’s benefit. We have to maintain these bonds as a family unit that has stayed together through the hard times in order to enjoy these good times that we are going through. At least I am now in a position that I hoped would one day happen. My relationship has improved my outlook and given me a vigor that I thought was fading but that was just due to an emotional influence that sometimes enters the mind during low points. Those times when we are susceptible to soft whispers from the corners in the mind. When resistance is at it’s weakest those kinds of thoughts can permeate and soil what could by someone else be perceived as the greener side. Here, I felt a warm kinship with my family members nurtured by the warm insulation and the progress that was evident with each new sheet of drywall attached to the wall.

We put in another long day although not as long as the second day. The next day, our fifth one there was going to be our last. More snow was forecast and I didn’t want to chance missing my flight home. I still had a few things to take care of before flying home. In the morning I finished off the staircase heading to the ground floor. I had to cut angles along the side of the stairs. The philosophy we had was to use as large a sheet as possible to cover an area. This way there are less joints to patch together. We were trying to be judicious with how many screws we used but I might have went a bit overboard on the stairs. No matter each two by four needed to be attached to the drywall and since this is a heavily used area the board had to be attached well. There are going to be kids and then teens running up and down these stairs not to mention the parents who could also do a lot of damage dropping things or intentionally trying to test the limits of their capacity against the wall. Kidding aside I wanted to do a good job for my brother. This place is going to see his family grow and infusing it with these positive vibes by expressing them in physical action will go a long way towards fostering that environment. The house sits nestled amongst the tall evergreen trees in a really nice setting. Looking out from the window when the sun shone between the bands of snowfall reflecting from snow covered branches. It was a beautiful sight like something you see in postcards or canadian expressionist landscape paintings. Sights like these help me understand why they used such colors. We saw a family of deer strolling through the property. They made their way through the woods and through the neighbors property. They were meticulous and graceful as they strode through the snow. Their legs like ballerina’s toes concentrating all the pressure of their weight through their long slender legs. You don’t see them in the city only out here in the countryside.

We finished off the upstairs and moved on to the downstairs. Down on the ground floor my brother wanted the space to be free of noise from upstairs so we were going to install Z-bar to the joists and we were going to attach the drywall to those bars. The Z-bar is a piece of specially engineered metal that is installed perpendicular to the joists. The metal lengths are quite flimsy if not picked up right as they bend easily due to their twelve foot length. They have a pattern notched into them that limits the amount of contact between the joists and the drywall dampening the amount of sound vibrations that can pass through the material. We had to use specialty screws that were much shorter than normal in order to attach the drywall. We also had to be careful not to drill screws through the metal and into the joist as this would defeat the purpose of installing them. These Z-bars are able to support two sheets of drywall attached to them. The first step in their installation is laying out how they were going to be oriented being mindful that we needed two feet between each bar. These bars also had to be arranged so that a sheet of drywall would end on one so that the two adjacent sheets would join on top of one of the bars. Since my brother never used this material it was a learning process for us and a bit finicky. We progressed slowly at first but then as we got going we progressed quickly finishing two ceilings downstairs before quickly finishing up so that dad and I could catch the 2015 ferry.

On our way to the ferry we stopped to say goodbye to the little one. It’s important for my brother that we did this so that he has a bit of continuity. We don’t just show up and disappear we came said hello and then goodbye. There was a lull in the snowfall but we knew more was coming from the forecast that we kept checking. Dad and I were both tired and hungry. We pushed the work as much as we could have at the expense of our diet. The first place we headed on the ferry was the cafeteria. My dad rarely eats out like this. He prefers home cooked meals as they agree with his digestive track more. All our lives the one thing my parents always strived for is for us to have good food. My dad worked in large meat processing plants and he told me stories of how everything is produced, how all of the food has so many additives. Rebellion as a youth came in the form of eating out as it was something novel to me. Those youthful days are behind me now as I much prefer a good meal at home. Society is much more conscious of these things now and we shop accordingly. My dad slept after the meal and I tried to do the same but I felt a bit restless. As we drove home from the ferry the full extent of the snowfall on the Lower Mainland became apparent. The further inland we drove the more snow was piled against the side of the road. Tiredness hit when we got to my parent’s house. I passed out soon thereafter.

