Saturday, August 12, 2017

Going on vacation

Halifax Public Gardens (I visited after the hospital which is nearby)
This will be my last post for a while, I am going away and not taking the computer with me so I will probably not be posting anything until some time after I get back. I'd like to say "as soon as I get back" but invariably I have to hit the ground running when I return home with various things left undone while I was away, not to mention putting away travel things and such.

Hapi will stay here, I have a young friend who will house- and dog-sit for the duration. He says he is grateful for a whole house for a whole month all to himself (and Hapi). Not something he is used to.

I've been very busy getting ready to go. One last visit with my friend in the hospital yesterday. She is much better than she was the last time I saw her, not loopy at all but quite lucid and present. Since the last time I saw her she had all of her family visiting which was quite a treat for her. She's in isolation because of the antibiotic-resistant infection, so she can only see her grandchildren via FaceTime on her iPad. Adults can visit provided they gown up and wear gloves.

I called my friend before going into the city to see her. She asked for a sandwich wrap and a pound of butter. I picked up those things before going to the hospital; I also brought a container to store the butter in. She has no appetite for hospital food, the sandwich wrap came in two parts, one she ate while I was there and the other she saved for supper. Not sure what she wanted the butter for, maybe because the hospital gives her margarine with bread.

We yakked about the great visit she had with her family and about grandchildren. Then we FaceTimed her sister in Toronto, who was in the midst of cleaning behind her frigerator on a very hot humid day; she was in her underwear. She said she was doing this because a friend told her that she (the friend) did it every two weeks, and since she (the sister) had never done it she was feeling guilty and thought she ought to be doing this. On a hot humid day. I've never cleaned behind my fridge either and I'm not going to start now, it's probably totally disgusting back there.

So my friend in the hospital may or may not be there when I get back. She may or may not get out of the hospital and into the nursing home bed reserved for her when the infection is deemed cured.

My trip involves five flights, stopping in two places in British Columbia, one in Alberta and one in Ontario. I will be seeing my new grandchild, three sons, multiple old friends and one or two brothers, depending on whether one of the brothers can find the time. I was able to schedule myself for the family and friends out west but closer to me (Ontario) not so much. The theory being that the ones in Ontario could always try to visit me here. The trip is complicated enough, it would be impossible to do it to everyone else's schedule.

Since last I posted I went on a little road trip with a friend to a rock concert and someone's cottage in Pictou County. We camped out the night of the concert. The concert was great, the headliners that night were Matt Andersen and Alan Doyle.

Matt Andersen (there was a screen as well as the stage)

Alan whipped up the audience something fierce. The concert was outdoors and most people were standing (my friend and I had bleacher seats). Most all of them knew all the words from when Alan was with Great Big Sea, so there was a lot of singing along and waving of arms and cell phone flash lights. According to Alan, Great Big Sea got their first exposure to mainland Canada in Pictou County so for him it was like a second home.

Alan Doyle and the Beautiful Gypsies, stirring up the crowd
The friend's cottage was an amazing place, but so infested with (really aggressive vicious) mosquitoes that you could not step outdoors. We could look at the waterfront but not actually go to it. So we sat inside and had a great supper and lots of gin and tonics. Would have been nicer without the mosquitoes.

My friend's dog loves me because he knows I own Hapi, his favourite female dog. He followed me everywhere. When I went outside to back the car closer to the cottage he came too and I had to pick him up and put him in the car so I wouldn't back over him; he's not a bright dog.

Public Gardens commemorative bed

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The dying of the light

I visited a dying friend in the hospital today. I was only there for an hour and a half but now I am totally exhausted, I can hardly think. My mind is not exactly blank but I don't know what to think or what to do with myself.

There were three of us friends and her daughter there. Sounds crowded but it wasn't really. A nurse came in to give her some medication and then a lab tech came in to take blood. She couldn't keep anything down so they didn't bring her any lunch. She's in a geriatric unit. One friend is upset about that, she thinks our very sick friend should be in the main part of the hospital where the doctors will be more concerned about finding what's wrong with her and fixing it. I think she's a bit appalled that the rest of us don't think that too.

