Monday, December 17, 2012

The gap

(from a previous dog walk, a channel to a power dam near town)

I read something on the internet yesterday to the effect that at this time of year the gap between what we want and what we have seems the greatest. I thought that was pretty spot on. The rest of the year we take that gap for granted but now, it just seems hard. We want the picture-perfect Christmas and we get reality.

Not that I am complaining, I just thought it was a good observation.

Today was a do-nothing day after a series of hectic days. I got sidetracked cleaning up some computer files, in no time at all it was 2pm and I still had not taken the dog for a walk. So we walked downtown and stood in line at the post office, myself for a package and Hapi for a dogtreat. We went home and I made tea and read a bit of my new book from the post office. I brought in some firewood from the shed and made supper.

Yesterday I had a whole bunch of things lined up to do, I was kind of dreading it all week. Knew I would have to leap out of bed and hit the ground running if I was to get it all done. I had church, walk the dog and three overlapping entertainment-slash-social occasions in the afternoon and evening. Also some prep work to do for two of those occasions.

At choir practice one of the choir members invited me to the lighting of the last Hanukah candle that evening.

I said, You celebrate Hanukah?
He said, Yes, I'm Jewish.
I said, I didn't know you were Jewish!
He grins and says, Yes, will wonders never cease!

Anyway, it was smack dab in the middle of my overlapping entertainment-slash-social occasion run for it so most reluctantly I had to turn it down. Damn. That would have been a good thing.

Then I go home and start getting ready for the quick dog walk in between and my neighbour comes out to invite me for supper and an inspection of their newly renovated kitchen and bathroom, an invite I have been secretly hoping and waiting for these last couple of months. Again, damn, can't do it, and her Christmas social calendar is so socked in that the next available opportunity won't be until sometime in 2013.

Unfortunately the three overlapping entertainment-slash-social occasions require missing supper, I thought I could manage it but turned out I couldn't. I grabbed a couple of leftover Hallowe'en candies to tide me over but they didn't. So I ended up missing the middle occasion and going home to eat instead. To the dog's great delight. However she was quite dismayed when I took off again less than an hour later.

The final social occasion was one I was actually kind of dreading, would have dropped it I could have, but it turned out not to be nearly as bad as I thought it might be. And I got to eat some very good food. I was greeted at the door with hot-from-the-oven lobster cakes and it got better after that. And I met a couple of bakers who I have admired from a distance, they sell their wares at the Farmers' Market and they are really good. Turns out one of them stood behind me in the Christmas Cantata last week and is a former opera singer! I did not recognize her until she told me. And, we have the same first and second names, but she uses her first name and I my second.

Aside: I have always gone by my second name, I don't really know why. My parents' decision.

Her husband bakes bread and we had a lively, if a little esoteric, discussion of locally available flours.

The event was a Greed and Avarice party, in which we all pick gifts from a pile and take coveted gifts from each other. This year the coveted gifts included a lard bucket full of high quality home baked cookies, a couple of bottles of wine, a large box of truffles, and tickets to the local cinema. Last year I ended up with a gift I quite disliked and went home and stowed it in a trunk in the basement. This year I rewrapped it and stuck it in the pile as my contribution. Turns out the person who pulled it from the pile made a huge joke of it, everyone rolling on the floor laughing, and then reluctantly gave it up to someone who actually wanted it. Wow.

My new opera singer friend ended up with a gift that she didn't like at all, and quietly said to me that she had contributed one of the much coveted gifts and felt a little cheated ending up with this terrible thing that she quite disliked. I told her what I had done with my gift from last year and she brightened up.

That's exactly what I am going to do! she said.

I did not end up with any of the sweets, wine or tickets, but did briefly get my hands on a couple of those items. My gift consists of two items, one of which I may keep and the other I may regift at an upcoming opportunity involving a completely different group of people. Or they may get both, I haven't decided.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Standing ovation

Last Sunday my church choir performed its annual Christmas Cantata. I joined the choir this fall and for the previous week we were intense practice for this upcoming performance. We have several "Music Scholars", university music students, in addition to some very talented singers. I don't count myself as any of the above, and there were moments when I only mouthed the words for fear of getting the tune wrong.


It was a full church and at the end of our half hour performance we got a standing ovation.

I think it might be unusual for a congregation to give their choir a standing ovation, but they did.

I have never in my life received a standing ovation, and I have to say it was absolutely thrilling. I now understand what talented performers, whether musical or theatrical, must feel and why they find their work fulfilling. I still can't get over it. A standing ovation. All those people standing and clapping for us, for our performance.

One of our musical scholars, a tenor, sang a solo (after the standing ovation) of "O Holy Night" and I can't imagine there was a dry eye or a throat without a lump in it for that. The acoustics of that church are quite amazing and his performance was right up there with any famous tenor you want to name. Powerful. Moving.

I know he hopes to pursue further studies at a top school in the USA and his ultimate life goal is opera. If anyone deserves it he does. And I will be able to say, "I knew him when..."

Oh yes, and today is 12-12-12. As Rain over at Rainy Day Thoughts points out, this is the last time such a dateline will appear in this century.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Too much to do at this time of year

(This faded drawing under a bridge shows the artist's face and what she is looking at. If you stand in front of it and face in the same direction as the artist's face, you can see the view that she painted. But it is faded now and hard to make out in this photo)

At this time of year I try to send out a few Christmas cards in hopes of receiving some back, but so far I can't say with much luck. I went to a friend's place yesterday for dinner and a board game and she had a bunch of cards on display that she had already received (I have none). She showed me an example of a Christmas card she makes herself and sends out. It is gorgeous, she has great talent. I oohed and aahed over it but I doubt that will have any effect. And this is a woman who is a devout atheist, who was hesitant to go to see the movie Life of Pi because she had heard there was too much talk of G** in it. She did go, her review was too much g**--talk but great cinematography, however not worth the extra bucks to see in 3D.

Nevertheless she has totally decorated her small apartment in handmade Christmas ornaments, some she made herself, some made by her daughters. She has a crappy low-paid call centre job that entails shiftwork and no holiday time, so she pretty much assumes no time off at Christmas. she was hoping to save some sick time to take off this year, but she got pneumonia and that was that. Instead one of her daughters celebrated Christmas early with her while she was still sick, and our dinner consisted of leftover turkey soup. It was good and it made her apartment smell very Christmas-y. She showed me the lovely ring her daughters got her for Christmas. She picked it out at a craft fair and told them that was what she wanted, they put together the money and bought it for her. What a clever lady, what nice daughters.