In the morning the full extent of the snowfall around my parent’s house was apparent. There was a good twenty inches on the ground. My mom drove home on Friday from the apartment and said that the twenty minute drive took two hours. There were cars that didn’t have the right tires on their cars and thus were unable to make it up some of the hills that are around here. This blocked already slow moving traffic and lead to further delays. When she got home she parked her van in the garage and was essentially snowed in since then. This was five days ago. Yesterday in anticipation she removed some snow from the driveway so that we could park. She said it took her five hours to do all of that work. My mom is not in the best condition and it’s always somebody other than her that is shoveling snow. Out back she dug a little channel to the garage so that she could go to the fridges there to collect some of the food that they have there. I wasn’t expecting them to still be here at this house. It has basically been sold to someone else but they are just finalizing the finances before they get handed over the keys to the house. I was asked to remove the snow from over the addition in case it collapses or causes some structural damage. I remember when we built this thing. It is solid but due to it’s flat roof all of the weight could do something. It crushed the roof of the metallic garden furniture piece they have in the backyard. It’s crazy how much snow there was. Shovelling the snow through the gate that they have up there on the porch I created quite a high pile.

De-icing the plane

Besides the shovelling I had to pack my package that I will send over to Saskatoon. It had some power tools inside of it as well as some silverware that my parent’s bequeathed to Chrl and I. It will need some cleaning but I like using these utensils. We have had them for over thirty years now. Due to them just sitting there they got tarnished but I have a way of cleaning them that doesn’t take too long. I also had to pack for the airport. I fly out close to two in the afternoon. We need to send out the package and then drop me off at the airport. Another band of snow was supposed to start falling sometime this afternoon. I hope that I will be able to make it onto this flight. As we drove my dad took an uncleared road that they usually take as a shortcut. This is what the roads would be like if they didn’t clear them. It was a bumpy ride and my dad had a bit of a mischievous grin as he pressed on the gas. “See this car performs well in the snow we won’t slide off the road.” Those are words that someone says when they want to tempt fate and end up in a ditch. We continued on and sent the package and then me at the airport. This is a small airport but it saves a whole bunch of driving for my parents or sister when they pick me up or drop me off. It is also about seventy bucks cheaper as there are no additional airport improvement fees added to the cost of the flight.


There was only time for a bit of fresh air before it was time to pass through security. I should have bought chap stick at the variety store. I didn’t realize that there wasn’t any past the security check. This is a small airport as I said. The departure list was flashing red indicating all of the flights that were cancelled. My flight was the last one that was getting out of the airport today. The announcement over the intercom clarified what was happening. The airplane that was about to land was a few minutes late. It has to be unloaded and refueled before it was going to take off again. It was delayed by about fifteen minutes at this point. By the time we were about to take off it was about forty-five minutes late. I hope I make it onto my connecting flight to Saskatoon. Once we were in the air the flight took no time at all. The pilot said that there was “one heck of a tailwind” that was propelling the plane forward. The flight took less than thirty minutes allowing us to just make it to Calgary. Once there I heard my name mispronounced quite badly over the intercom. They were asking myself and two others to make it down to the airplane located at Gate Eh Six.  My lips felt so chapped that I stopped at a store to buy a stick. My lips have felt dehydrated for the past few days. Sitting there on the airplane there is nothing else to think about. I thought about my lips and how uncomfortable they felt. As we boarded the plane we got those looks from the other passengers as in “where the hell were you guys?” I mentioned to the guy beside me that we were the last plane to leave Abbotsford and about the snow that fell. He looked like one of those corporate guys travelling on business in his nicely pressed shirt and tie. The tailwind propelled us to Saskatoon quite quickly too. I was fascinated by the ground below me and all of the squares etched into the ground  indicating a homestead or field.

I took a cab home as it would have been a half hour wait for the next bus. I was tired from all the stuff that had happened over the past week. I also wanted to get home finally and reunite with Chrl. I missed her over the past week. It was nice that we were only apart for a few short days. I was too busy to think about not being here with her. Once home though those feelings of separation dissipated as we hugged hello. There was time for a light meal and then sleep as I felt quite tired. It was a good trip and we did a lot of work.

















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