Our dying friend seems alert and--I'd like to say happy but that's not quite the right word. She likes the company, she likes the nurses, she feels cared for. But she's kind of loopy, in and out, there and not there. It's not drugs, she was sort of loopy before she went into the hospital, whatever is wrong with her is what is making her loopy. They think it's an antibiotic-resistant infection, but they don't know where the infection is.

The blinds were closed because the light bothered her, but I could see that it was a nice view of a park outside. Someone asked her if she was hungry and she said she couldn't remember, then we asked if she was hot and she said she didn't know. She was picking at the blanket like she wanted to pull it up or take it off, but she didn't know which she wanted. She would start to say something, repeating the first few words several times, then kind of fading out like she had forgotten what she wanted to say or she was falling asleep. Loopy. But then she'd finish the sentence and it wasn't loopy at all. In and out, there and not there.

But what we had heard about her state was far worse than what we saw, we were kind of relieved to see her awake and smiling because we had been told that she might not recognize us or she might be unconscious. She's definitely conscious. It seemed to us afterward when we talked about it that this was what they mean when they say someone died peacefully, she seems at peace with her state of being now. People say how awful it is to die in a hospital, but seeing my friend I think there are far worse ways to die. She is comfortable and she is cared for and she seems at peace.

I've known her for more than forty years, I don't know how much longer she will last. Maybe a few hours, maybe a few weeks, who knows. Her sister is coming from Toronto to see her tomorrow and she adores her sister, so I think she'll stick around for that.

A few days ago I had a new grandchild, today I visited a dying friend. I don't know how to describe what that feels like, a kind of numbness, a hole where there used to be feeling.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My summer thus far


It has been a while and a lot has happened:
  • Went to Newfoundland to visit fellow blogger Wisewebwoman (see this post)
  • Been busy around the homestead with yard work and so forth and so on (more detail here)
  • Trying to plan a trip out west--nerve-wracking! stressful!--also described here 
  • My (probably last) grandson was born yesterday.
Right now the last item is the biggest news for me, I am so excited but am having to contain myself because they (the parents) are out west and I am here and while some of my local friends are almost as excited as I am, many are like: oh how nice for you dear, and let me tell you about the horrible day I just had.

Are you kidding me?!? I'm over the moon and you want me to commiserate with your bad shopping experience?!? Sorry, sarcasm off. The one friend I could count on to be almost as excited as I am was out of town at a lovely family wedding. I left her a phone message, she responded as expected (gratifyingly) today. But yesterday was a little weird, being terribly happy and excited and not being able to talk about it.

My son asked me not to go on Facebook until they had a chance to make the official announcement, which they did a few hours later but I was then busy with my volunteer ushering job. It was for a play that quite frankly was boring as all get out. Two actors who sang and danced very well but the play itself was the problem. Polite clapping but no one gushing about the experience. I think the actors' talents were wasted. I was in the second day of an earache--I suspect brought on by stress--and I had spent the previous night awake with an 85-lb dog lying on top of me panting in my face due to an intense thunderstorm outside, so I was not in a mood for it.

I'm still in trip-planning mode and I still have a bunch of homework to get done before I can leave. I have lined up a house/dog sitter for the duration but I will worry about Hapi. It will be the longest time I have left her. The dog sitter comes recommended but I will still worry. I won't see the new grandchild for about 6 weeks and I wish I was there right now.

Also, this is kind of silly but what can I say: I just finished (yesterday) a 14-book series that I have been reading for several months now. I have become invested in the story characters and it's over; I feel a sense of loss. I am strongly tempted to start rereading the series but I am resisting. It was quite a time-consumer and I just can't afford that right now. But I miss them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Doing and planning


In preparation for leaving sometime soon for a trip out west, I have been very busy trying to get stuff done around here.

Two cord of firewood stacked. That was a big one, a lot of work in the hot sun.

Vegetable garden planted and tended. I tried to limit myself to things that would be ready to harvest by the end of July but couldn't resist adding a few things. Oh well. At least I have been eating well.

Long walks for the dog every day. This has to be done early because by mid-morning it is too hot for her, and it stays that way well into the evening.


I foolishly bought a bunch of day lilies from a neighbour and now have to plant them. There's no empty space available, so I decided to dig up about twelve feet of mini irises and replace them with the day lilies. Easier said than done, let me tell you! Those irises do not want to leave. Then the neighbour said he wanted the pots the day lilies came in back as soon as possible so I had to start the day lily project as soon as the firewood was done.