The board game we play I always win and I did again yesterday afternoon. I don't know why. Sometimes I wonder if she lets me win because she says I am a poor loser. Hmph. I thought she was going to win yesterday, but she didn't. It was close though.

After dinner she went to the movie and I went to choir practice.

Choir practice was long and I was tired. I am a second soprano but I sit in front of some very good first sopranos and at times I cannot hear the other second sopranos so I sing along with the first sopranos in my not very good second soprano voice. I try to be quiet so as not to be noticed at those times. We have some extra singers joining us for the Cantata and of course they are all very good. They will sing some solo and duet parts while the rest of us rest. This Cantata was written for a Celtic band including a penny whistle. Our choirmaster was shaking her head over that because the score requires several key changes for the penny whistle and she says what composer in his right mind requires a penny whistle to make key changes?

After practice one of the tenors told me about his heart surgery earlier in the week. He had to go into the city for it and his wife didn't come with him because she was sick. He said it was very painful and despite complaints they gave him no pain relief. Until a male nurse took pity on him in the middle of the night. He said, Don't go to the city for surgery without an advocate, it is terrible! He seems OK now, he came to practice at any rate, but holy cow what a thing. 

I got home very tired and had to make a few phone calls before it got late, the last one to my son in Toronto. About half an hour into that call I had to beg off because I couldn't stay focused any more. I had made my dog come indoors for a bit but allowed her to go out to sleep. She doesn't like coming indoors but I make her just to have her company for an hour or two. When the temperature dips below zero at night she far prefers to be sleeping out, she loves the cold. I prefer sleeping indoors.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 6...

Today is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre in 1989. You can look it up on Wikipedia if you need the details. A horrible event. I lived in Ottawa at the time, a two hour drive from Montreal and it was as if everything came to a grinding halt, the enormity of the evil and the fact that it was aimed specifically at women, all women. Well, he said only the feminists but apparently his definition of feminist pretty much covered all women. So I mark this day every year.

OK, moving on.

A friend of mine is going through some marital difficulty which is leaving her pretty devastated. She and her partner are in counselling, but as far as I can make out the only thing they've accomplished so far is to delineate the full extent of the disaster. It kind of came out of the blue for my friend, she had thought that they were fine. I try to be supportive but there is really not much I can do other than listen when she calls me, which is not all that frequent really. I am busy these days but try to remember to call her too, not all that frequently either.

Sometimes being single is lonely, but not very often at all. I like being alone and right now my need for affection is quite well filled by my big fluffy and affectionate dog. I like spending time with friends, I like spending time alone, I am grateful for my turmoil-free life. Especially when I watch friends going through it. There are a few things that would be easier or more enjoyable with a partner, but you could say that about anything one lacks in life, and I think that most of us lack something or other and one way or another we live with it. There are plenty of things I would like to change in my life, but then I'd need a whole other lifetime to accomplish it all and sadly, that is just not an option. If only I was immortal...

My friend commented recently that her current situation is good for her weight, her appetite has disappeared and she has to force herself to eat. I remember going through a period like that, I remember that feeling of a permanently clenched stomach and I don't miss it at all. But I did lose a significant amount of weight that I was happy to lose. Hopefully my friend will too, as a small compensation for the rest of the unpleasantness. Not a weight loss plan that I recommend, but it does work for some of us.

I went to the physiotherapist yesterday. I have pain in both arms which I attributed to either tendinitis or tendinosis (look it up) in or around my elbows. The physiotherapist had me run through a bunch of exercises and poses and extensive questioning to figure out exactly what was going on. She found it confusing as apparently what I am experiencing does not fit the definition for either condition. She found that the pulse in my wrist changes when she puts my arm in different positions, indicating that the blood flow may be blocked somewhere along the line when I am in certain positions. And there's a vertebra in my neck that does not move along with the vertebrae on either side of it. So her theory is that that vertebra is somehow pinching both the blood vessels and the nerves to my arms in certain positions and that may be what is causing the pain. But she's not absolutely sure of that, it is just the only explanation she can come up with right now. Sounds good to me though. She asked me to perform certain exercises over the next few days and we'd see how it goes next week. The idea is to get that vertebra moving properly by stimulating weak muscles on either side of it. I believe there is arthritis involved, so I don't know how much improvement is reasonable to expect.

Some of the tests she performed involved me lying on my back while she manipulated the back of my neck. If she had just stopped talking I would have been out like a light, it felt so good. I hope there is more of that prescribed for my recalcitrant vertebra.

On the sidebar of my blog there are some links that I check fairly frequently. One of them a couple of days ago was to an article about bubble wrap as window insulation. That sounded really interesting to me. So today I am off to the store to buy some bubble wrap to try it out. Also I need tape for wrapping packages for mailing, my old roll of tape has become permanently glued to itself and I cannot extract any more from the roll. And conveniently, I have a dinner date with a friend who happens to live near the stationery store. We are going to play a board game and eat dinner together, then I will be off to choir practice. Hapi will be all alone for the afternoon and evening so I must try to take her for a good long walk this morning. Which means I should get a move on now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The approach of winter

This picture of Hapi was drawn on a smartphone by a young woman standing behind me in line for the local ATM. I can't believe she did this so quickly and on a cell phone! She texted me the picture. Amazing, eh?

Coming 'round to Christmas and it has been a while since I last posted.

Pottering around doing this 'n' that, nothing so time-consuming as to justify leaving off the blog, on the other hand nothing so exciting as to inspire a new post.

I've been going to an exercise class, Triple-A (Acadia Active Aging), which is OK but I can't say that I notice any kind of physical improvement. I had a student trainer who was supposed to be training me on the various machines and tracking my "improvement". Mostly we chatted about dogs and her life in northern Ontario, where she is from. And I got tendinitis in my arms. Not sure what caused that, could be coincidental or it could be the Triple-A stuff. In any case I am back on the waitlist for physiotherapy and after a month and a half I have my first appointment coming up. In the meantime the tendinitis is subsiding.

