Pine marten…now with more tail-washing!

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The continuing saga of a writing residency, which is beginning to resemble a pine marten safari to the mountains.

Saturday morning.

A busy, productive day of writing, though the action halted mid-morning when the pine marten rolled up and started washing his tail.


I’m a sucker for the pine marten. He washed, took a five minute nap (seriously!) and then took off in search of voles and mice and peppermints.


The writing is going very well today; four thousand words by dinner, and I’m looking to get another thousand down before the evening is through. The temperature is dropping and the wind is picking up and it’s hard not to stop and watch the trees moving back and forth. It’s hypnotic.

Tail-washing interruptis.

More Banff.


The meals:
Breakfast: coddled egg, toast, grapefruit
Lunch: haddock, french fries, spinach salad, macaroni salad
Dinner: salmon with tomato something on it, potato salad, macaroni salad, some fancy mushrooms, a fancy pear torte thing for dinner.

Pine marten!

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The continuing saga of a writing residency, in which the writer rhapsodizes about pine martens.


So Fred’s gone home to New York, and his absence at dinner was conspicuous. I’m now halfway through my residency, which, frankly, is astonishing. One the one hand, I can’t believe the halfway mark is already here.On the other…I can’t believe I still have nine days of work on the novel ahead of me. Will I manage to finish? I hope so.


I’m still making steady progress on the novel. I walked down to the townsite in the morning for a little wander. There was a triathlon going on in, and the roads were blocked off for part of the course – a very different feel from the way the town usually looks, but not in a bad way.

View from the studio.

I wandered back and got back to work. The story is inching closer and closer to the 75,000 words I’m aiming for – minimum – though I’m beginning to suspect that it’ll be longer. The plot? Slowly moving along, keeping time with the outline I’ve written.

The weather is supposed to cool off over the next few days, so there’s a better chance that I’ll actually be able to wear the sweater I knit for this residency!

Pine marten!

Also? Finally managed to get a picture of the pine marten. I was sitting at my desk in the studio when I saw the movement out of the corner of my eye…grabbed the camera, and started shooting.

Pine marten!

Turns out it’s must easier to take a picture of a pine marten if it curls up under a tree to take a nap. I watched it for a while – pine martens yawn and wash just like cats – and then it settled down to sleep. After a while, it woke up, had a little wash, and then went gamboling off.

Pine marten!

Pine marten!

I must agree with the poet in the studio down the path from me. They do seem jolly.

Pine marten!

The meals:
Breakfast: English muffin, eggs, grapefruit
Lunch: egg salad sandwich and milk
Dinner: roast chicken, carrots in a honey glaze, couscous, macaroni salad, coffee cheesecake and a banana pastry.

Fred leaves; I keep writing.

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The continuing saga of a writing residency. Today: the writer bids farewell to a friend, and obtains a clipboard through the generosity of another.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

I feel as though my writing practice is on the cusp of some sort of change. I don’t know quite what the new practice will be like – is it really possible to know? – but there has been an invigoration taking place in my little cabin in the woods. It might be that the creak of the door, first opened in the morning, has enlivened a part of me that was half-asleep. It might be that the lack of responsibilities, save one – be inspired – has left me open to the possibilities I had turned my face from. Perhaps the pine marten has something to do with it; it’s hard not to feel like you should be working when one galumphs by on its quest for sparrows and mice (they look so very busy and determined when they’re doing it).

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

Up on Sulphur mountain.

Maybe it’s because I’ve finally started to believe that this novel will be something that gets finished and is good? I don’t know. Perhaps.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

Fred takes in the view from the gondola.

Fred packed up and headed home today. Sigh. It was so nice to meet him – and so neat to see him exploring and discovering the Banff Centre and the 3-Day Novel Contest. He’s a neat guy. We’ve known each other online for years, but this was the first time meeting in person, and he’s just as nice in ‘real life’ as he is online. It’s nice when that works out like that.

And Jocelyn came up to visit – she brought me some markers and a clipboard, upon request, and I’m putting them to very good use. We had dinner down in Banff, and then she drove me back to the Banff Centre and told me sternly to get back to work.

Hello, squirrel.

The meals:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, grapefruit, English muffin
Lunch: cob salad (meh)
Dinner: fish and chips down in Banff with Jocelyn!

Feed a squirrel, become a squirrel.

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The continuing saga of a writing residency. Today: dinnertime hijinks and ensuring hilarity.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

How can it already be day six?


Dinnertime conversation this evening: the devising of a theory that a curse lies over the valley that Banff sits in. If you feed the wildlife here, you become that wildlife. Feed a squirrel, become a squirrel. Feed one of the trail riding horses, doomed to become a horse yourself. Hence the posting of signs in Banff warning that feeding the wildlife is illegal. It’s not so much to protect the wildlife…it’s to protect tourists from turning into squirrels and elk. Also discussed: the Butterball turkey hotline, why all Canadian airports start with the letter Y and whether or not we should rename Canadian cities to match: Yalgary, Yoronto, Yancouver…and how we’d sound very Norwegian if we did.

The view a-horseback.

Man, I love mealtime at the Banff Centre.

Fred and Francis.

I went horseback riding with Fred this morning – out along the river and up into the hills on a guided tour. We had a really lovely time. Fred had a horse named Francis, and I rode a horse named Troy. When we got into the cab to go back to the Banff Centre, the driver asked us how the ride was. When I said that I had a horse named Troy, he said, “Oh, Troy! I love Troy! He’s such a great guy!”

Me and Troy.