I originally intended to drive west but various issues came up that I just couldn't resolve, it became such a headache that I seriously considered cancelling the trip altogether. But, I calculated the cost of the road trip and then looked online for how much it would cost to fly instead and it looked doable, financially anyway. However it is a complicated trip requiring multiple flights coordinated with various other people's schedules and I have had a time of it organizing the whole thing. What I like about road tripping is that it gives me the freedom to plan on the fly instead of in advance. With flying I have to do all the planning up front and I really dislike it. I am not good at it, and I get quite stressed trying to do it.

And of course I have to make alternate plans for Hapi, and I am concerned about that. Things are more or less shaping up but I don't think I am going to be completely at ease with leaving her behind.

I have not gone to the beach, gone swimming, or a host of other things that I would love to be doing right now. I am staying home getting stuff done and planning for the future. I quite dislike it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The whales of St. Vincent's


I am back from a whirlwind trip to the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. In 1998 I travelled up the west coast of Newfoundland, visited Gros More, l'Anse aux Meadows, and Red Bay in Labrador. It was a great trip but Newfoundland is a big place and I did not get to St. John's then because that would have doubled the driving time and I was nearing my deadline for returning home. I always intended to go back and I thought that after moving to the east coast of Canada (I was living on the west coast in 1998) that it would just happen. But it didn't, I had to make it happen. Funny about that.

Anyway, a fellow blogger has an Airbnb on the Irish Loop just outside of St John's which she plans to give up this year so it seemed like Now or Never. I would have driven with Hapi, but with another road trip in mind for later in the summer it seemed like all that extra driving (and time!) was not on. So I flew, leaving Hapi behind with a friend.

It was truly a whirlwind visit, I basically skimmed what was on offer and probably wore out my host. The highlights were long chats, whales and an archaeological dig on the Irish Loop. We did a drive-through of St. John's and while I would have liked to have seen more, I realized I didn't have the energy for it and was just going to have to make a mental note of 'what to do and see if I ever have the chance of coming back here'.

On the same day we visited Signal Hill, Cape Spear, and Petty Harbour. I saw a humpback whale doing backflips below the lighthouse at Cape Spear: it leaped into the air and fell backward with flippers spread like wings several times. I have no idea what it was trying to do, it could have been just for the sheer joy of being there. I also saw icebergs at both Signal Hill and Cape Spear.

Signal Hill
Petty Harbour
Every summer humpback whales migrate from the Caribbean north to Newfoundland (they come to Nova Scotia as well). They don't eat at all on their trip so they arrive hungry, when the capelin are spawning off of the Avalon Peninsula coast, in particular at certain beaches. Just down the coast from where I was staying is St. Vincent's beach, a popular spawning site for the capelin and feeding site for the whales. My host took me there twice in hopes of spotting the whales. It was very foggy both days and we saw nothing the first time but the whales arrived the second time. The conditions were very poor for taking photos but I tried.




It was a truly amazing sight. At least half a dozen whales, I couldn't count, leaping about and swimming back and forth not a hundred meters from the shore. They seemed to be working in groups, I saw three whales surfacing simultaneously several times, they were in a formation that looked like a giant three-petalled whale-head flower.

Colony of Avalon archaeological dig at Ferryland
The Colony of Avalon was one of the first permanent settlements in North America, in an area of Newfoundland that was frequently visited by European fishermen even before Christopher Columbus set sail. It is being reconstructed at the town of Ferryland (the name is a transliteration of the old Portuguese name).

I could go on and on, it was a dense and intense visit to an amazing place. I only hope I did not wear out my friend and host who guided the visit.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Road tripping music

(the old truck, 1991 Chevy S10)
I sold my old truck almost two years ago, after buying a new-to-me minivan. I liked that the new-to-me minivan had such luxuries as a CD player and air conditioning, but wasn't sure about the power windows. Then found out that the air conditioning didn't actually work, that would cost an extra $1,000. I bit the bullet and paid for it to be fixed, although the mechanic grumbled, "You know, people don't usually do this." And it turns out I like the power windows. Kind of necessary in a minivan when you have a dog in the back seat.