I also started skating with a friend in Triple-A. We try to go once a week but it is kind of boring as it is just a windowless indoor rink with no music and hardly any people. At times we have the entire rink of clean ice to ourselves. If I was a great skater I would be tickled pink at the opportunity to have all that ice to practice my skills on, but I am not. I am one step removed from hugging the boards for balance. I can sort of skate backwards and in circles but that is the limit of my amazing skills on ice.

I joined the Baptist Church choir. Mostly because a friend of mine is the choirmaster and every time she sees me she mentions that I can join any time and the last time she did that she caught me at a weak moment and I agreed. Her enticement was that the annual Christmas Cantata was going to be a medley of Celtic carols, complete with Celtic band. My choirmaster friend has her doctorate in music and teaches music therapy at the university, as well as numerous students in her home. So working with her is a bit of a privilege, but seeing as how organized church religion is never going to be my thing and this is the Baptist church no less, it does feel a bit strange to be hying myself off to church every Sunday. However to my surprise the singing part is actually sufficiently pleasurable that it makes up for the churchy part. There are some Acadia music students in the choir with amazing voices and it is good to be singing along with them. I can sing in tune if I am singing along with someone else who manages to be in tune, otherwise I am quite hopeless.

To round out my musical career and as somewhat of an antidote to the churchy Sundays, I also joined a ukulele group that meets on Sunday evenings in each other's homes. We bring along snacks and "something to drink", sit in a circle and strum our ukes and sing silly songs. The "something to drink" is usually a mason jar of some anonymous alcoholic beverage, so the songs get sillier as the evening progresses. There is some talk of going out carolling, with our ukuleles, in a couple of weeks. We are torn between announcing our plans in advance and not. On the one hand neighbours are likely to turn out their lights and lock their doors when they hear our ukes coming, on the other hand there might be "something to drink" on offer.

Last week I went to PEI. The grandboys were spending a couple of weeks there as their parents were overwhelmingly busy with work. I took a couple of early Christmas presents and the dog. The resident dog Fiona was not thrilled with Hapi's arrival so there was a bit of tension in the house over that. The climax was a grand dog fight over food that sent dogfood and water bowls flying all over the living room. The fight was over in a matter of seconds but the cleanup took a little longer. The dogs were sent outdoors to have it out, and they did. After that no more fighting. the occasional warning growl, but they appeared to have settled the main issues.

We have had our first snows here. Locally they forecasted snow flurries and we got a blizzard instead. Kerthump and there was a blanket of snow everywhere. While I was in PEI another snowfall to the delight of the boys. In addition there were a couple Canada World Youth fellows in the house, one of whom hailed from Indonesia. It was his first snow ever. He said that in his home town, they considered +20C (68F) cold, +40C was normal. His counterpart was from Calgary so he was pleased to see the snow and insisted on dragging the Indonesian youth outdoors for a snowball fight. The grandboys started to build a snowman but got distracted by the snow-covered trampoline.

I took the boys and the dogs to the beach where we found a patch of thin ice on the sand with no water underneath. They had great fun sliding on it and throwing sticks for the dogs. The dogs skittered and slid over the ice after the sticks. Only feet away great white-capped waves crashed on the shore.

My truck is now ready for winter. It has been painted and waterproofed and snowtires put on. My neighbour found two rims for the snowtires, he says he will keep an eye out for two more. That way I don't have to keep having the tires removed from the rims and replaced with whatever tire is suitable for the season. The waterproofing was largely successful but one leak remains that we don't know the exact location of. Nothing a small towel can't catch though.

I still have carrots, kale and mustard greens in the garden. I worried about the carrots the entire time I was in PEI because the temperature dropped below -10C at night. But I had left them covered in snow and plastic and apparently snow is almost as good an insulator as the pink fibreglass stuff. In any case even the mustard greens held up under the snow and plastic. I also have some green onions that are going on two years old and are huge. I had left them out because I didn't know what to do with them, the green parts are way too tough to use in salad. But it turns out the that the white part is very usable and since that part is now as big as leeks, I have a tonne of "green onions". And since they grew through last winter I hardly worry about them this winter. A fellow "Newcomer" gave me a recipe for kale mashed potatoes that calls for a large quantity of onion, so I have a good use for all the kale and onion still in the garden and the potatoes now stored in the basement.

Speaking of potatoes. I read a while ago about the nutritious value of potatoes. When potatoes were first brought into Europe, the Irish went for them in a big way. In fact they became the diet staple which ultimately led to the infamous Potato Famine. But before the famine, poor Irish peasants subsisted on a diet largely consisting of potatoes and a bit of milk, while poor peasants elsewhere in Europe had diets based on grains. And apparently the Irish peasants were far healthier than their counterparts anywhere else, because the potato is almost a complete food. In combination with milk it covers all the nutritional bases.

In my hippy days we eschewed anything white as being bad for you: white flour, white rice, homogenized milk, potatoes and such. To this day I associate the colour white with poor nutrition, and I even have trouble with cauliflour. But this is just wrong. White doesn't mean anything. And potatoes are actually a very healthy food. Which is good because I have always loved potatoes and felt terribly guilty eating them. No more.

Another thing about the Irish, this is about Irish Soda Bread. Back in the day firewood was at a premium in most of Europe because the nobility controlled all the forests and common people couldn't access them for fuel. Except in Ireland where the laws were different and everyone could go into the forest to gather firewood. As a result, most European villages had community bake ovens to conserve fuel and most people ate yeast-leavened bread because that was most suitable for a community bake oven. But in Ireland, common people could bake at home, they had the fuel for it, so community bake ovens were not so common. And soda bread is a quick bread that wouldn't do so well if you had to wait your turn at the community oven but is just fine if you have your very own oven for baking on your own schedule. So the Irish made soda bread while the rest of Europe made yeast or sourdough bread.

Reading. Well I just read another really great book, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Very long book, over 600 pages. I found it a bit overwhelming at first, the pace was, to my way of thinking, extremely slow. I'd say the first 150 pages are about the birth of the story's narrator. But once I settled into the pace I found the book extremely interesting and thoughtful. And along the way learned a bit of Ethiopian history.

Ethiopia is the one African country that did not succumb to European imperialism until the 1930s when Mussolini came along. But for the centuries and millenia before that it was an independent land never warped by colonialism. It also is home to some of the oldest Jewish and Christian communities. The Queen of Sheba was thought to have come from there, although that is disputed now.