Hence the first part of the dinnertime conversation, actually. Fred and I had been up to the gondola on Sulphur Mountain, and we’d heard a staff member lecturing a tourist about feeding the squirrels (rightly so – it’s illegal in the national park and clearly marked). The lecture was withering – I’d have been terribly upset if I’d been on the receiving end of this: “Sir, you have shortened the life of that squirrel.” So we were recounting this, along with the story of the cab driver who knew the horse…and reasoned that if you become a squirrel if you feed a squirrel, a cabbie named Troy must have fed a horse and, well…you see how it goes.


It’s one of those things where you kinda had to be there. Suffice it to say that we laughed so hard that we cried.


So here it is…the end of the day, and I’m back in my studio (a little sore from riding, but not too bad). I’ve got some writing to do to make up my daily goal – about two thousand words a day will see me finishing the novel by day eighteen, I think. I hope!

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

The meals:
Breakfast: eggs, bacon, Belgian waffle, yogurt, grapefruit, peaches, coffee, orange juice
Lunch: salmon sandwich with pickle, tomato and Swiss cheese, cottage cheese, broccoli salad
Dinner: salmon fillet in lemon butter sauce, jasmine rice, Caesar salad, broccoli with cheese, a dinner roll, cranberry juice mixed with club soda, hilarity

Chapters ten and eleven finished.

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The continuing saga of a writing residency, in which our heroine watches a pine marten instead of writing chapter twelve.

The pine marten.

Day five draws to a close. I spent almost all of it in the studio, working on chapters ten and eleven, and starting chapter twelve. This morning, the pine marten jogged by the studio, paused to look in, and galumphed off into the trees. They are the object of fascination for everybody in the colony – we talk about them at dinner, speculate on what they do during the day, and work with cameras on our desks so that we can try to get a picture of one as it goes racing by.

Pine marten!

I slept like a log last night – no doubt due to the trip to the Sulphur Mountain gondola with Fred yesterday afternoon. We’re going horseback riding tomorrow…his first time riding, too, and I really hope that he enjoys it.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

As for me…I’m enjoying Banff, and especially the Banff Centre. I waited such a long time for this, and I’m so very happy that I’m here now. I feel like a writer. The novel – I’m feeling entirely comfortable calling it that now – feels real, and I really like the direction it’s taking. I feel content with the work I’m doing, and…to be honest, I feel really proud of it, too. This story that’s emerging, characters I care about…it’s just such a privilege to be able to say that it’s mine.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

And that was the kind of day I had.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

The meals:
Breakfast: bowl of cereal and coffee (trying not to overdo the bacon)
Lunch: more California rolls and a Happy Planet juice
Dinner: Teryaki beef, pasta primavera with feta cheese sprinkled on top, couscous, zucchini, chocolate orange cake and chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce, cranberry and club soda and a lot of water.

Can’t remember what day of the week it is.

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The continuing saga of a writing residency – now complete, but fondly remembered. In this chapter, the writer loses track of time, and climbs along the top of a mountain.


A wonderful thing has happened: several times today, I’ve forgotten the date and day of the week. I know the time – I wear a watch my father restored for me around my neck (a pendant watch from the 1918-era, and most likely worn by a nun). But I’ve had to stop and think: what day is it? Is it Tuesday? Monday? How many days do I have left?


Such a wonderful thing…and such a luxury, too. It’s a sign that the writing is going well, yes…but more importantly, a sign that I’m slowly slipping into a state of relaxation. I slept well last night – well enough that I woke up in the middle of the night, as I often do, and thought that I was at home. Today Fred and I took the gondola up to the top of Sulphur mountain and walked along the boardwalk that goes to along the ridge to Sanson’s Peak. It was a lovely walk…a bit tiring, yes, and we’re both a little sunburned. But worth the trip, and it was lovely to have Fred’s company.

Fred and me!

Upon on Sulphur mountain.


The writing is going well. The novel is about a third of the the way done, and I’m making steady progress on it. If I’m able to keep working at the pace I am right now, I think there’s a very good chance that it will be finished by the time I leave.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

And when I say ‘the pace I’m going at right now,’ I mean a leisurely, measured pace. It includes many trips to the deck to gaze at my miniature meadow, frequent breaks for meals, and time spent just watching the trees sway in the wind. Not surprisingly, I think, the novel seems to already have a number of references to the wind sighing through the trees. I’ll have to go back and do some editing when I’m done, I think.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

These past few days have been wonderful. A lot of good food, a lot of looking at beautiful scenery and admiring how spiderwebs glint in the morning sun, and a lot of great writing.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

I wish it could be like this always.

Upon on Sulphur mountain.

The meals:
Breakfast: bowl of cereal and some juice
Lunch: ham and cheese sandwich and chicken noodle soup, ice tea
Dinner: herb-encrusted brisket with port reduction, cauliflower, plain rice, pasta with cheese. Mousse for dessert. Lots of water and iced tea.

Banff Centre sweater.

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The continuing saga of a writing residency. The writer discusses a sweater and the frenzy to finish before departing for her time in the mountains.

In the last week before my trip to the Banff Centre, I was knitting madly – convinced that there would be cold enough weather to merit the need for a new Banff Centre sweater. And though it was quite warm the first week (almost to my dismay), the weather got progressively cooler and I was wearing the sweater before the residency was out.

Banff Centre sweater!

Fred and I went up the gondola to do the civilized hike along the mountain (a nice boardwalk, with stairs and handrails, and with many benches and places to stop and admire the scenery). It was entirely too hot to wear the sweater, but I took it with me. And I was bound and determined to get a picture of the sweater at the top of a mountain.

The Banff Centre sweater.

And I did. Behold: the Banff Centre sweater. Noro Kureyon, ten skeins (with about half a skein left over) knit on US 9 needles. . The pattern is my own, generated with Sweater Wizard and then tweaked a bit. It fit very nicely; I made the sleeves just a little bit long on purpose – I like it to cover over the little bump in the wrist. Worn up the side of a mountain, on a horseback riding trip, and in my studio. Very comfy!