However I soon realized that all my road trip music was on tape cassettes because that's all the truck had, a tape player. So for the last couple of years those tapes have sat in a drawer unused and every time I go somewhere in the minivan I miss them. About a month ago I wondered if there was a way to transfer the music from the tapes to some digital format and I finally Googled it. It turns out there is a way and the software to do it is free! But I did need to buy a cable to connect my tape deck to my computer, available at The Source for $20. I downloaded the software and bought the cable, and then waited for a rainy day to attempt the deed. Yesterday was it.

It took several hours to finally get the first digital file of a road trip music album (Saguarina, something one of my kids bought on the street from a South American busking band). I had to manoeuvre all of the hardware out where I could get at the back of it all to connect the cable, put it all back in place, figure out why the tape deck wouldn't rewind a cassette (don't know, but it has two cassette slots and the rewind still works in the other slot), mess around with the software to figure out how it worked, test the volume level adjustments, figure out how to save the recording as an MP3 file (needed another plug-in for copyright reasons I guess, but still free), and then finally to make and save the recording. Meanwhile I went through all the cassettes in that drawer to prioritize what I was actually going to digitize, resulting in various stacks of cassettes all over the place. But after that first recording it was a snap, I could digitize a cassette in about the same amount of time it takes to play it, a minute or two more for saving the MP3 file. Have a meal, digitize a tape. Read a magazine, digitize a tape.

How amazing it took this long to get around to doing it!

In case you're wondering, the software is called Audacity and the cable is a Y-Adapter. The plug-in is called Lame (!).

Next step is to put the MP3s on something I can play in the new-to-me minivan. I was going to put it on my phone but a neighbour suggested a memory stick. So far I have recordings of Dvorak, Fleetwood Mac, The Outlaws, Genesis and that South American street band. Eclectic, but it's the stuff that works for road tripping. Think I'll do my bagpipe tape next, I've really missed that one.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Old photos on a rainy day

(Storm over Balsam Lake, Ontario, late 1980s)
Today is Canada Day and it is pouring rain out. The summer season is always a very busy time for me and every day that it does not rain I have outdoor chores to take care of: yard work, gardening, firewood, dog walking, painting and repairs... So when a spate of rain happens I am grateful for the chance to cease all of that busyness. Why I'm here now.

(Leaving Yellowknife, 1973)
One of my sons recently started a new job flying medevac out of Yellowknife, specifically the Stanton Territorial Hospital, which is where he was born. My husband and I lived in YK for two summers and a winter; I got pregnant almost as soon as we arrived and we left a year and a bit later with a toddler and an infant (toddler came with us to YK as a soon-to-be-walking baby). Anyway, the grown son with the flying job works two weeks on and two weeks off, returning to his family in Alberta between shifts. When he's not actually in the air he spends a lot of time hanging out in YK, so he asked me for photos of what YK was like when I lived there. He wanted to revisit some of the locations and photograph what it looked like now. I have watched 'Arctic Air' on TV, an adventure show set in YK, so I know that there has been a lot of change. I recognize a few places and the general landscape but the town has grown and changed a lot.

(scanning...)
A couple of days ago I posted all the photos I had online to Facebook, then yesterday, also a rainy day, I went through my old print photo albums looking for more. Those albums are all higgledy piggledy because over time I have raided them for photos to scan to digital format and then neglected to return to their proper albums. I pulled out all the Yellowknife photos to scan, then posted some them on Facebook so my son could retrieve them. One of the photos was actually a postcard showing an aerial view of the town. I don't remember when I acquired that postcard, it may or may not have been when we actually lived there. But it's a pretty close approximation of what the town was like then. Unfortunately it does not show the part of YK we lived in over the winter and second summer.

(aerial view of Yellowknife, date unknown)
I'm looking forward to seeing his versions of those old photos. I know that our winter home was torn down to be replaced by a much fancier home by the new owner of the property. It was really a prime location, being one of the few residential places in the town with its own waterfront (we had a small dock and I did go for a brief swim there before the lake froze up, nearly drowning my son in the process).