Anyway, the book is set in modern times and the story is set against the Ethiopia of Haile Selassie but it is not about that. The story's narrator is a conjoined twin separated shortly after birth and raised by adoptive Indian parents. He becomes a surgeon and ultimately practices in New York. That is the bare bones of the story, there is of course much more to it which you will discover if you decide to take on this giant of a book. Along the way you will learn a bit of history of a very interesting country. And since the author is a surgeon himself, you will learn a bit about surgery as well. But Mr Verghese is a very thoughtful surgeon with a lot to say about life in general and the practice of medicine in particular. Very satisfying read.

OK, sorry about the long wait, if in fact you have been waiting for my next post. And I imagine some people who might have waited have given it up so my audience is no doubt considerably smaller. Although I have always assumed that it was small to begin with, now it is probably just that much smaller. Eventually it will dwindle to nothing, I will stop writing altogether and nobody will notice.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

...And then she said:

Yes it's been forever. Well a couple of months at least. I have probably lost any audience I ever had---I think there were maybe four of you---and am writing to myself. I have not set fingers to pen or keyboard keys (except to navigate through what other people write) in a very long time.

My last post was from PEI; since then I went kayaking once on Gaspereau Lake in a friend's kayak because my own was in drydock. It got badly scratched in the spring and needed a fresh coat of urethane which is now done.I also visited a friend's cottage on the South Shore, and went camping at Blomidon Park.

The friend I went camping with has set a goal of camping at least once in every provincial campground in Nova Scotia, I will try to accompany her. Blomidon was nice: well-maintained and quiet even though it was full, great views of the Minas Basin, several hiking trails in the woods and on the beach at the base of the cape. Hapi was on her best behaviour, she knew not to go off our tent site even when parades of other dogs strolled past, never even so much as woofed under her breath at the malamute in the adjoining campsite. She wouldn't sleep in the tent though, I had to tie her to the picnic table.

We hiked out Cape Split on the Labour Day weekend which was like hiking in rush hour (Blomidon and Cape Split form a hook-shaped peninsula separating the Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy, Blomidon overlooks the Basin and Cape Split faces into the Bay). I didn't bring water for Hapi and there was none on the trail so at the tip of the Cape I went around begging water for my dog from all the people sitting in the grass enjoying the view. Got way more than enough thanks to people's generosity and Hapi's cuteness. Curiously, some people said No when they thought it was for me but changed their minds when I said it was for my dog. What, I am not cute enough?

The cabin on the South Shore was great, right on the shore overlooking a small beach on a large ocean bay. The cabin was built by my friend's father, she remembers when all there was was a platform to pitch their family tent on.

Speaking of whom, her 96-year old father was also there. He is busy working on his second book, a kind of summation of his religious and spiritual knowledge and beliefs. He is a retired Baptist minister and unretired Free Thinker. I imagine he had to keep a lot of what he really believed to himself when he was active as a pastor, now he is putting it out there for all to hear and read. He made up a little jingle to sum it all up: "God is Love, Salvation is Free, Why Worry About Eternit-ee?" 

When I wasn't listening to him expound on the nature of the universe and the history of mankind, we were hiking the shore with our dogs to a cafe for lunch, setting on the deck with wine under a canopy of stars, and watching the ongoing drama of the dogs, their respective food bowls and local marauding squirrels.

I made a hash of my garden but it turned out OK, I got 5 6 quarts of tomato sauce, 5 quarts of salsa verde (probably a lifetime's worth even after giving half of it away), a pint of pesto with more to come, a whole bunch of kale, beans and peas in the freezer, piles of potatoes, onions and carrots, and many meals of fresh peas, beans, broccoli, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. I had to finally compost the cherry tomato plants because I could not face eating another single one. Would you believe I planted 15 cherry tomato plants and every single one survived to produce gi-normous quantities of purple, yellow and red cherry tomatoes? I expect next year's garden will be full of cherry tomato upstarts.

I still have not harvested the squash (all 2 of them), the garlic was pathetic (planted 20 cloves got 8 tiny bulbs), and the green onions have become monsters I do not know what to do with. The tomatoes and cherry tomatoes were a near disaster because I did not stake or cage them and they sprawled everywhere. After the PEI trip I waded in and chopped off all the lower branches of every plant and attempted to prop some of them up against the garden fence. Amazingly, this did seem to help, but my garden pathways were quite obliterated so walking through the garden was very tricky.

But I have already planted a bed of next year's garlic, which hopefully will do much better for being planted in the fall instead of the spring. There is still more kale in the garden that I would like to turn part of into kale chips which I am told are quite good. I plan to make quince marmalade from the few quinces that grew on the bush in the front yard. And I am still getting regular meals of green beans from the pole beans.

Got all my firewood stacked away, the garden taken care of, the lawn mowed on a more or less regular basis. Killed my sourdough but fortunately had a little stashed away in the freezer so I was able to resurrect it. We had near-perfect summer weather, warm and sunny. There were a couple of weeks in early August that were unbearably hot and humid, I got very grumpy then. I don't do well in that kind of weather.

I decided to clean up my loom room which of late has turned into my junk room---anything I didn't know what to do with got tossed in there and the door closed. Eventually it got impossible. I did a pretty good job of cleaning it up if I do say so myself and then thought I should tackle the living room and bedroom. Last night in a frenzy of activity when I should have been hieing off to bed I put together a couple of shelving units and rearranged some of the living room furniture. The jury is out on whether that was a good idea.

Speaking of the loom I have revived the project started last fall and then abandoned through the winter. In the spring I dreamed about removing that warp and putting something else on the loom, I decided to follow through on that dream but at the last minute thought that if I removed the warp I would never in a million years put it back on and it might be easier, quicker and more economical just to finish the damn project. Then a friend said, instead of doing the project as is, why don't you modify it to turn it into Christmas presents for family members? Hot damn, two birds with one shuttle! That apparently was all the inspiration I needed, the project is now three quarters done and being worked on regularly. It is the kind of thing that I can sit down and work a few minutes on while I wait for tea to steep or sauce to simmer. And while it doesn't look like much to me, visitors have commented on how beautiful it is. Funny how when you have your nose buried in something for months on end that it ceases to have any finer qualities, all you can see is its faults and mundanity. And how much there is left still to do.

I moved into my basement guest room. Am quite surprised by how comfy it is and am thinking of making the move semi-permanent. Probably it will get too cold in the winter and I would rather not turn on the baseboard heater, but am enjoying it for the present. If I am not careful my old bedroom will turn into my junk room.

My neighbour up the street is helping me do some work on my truck. He painted the whole thing and undercoated it too. He put rock guard on the lower panels. He told me to buy some chrome tape to trim the wheel wells with and put it on for me. He tore out the headliner in the cab (it was sagging and disintegrating). Our next project is to remove the cap on the box (if anyone on the west coast is reading this, cap=canopy), replace the truck cap tape, add a bead of silicone and put the cap back on again. To keep the water out. My Blomidon camping friend wants to camp at Keji in October and I would like the truck box to be rainproof by then.

I joined the Newcomers Club. I don't feel like a newcomer but of course in many ways I am. And it turns out there is no time limit on being a newcomer, there are newcomers that have been members for years. Once you join you can participate in any or all of the interest groups, I signed up for three but there are many more. On Wednesday I went biking with the biking group; we did a leisurely ride to a bakery for coffee and muffins and then back again. We laughed ourselves silly over the coffee. The night before I went to the book discussion group; I read Wreckage by Michael Crummey for that group and the discussion was quite interesting.

Several of us mentioned the literary device of jumping around in time in the course of the novel, how it bothered us because it seemed kind of choppy and disorienting. But one woman said, Isn't this how we think of our lives? I mean, we don't remember things linearly, we remember bits and pieces all over time, whatever seems relevant at the time of remembering, or next in line in our own peculiar streams of consciousness.

I will mention three books I've read this summer that were really good: Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill (memoir), Wreckage (novel,) and This is How by Augusten Burroughs (self-help non-fiction?). They have that quality of taking my breath away at how well written they are. Phrases, sentences, whole paragraphs jump off the page and demand to be memorized.

I am ploughing through everything Roger Zelazny ever wrote but I am thinking of giving that up pretty soon. Some of what he wrote I really really liked (Lord of Light is on my short list of all-time favourites) and the rest is anywhere from OK to boring.

Yesterday, in the course of thinking about rearranging furniture I was looking at my bookshelves. Many of my books are decades old and have only been read once, if ever ( I confess to buying books I should read and then never do). I picked up one at random, The Medusa and the Snail by Lewis Thomas, and realized that while I have a general idea of what Thomas wrote about I had no memory of the specifics except for one excerpt involving his thoughts after an accident lying on the pavement watching his blood flow out of a wound. Perhaps I should reread the book. Then looked at the books surrounding it and thought, perhaps I should reread them all. When?!? And if I am not going to reread them why am I keeping them?

I picked up a Fench language novel that once had been a favourite of mine (l'Ecume du jour, by Boris Vian), when I could read French reasonably well. Now, it is almost gibberish to me. I have no memory of what that book is about, and I would have to improve my understanding of written French substantially if I ever hope to find out. That book is over 40 years old, a musty old paperback. I remember a couple of other books that I bought around the same time and later culled; I wish I had hung onto them instead of this one, at least they had pictures.

The other day a friend of a friend dropped by to pick up something. As she was leaving she commented on the tree in front of my house, saying that I really should remove it. After having spent hundreds of dollars to remove the trees at the back and missing them afterward, the suggestion that I remove yet another tree was not really welcome. I pointed out the benefits of that tree, how it provided much needed shade in the summer and a degree of privacy as well. She continued to insist that it should go and my argument that it provided privacy spurred her to say that without that tree my house would be much more welcoming, and that I was just an old spinster hiding in my house behind that tree.

Well shut my mouth and call me speechless, as a childhood friend used to say. Who even uses that word anymore? I could only come up with Thank you for sharing as a response. Later I recounted this conversation to my neighbour and she laughingly suggested that I should have told her the tree was for hiding my constant stream of male visitors from prying eyes.

Other than the couple of short trips mentioned above I have been close to home and feeling a bit antsy about that. I feel like I should be somewhere else doing something else, but no ideas (or maybe too many ideas) about what. Tied to my garden as it were. Read a lot. Dream a lot. Wish I was there.

Last winter I kind of made a sort of new year's resolution, to give myself a year to figure out what I was up to next. Now that year is coming to a close and I have done very little to figure that out other than turn down or otherwise pass up opportunities to go somewhere. At one point it occurred to me that I was waiting for something to happen, something to change that would make it all clear to me and that really, if I wanted to change I had to change, not wait for change. From there I went to what would I change and quickly picked on several habits of laziness that I have fallen into that might be counterproductive time wasters. Things I do for the sake of comfort that are kind of addictions (TV, eating chocolate, web-surfing for hours on end). A little bit of TV or chocolate is nice but filling one's life up with it is not.

When my TV time rolls around each day, the pull of the TV is quite overwhelming, I make up reasons not to do anything else. And then I haul out the chocolate and there goes the evening. I figure between all of my addictions I am looking at half the day just gone. So now I am looking at how to deal with that. Quit cold turkey or pick at the edges? Figure out alternative activities to gradually replace the worst of my addictions? There is such a pull toward sloth, I can easily see myself sinking into some kind of oblivion of terminal laziness.

OK, a bit of a ramble, but that's all. Don't know when I'll be back...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday morning at the cottage

(Roddy at the beach)*

I am on holiday in Prince Edward Island, staying at a large cottage near an ocean beach. I have the cottage to myself and although I cannot see the ocean I can hear it. The cottage is in the woods facing a potato field, robins chirping nearby. The resident rabbits are getting their exercise evading my dog.

The purpose of this holiday is to visit with my grandsons who are staying at the nearby farm of their PEI grandparents. At this moment I am sitting on the screened-in deck (lots of mosquitoes and other biting insects here!) with my morning coffee, taking advantage of the cottage wifi. Shortly Hapi and I will take a stroll on the beach to see if there are any other dogs about to play with. Hapi had quite a vigourous workout last evening with two dogs she met there.

I arrived here on Friday afternoon after a near-6-hour drive. Google Maps told me it would be a 5-hour drive, but I am not a fast driver and we did stop at a nice picnic park half way for lunch and a romp in the brook (for Hapi).

Friday evening we (Grammy Cindy, Tristan, Phelan and I) went to the nearby town of Morell for the Morell River Festival Parade, a 15-minute affair involving decorated cars and a couple of firetrucks.