(Pirelli the family dog, 1960s)
Since the YK photos were scattered through several albums I also got to sift through a lot of old photos which of course stirred many diverse memories. I posted a few of them just for fun. My oldest son with a junior high school 'girlfriend' who he is still in touch with. The now-dead parents of a Facebook friend from over thirty years ago. My youngest son as a toddler. A cat I used to have when I was pregnant with my oldest son. I've got a few more which I may or may not post.

(Mum and I a few months before she died, 2001)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Getting stuff done and moving on


I completed one rug on the loom, two more to go. Towards the end it was quite frustrating because one of the warp threads kept breaking.


I spent the day weeding and pruning. It was the same temperature as the day before but far less humid; it felt cooler. Nevertheless all that weeding and pruning was sweaty work and I had a bath afterward. Some annoying stuff that I won't describe here and now was on my mind so I fumed and fussed in the bath. Often I cry in the bath but this time I was more angry than sad. The good thing is that when I get out of the tub whatever was bothering me washes away with the dirt. The feelings that is, not necessarily whatever spurred those feelings.


Good news from my youngest son. As I mentioned earlier he had a rather devastating time of it this past month and I had promised to help him out financially if he needed it. So when I got his text to set up a Skype call I expected that was what it was about. Instead it was the opposite, his situation almost completely reversed itself and he didn't need help at all. He was just calling to let me know his good news. I am happy for him.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Weekend of theatre, film and music


I'm doing very little today, in compensation for an overly busy weekend. It was a good busy, but perhaps too much of a good thing.

I won a pair of tickets to see the National Theatre Live performance of Peter Pan, so a friend and I went to the pub for supper and a beer and on to the cinema to see it. Absolutely wonderful. The production was wonderfully done, it was totally enthralling in spite of the fact that they played games with the characterizations. Captain Hook is a woman, Nana the dog is a big black person (I think it was a man but it might have been a very big woman), Tinkerbell is a man, and all of the children are played by adults. The flying scenes were quite ingenious.



It poured rain all day Saturday. Sunday was going to be a nice day but I was going to be away all day so I spent most of Saturday running errands. One of my errands was to the garden centre at Kent Building Supplies, I took Hapi along in the car but had no intention of walking her in the downpour. However when the employee came to load my purchases into the car Hapi jumped out. I joked that this was going to be the extent of her walk today, the little bit of parking lot around my car. The fellow told me that actually, Kent is pet-friendly and I could have taken her indoors. It's a huge big box store and I think it would take me almost half an hour to walk all of the aisles, so next time I might just do that!

Saturday night I went back to the same cinema which also is used as a theatre and a music venue, to hear the band Hillsburn. They were very loud and energetic, I stuffed bits of tissue in my ears to dull the sound a bit. But they were fun to watch.

On Facebook a few days before I learned that a significant member of our community had died almost two weeks ago. She was 79 years old, she died of cancer I think. That I heard about it after her celebration of life was a little disappointing, that she died at all was even more disappointing. She was politically active, an artist, and just an all round good person. At a certain point in her life she worked as a counsellor at the local university student counselling centre. I was a single parent working on a degree there and having a tough time of it; I saw her at the counselling centre and she told me to come see her once a week and explain to her why I wanted to quit. If I gave her a good enough reason she would give me permission to do so. Apparently none of my reasons were good enough, I kept seeing her until I graduated. So she was personally important to me, she got me through that.

Anyway, I've had a hard time not thinking about that loss and I think I would have enjoyed Hillsburn a bit more if it wasn't occupying my mind.

Sunday was the busy busy day. Up early to walk Hapi then breakfast and a shower before driving to the neighbouring town to catch a ride with friends down to the other end of the valley to see the King's Shorts. The King's Theatre is in Annapolis Royal, a very picturesque little town near the mouth of the Annapolis River. Also the oldest permanent settlement in Canada (a bit of controversy there but I'm going with that position). Every year they hold a competition for 10-minute plays; writers from all over the world submit their scripts in the winter and a local committee selects eight to  show. Directors and actors are chosen and the eight plays are put on over the Father's Day weekend in June. Every year two or three of my writing group submit plays and every year at least one of them makes the short list of eight (this year there were 93 submissions altogether). So we all go down for lunch and the final performance before the winners are announced. There are a first and second prize with a little bit of money attached and a People's Choice selection as well (no money, just fame). So this year two of our members and the spouse of one of them were selected for the final show, and amazingly, they all won! We walked away with First, Second and People's Choice!