Yesterday we went to the Wood Islands Seaglass Festival---in Wood Islands of course---and the boys collected lots of shards of sea glass on the beach there.

They had a fellow who would toss a bucket full of sea glass shards onto the beach, then they'd set loose the kids who collected the glass and turned it in for prizes, the fellow collected back all the glass in his bucket and returned it to the beach when no one was looking, and there'd be another round of kids sent out to hunt for glass for prizes...

Grammy Cindy makes goat milk soap which she sells at local markets, fairs and festivals, she had a booth at the Seaglass Festival. Tristan is old enough to be a help at her booth, he went early to help her set up and minded the soaps while Grammy took bathroom breaks.

Phelan and a neighbour boy Roddy came to the festival later with me, we took some back roads to get there which was kind of fun. Back roads on the island are narrow red clay affairs through the woods, when another car came in the other direction we pulled way over to the side and drove through the overhanging branches of the trees. Roddy and Phelan loved the slapping tree branches on the windshield, they thought I should drive faster to see if we could break the branches. I declined, I thought it was a toss-up which would break faster, the branches or the truck.

My truck is turning the colour of PEI, a kind of ochre-red.

Last night on the beach I met a Russian couple from Connecticut with a little dog that played chase with Hapi. I told the couple that I inherited Hapi from my son, they pointed to their dog and said, We too! Tristan was collecting driftwood that he hoped to take back to Toronto to sell to a local pet store that uses it in their reptile terrariums, and Cindy collected Irish Moss that she uses in her soaps. I collected dog poops.

Later, back at the cottage, Grampa Karl sawed some logs while Grammy Cindy, Tristan and I played Blurt. Several times there were "showdowns" between Cindy and I, Tristan called it Granny Wars.

Later today we will go paddling on the Morell River and on Monday we hope to go cycling on the Confederation Trail for lunch in St Peters. I will head back to the mainland on Tuesday.

Can't tell you how idyllic it is here, a wonderful vacation spot. The couple from Connecticut said they came here at a friend's insistence, that normally they never would have considered going north for a vacation. Now they go nowhere else, they love it here. The ocean is warm here because it is a relatively shallow protected area in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Historically it has always been a kind of vacation spot, even the Miqm'ah used to come here from the mainland for summers of fishing, berrying and the odd bit of hunting.

On another note, my brother is still in hospital being treated for a serious infection. They will set him loose in just over a week, but he had intended to be spending this time on his own island vacation spot on the west coast. He is weak, bored and frustrated but getting better, we hope. Such are the vicissitudes of one's 60s.

* The photo is young Roddy getting ready to throw a rock into the sea.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Followup post

Anne commented on my previous post that a followup post would be nice so here it is.

I am much improved. I had two rounds of IV antibiotics and after the second round the doctor sent me home with a prescription for oral antibiotics, which I will probably finish this weekend. My second visit to Emergency was almost the exact opposite to the first: very quiet, hardly anyone there, everyone getting treated promptly. My neighbour drove me to and from the hospital.

I saw my regular doctor today and she could not see any sign of the infection. Since the hospital had not sent her a report she had to take my word for it that there ever had been one. Of course that doesn't let me off finishing the pills.

Meantime I have bigger things to worry about, a family member in another province is quite ill, and their prognosis is not nearly as positive as mine. Kind of puts things in perspective. If Anne had not commented when she did I might have forgotten about my last post altogether and left well wishers hanging. Sorry about that, and thanks Anne.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mirror mirror on the wall...

At 4.30am today I was staring in the mirror trying to decide what to do. The mirror was not being helpful. I hate that. Going back to bed didn't seem like an option, it was hot and still and my pillow felt like a pincushion full of hot needles. So I tried the coffee and toast option, maybe I could just start the day a little early.

Coffee was nice but the pincushion effect was still there, even without the pillow. I won't even tell you what the mirror made me look like. Reluctantly I called the 811 public health nurse, which is really really not a useful thing to do, they only have one thing to say. Go to Emergency.

I am sure the government could save a lot of money replacing those live nurses who answer the phone with a simple recorded message (Go To Emergency), and then after a while people would stop calling and they could dispense with the phone line altogether.

Not only did she tell me to go to Emerge, she also said Do not eat (I had just made a bowl of strawberries and cereal) and Do not drive.

She asked, Is there anyone who can drive you? Anyone you can call?

I said, At 6.00am on a Saturday morning?

So $20 for a taxi to the hospital. At least, I thought, I'd be there early and beat the rush.

Silly me.

Wouldn't you know it the ambulances were very busy today, there was a nonstop stream of them all night and all morning, and ambulances ALWAYS have priority over walk-ins. The waiting room was relatively empty at 7.00am, but that meant nothing. And it was freezing! They had the air-conditioning cranked up something fierce. One of the nurses later told me that they are so busy they hardly notice, it's we folk sitting for hours on end in the waiting room that get to take notice. Thinking that it was going to be a hot day I didn't bother with a jacket, and so apparently did every other person in that waiting room.

Several of us chatted to while away the time and not wallow in our various pains. The woman next to me started by apologizing for being so grumpy, she was normally a very patient person. She had set out in the wee hours of the morning from her home town halfway down the Valley and arrived to the nearest hospital only to find the Emergency shut down. So she continued on up the Valley to the next hospital and arrived here at 4.00am. She thought that at least she'd be in and out at that hour. Hah. She had found a position she could sit in that was not too painful but daren't move from it. She had had surgery and was quite certain her incision was infected, and had been for quite a while. At her followup with the surgeon he said, Give it a bit more time. Last night was the last straw for her.

The next lady was in for a bee sting, a couple of days old and swelling steadily. She also had decided that she couldn't give it any more time. Another woman never spoke at all, we think she had some kind of migraine or such, she looked pretty terrible. As the morning progressed we watched the new people arrive, speculating on their triage position. It isn't in order of arrival, it's in order of how bad off you are, so the fact that you've been there since 4.00am means nothing if they think you're not as bad off as the little old guy clutching his chest at 9.30am.

I said to the lady with the incision, Couldn't you just tell them it is chest pain? I mean it was, kind of.

The waiting room filled up. The most crowded part was the waiting area for the Triage Nurse, they just kept coming and coming. We scrutinized everyone passing through that door to determine if they were better or worse off than we were.

At one point we were watching the little old guy tottering out of the car that was dropping him off, and the incision lady muttered, Please don't let him clutch his chest, please!

Then the little kids and their parents started arriving. One kid ran around until he found a light switch and started flashing the overhead lights. I wished he would find the thermostat and play with that. The nurse gave the incision lady a blanket because she was freezing and the bee sting lady a cushion and an icepack for her stung foot. She told us that there was a Non-Emergency Emergency Room, but it wouldn't open until 11.00am. So those of us who were low priority (basically all of us) might get some attention once they opened that.

I debated whether to just go home. I checked bus schedules and the local health clinic hours as an alternative to Emergency. My local health clinic is closed on Saturday (today) but open on Sunday; if I thought I could make it through one more night I might not feel quite so frustrated there. But the nurse pointed out that the clinic was closed on Saturdays and holidays, and Sunday being July 1st may or may not be considered a holiday. She said that the federal government considered Monday July 2nd as the official holiday, but whether the clinic agreed was anyone's guess. I might not get into the clinic till Tuesday, and did I really want to take that chance? Sigh...

I went around to the main door of the hospital looking for the cafeteria to buy something to eat: being cold and sick and hungry too was just over the top. Outdoors was pleasantly warm at 9.30am. I got a sticky sweet muffin and enough change in case I needed it for the bus.

At 10.20 the bus I might have taken home came and went, I stayed put. Good thing, for not 10 minutes later incision lady and I got called into the Non-Emergency Emergency Room, the first two in line for non-emergency emergency service. Yay! By 11.00am we had both been seen by the doc, she was given a bunch of antibiotics to take home with her and I was instructed to stay for an IV antibiotic. Another hour in the waiting room but at least I felt like I was doing something.

Nurse had a bit of a time inserting the IV needle, on the third try she threatened me, This is the last time.

She got it in and grinned, Apparently threats work with you.

I told her that come to think of it, the last time I had an IV the doc threatened me and it worked then too.

She said, You should have told me, I would have threatened you sooner!

Afterward she left the IV needle in my arm and wrapped it up in lots of gauze. I told her my dog was going to jump all over me when I got home so it needed to be really secure.

Anyway, what I have is periorbital cellulitis, and I have to go back two more times for IV antibiotics. The doc thinks it may have been caused by a mosquito bite on my temple.

My neighbour kindly came to pick me up at 12.30pm and offered to drive me back tomorrow since the injection is scheduled for 11.00am (when Non-Emergency Emergency reopens). Depending on how I feel tomorrow, I may just drive myself.

I don't know what happened to the bee sting lady, I hope she was well out of there before I was. A little girl with an earache was not so lucky, just as her turn to see the doc came up he got called away to an ambulance patient. She was still sitting in her Daddy's lap with tears streaming down her face when I left. Sometimes triage sucks.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Kindle and Active Hope

I have started loading books on my Kindle and attempting to read them. I have to say that the experience of reading a book on a Kindle is not the same---for me---as reading a paper book. I am trying to figure out why that is.

One thing is the background colour of the page: it's an off-white colour, a kind of grey. That does not seem to be modifiable. I did modify the text to a sans serif which so far is a bit of an improvement, but the greyness of the page gets to me, it's depressing.

Another thing is that I find reading on a Kindle limiting. I am the kind of person who just cannot read in a linear manner from start to finish. I always read the end of a mystery before the middle. Likewise for most books, fiction or otherwise. I like to skim. With nonfiction I like scanning the subheadings and illustrations in as I go along, I jump around. The Kindle is just not set up for that kind of reading, it is best suited for linear reading. I chafe at that.

Nevertheless I am really trying to get over it, I really am. I have put a few things on my Kindle that I really want to read, and am hoping that the enjoyment of those books will overcome my objections. I do see the advantages of a Kindle, particularly for travelling or for sitting in wait rooms. So I recently bought a couple of Kindle books that I want to read and cannot get through the library, or at least not in a timely manner, nor find cheap used copies on Amazon or elsewhere.

The first is Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're In Without Going Crazy, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (2012). I don't know much about Johnstone, but Macy is a longtime engaged Buddhist and activist that I admire. I have read a couple of books by her, including an autobiography and The Work that Reconnects. She deals with the depression and despair that many environmental and social justice activists feel over their apparent lack of success. Active Hope addresses these concerns. I am only a chapter or two into the book, and the Kindle does not really allow me to scan ahead, so the impressions I describe here are limited to what I have read so far.

We see the world today through lenses that are in part of our own invention and in part provided to us by our society and culture. We are so used to these lenses we do not even see them as such, we think we are seeing reality in the raw, the world as it "really" is. Macy and Johnstone say that there are three major prevalent stories that provide the lenses most of us are familiar with.

The first story is Business As Usual, that our society is on the right track and we can continue with business as usual. Most of our media provide and reinforce this story, most of our daily lives are based on the assumption that this story is reality. Our culture is inherently stable and good, there may be a few perturbances but nothing our politicians, economists and other experts can't handle. And while the experts deal with the big problems, we deal with the small ones, getting and keeping jobs, raising kids, maintaining a home, friends and community.

The second story is The Great Unraveling. Our economy is at risk, our politics are deteriorating, our environment is being degraded and destroyed, our climate is on track for major disaster, social justice atrocities abound, our access to cheap energy is disappearing, ...I am sure you can add to the list, you don't need me to provide the details. In short, we are doomed.

This story is also promoted in the media, although more so in the alternative media than in the mainstream. For those who are sounding the alarm on these issues, and/or attempting to fight them, despair and cynicism about our future is rampant. For many of us, this story is too grim to contemplate personally, so we resort to distraction or attempt to focus on the small delights of daily life as the only defense against this rather overwhelming general nastiness.

The third story gets little coverage in the media, it is not particularly newsworthy, it is so big that it is hard to get a good viewpoint on it. This story is what Macy and Johnstone refer to as The Great Turning.

As a species we have gone through a few major cultural shifts---revolutions as it were---and we are going through one now. The Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions are examples of previous shifts. The current shift might be called the Ecological Revolution, or perhaps the Sustainability Revolution. It is the transition from a doomed economy to a life-sustaining society. In its early stages, such a major transition appears to exist only on the fringes, but as it develops it spreads and becomes the new mainstream. We are on the cusp of something we have never seen before, a way for all of us to occupy this planet in peace and security, while preserving our natural world and promoting the highest social and spiritual values.