We were too big a group to descend on one small restaurant so we split up into smaller groups to eat at three different establishments. I went to the local pub which was very 'pubby' and had scallops and chips. I'd have had a beer but lack of sleep the night before made drinking alcohol in the afternoon seem risky. At the theatre each person is issued a poker chip for voting. At the end of the show there are eight large cans for dropping your poker chip into, then they count them up and announce the People's Choice. It is all done quite quickly, I think it was less than fifteen minutes from the end of the last play to the announcement of the winners. It was all great fun and even greater because we took all the prizes back to our end of the valley with us. Anyone can enter, there are a few restrictions on format, length and newness, but no restrictions on who can play. Maybe one day I'll try my hand but at the moment I feel like playwriting is a bit beyond me.

So after all that we drove back up the valley and I returned home briefly to feed Hapi and eat some cold leftover pizza before dashing out the door again to go to Sunday night movie, "Burn Your Maps". While waiting for the movie to start they announced on screen that another significant member of our community had just died, also 79 years old. He was a neighbour of mine, someone I've known a long time and who was instrumental in bringing movies to our town. I knew he wasn't in good health and also that he was just barely making ends meet. I was sad to hear he was gone.

In "Burn Your Maps" there's a scene where an elder wise person is talking to a young couple who are struggling with the death of an infant child. They say to him that they lost their child when it was only a few months old. He tells them that the child is not lost, it came and stayed briefly with them and then went away. He said it was not the child that was lost it was the grieving parents who were lost. I think that is a good way to look at it. The sadness I feel is about my loss, not the loss of the people who have gone away. I still feel it. My friend at the cinema stage-whispered to me, "Get used to it! We're at that age!"

Good bye Macha, good bye Bob.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dancing and Hiking


We had several days of hot weather and then a couple of cool days. On the cool days I did work around the place: painting, lawn mowing, weeding, that sort of thing. An old friend from out west came to visit for three days; she spent one day at each of three friends' places and I was her first stop. Unfortunately it was a day of solid rain, over 40 mm which was a record apparently. No matter, we ate and drank and yakked and laughed.

In the evening we went to a dance in a small community hall outside of town and we decided to taxi so we wouldn't have to worry about how much we had to drink. The cabby didn't know the way, he was going to take us in the opposite direction. He didn't know how much to charge us either so his dispatcher told him what to charge. On our trip home the cabby (a different one) asked us how much the other guy charged us so he would know what he was supposed to charge.

The band was great and I danced the whole time we were there. Very few men danced, mostly women; I think the men were waiting to be asked.

One of my neighbours built a small shelter for my heat pump a few weeks ago so now I am painting it. I think I have one more coat to go. My garden is at that stage where the weeds are coming on fast and furious so I have to work hard to keep up with them. I have so much salad greens I am almost (but not quite!) sick of salad. Can't wait for the peas and beans and beet greens. I didn't plant tomatoes this year, I had a bumper crop last year and still have lots of frozen and canned tomatoes left. Many of my weeds are actually little tiny tomato plants from my compost. I thought I'd let them go for a bit and then pick three or four of the best looking to transplant to one empty bed and pull the rest out.

I hiked on Monday out Cape Split. It's a 15 km round trip through the forest until you come out at the tip of the cape. It points into the Bay of Fundy, splitting the flow in two. They say it is Glooscap's stone canoe, beached on Blomidon. So at the tip you are looking down the Bay from a high narrow cliff with a bit of grass on it. Cape Split used to belong to the Jodrey family who made their money logging all over the province. But they never logged Cape Split, they let it be. Recently it was turned over to the province for a park and now it has a parking lot and outhouses and little signs telling you how far you are walking and please mind your step on the edge of the cliff. I made the mistake of taking Hapi out there five years ago and discovered there was no water available for her to drink. I just assumed there would be brooks but no such luck. So I didn't bring her with me this time because I didn't want to lug in any more water than I had to. Anyway, she's older now and it was a hot day so I don't know if she would have been up for a 15 km walk. I was exhausted at the end.