This third story sounds a bit airy-fairyish, but Macy and Johnstone provide evidence and arguments to support it as a valid view of reality. They suggest reading Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken as further support for this story.

Many people are already involved in this third story, you may be yourself. Macy and Johnstone list three major ways that people are involved or could become involved. They seem to have an affinity for things in threes. Possibly because it is the first number after two, which is the number of duality, either-or, black-and-white. The world may be considerably more complicated than either-or. Anyway, the three major ways they describe are Holding Actions, Life-sustaining Systems and Practices, and Shift in Consciousness.

Holding Actions aim to hold back and slow down the damage caused by Business as Usual. Protest movements, raising awareness of social injustice and environmental damage, caring for the victims and vulnerable, safeguarding communities against exploitation and war; these are the nature of holding actions. Saving the bits of society and culture worth hanging onto, saving as much of our beleaguered natural environment as we can. These actions are taking place at every level, from local actions against fracking, mountain-leveling, and protesting the closure of a local school, to international movements to curtail whaling or the building of bitumen pipelines or going after multinational corporations for environmental damages or corrupt practices harming vulnerable people. These are essential actions but they are not enough.

Life-sustaining Systems and Practices are the concrete building blocks of an alternative way of life. Many people, including entrepreneurs, corporations and even financial institutions, are working at creating positive alternatives to Business As Usual. If you look for it, the internet abounds in examples. Local farm markets, ecologically sound farming practices, research and investment in alternative energy, opportunities to become involved in alternative communities, colleges, ways of living and earning a living that are both satisfying and sustainable. These things are happening all over the world, and multiplying rapidly. They provide ways of being involved that are inspiring and give positive reinforcement to the activity. Small success stories abound, and provide inspiration for further action in those directions.

The Shift in Consciousness is about connection, compassion and caring. Macy and Johnstone cite the Apollo 8 spaceflight of December 1968 as a significant turning point in this shift, this was the mission that provided the first photos of the Earth as seen from the moon.

As astronaut Bill Anders said, We came all this way to explore the moon and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.

It is only recently that we have come to see the world as limited, and all of us in the same boat. Everything is connected, you cannot mess with one small or distant part of the world without significant impact on all parts any more. This awareness is growing exponentially, and every new disaster of The Great Unraveling only serves to amplify and spread this new consciousness. The very fact that we lament environmental degradation, wartime atrocities, abuse of children/animals/women and a host of other evils is some indication of the Shift in Consciousness we are participating in. There is a growing understanding that we cannot survive at the expense of others, we are too connected, our fates too entwined.

Macy and Johnstone point out that for individuals involved in these dimensions of The Great Turning, failure and despair is a constant threat. Not all holding actions are successful, and successful actions are often only partially so. Nevertheless, in the long view and the "grand scheme of things", there is a kind of relentless progress. One action may be unsuccessful but the movement as a whole gains ground, regardless of failure or success.

And that's just the first chapter, as far as I've gotten so far. I'll let you know how it goes.

As one example though of that last idea, I was listening to Thomas Mulcair (new leader of the NDP, official leader of the Opposition) being interviewed on CBC's The Sunday Edition, and he was asked about Harper's recent success in ramming through the omnibus Bill C-38 this month. Mulcair's response was that the Conservatives wanted to put that bill through in secret, to not have everyone know how it would gut our environmental and social legislation, changing Canada for the worse in a huge way, all behind the scenes. The Opposition was successful in revealing the extent of the awfulness, it is no longer a secret. Yes, they did not have the numbers or the time to thwart this bill or even to amend it, but they did put it into the open for all to see. This is important, and not a total defeat or failure by any means. In every defeat there is something to take away for future action. It ain't over.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Peony Rule and a Host of other things

Last night I went to a friend's place to play Carcassonne, I took a couple of peony flowers from my garden with me. I don't have my peonies properly propped up and I am told that the Rule of Peonies is, don't let them touch the ground, cut them and bring them indoors. I have four blooms in my living room that smell up the whole house, I can't bring any more in or I will have to say "stink up" the whole house. I love flower scents, but I find them a bit overwhelming indoors, so I am happy to leave them outdoors. But I was informed by a friend of the Peony Rule, so I am trying to conform.

My friend won the game, a first for her. It was getting boring always winning and a bit of a change to get soundly trounced. My excuse is that it was well past my usual bedtime. I like Carcassonne, and I am not usually a fan of board games. But "the board" in Carcassonne is always different, and you never really know who wins until you count up the points at the end. My friend was sure that I had won yet again until we actually counted up all our points. She left me in the dust.

Hapi and I were in the Kentville Ravine yesterday morning, she had such a great time. We ran into a young yellow lab who wanted to romp with Hapi in the brook, and then later two more labs, a yellow and a chocolate, showed up to join the fun. It was a lab fest. The four dogs, Hapi as honourary lab, ran in circles in and out of the water and around our legs. There are fish in the brook, they stayed clear of all the doglegs.

Hapi and I go "fishing" almost every evening at the goldfish pond in the nearby woods. I think the fish see Hapi better than she sees them, at least they always manage to be on the opposite side of the pond from her. She can see them if they move suddenly close to the surface, but if they move slowly or sink to the bottom she has a hard time finding them.

There are a tonne of trout in the old Wolfville reservoir, and they seem to be quite tame. I stand in an opening in the trees near the bank and when one swims by, it pauses to look at me, often swimming in closer for a better look. Is someone feeding them? I've even seen them approach Hapi, although they think better of that soon enough.

On Tuesday I went into the city with a friend to have lunch with another friend who lives there. Our City Friend is in declining health, she moved to the city for medical care and does not know many people there. She lives a rather isolated life as she has mobility issues. If not for the phone she would be very isolated indeed.

We picked her up at her apartment building and drove to an upscale Italian restaurant well beyond the budget of the two of us from the country, and way too noisy to carry on conversation. But City Friend doesn't get out much and we could hardly say No to her request. So for two hours we yelled at each other across the table. Not quite two hours, the din did die down in the last half hour or so.

It was kind of funny, both of my friends are blind and I serve as their seeing eye dog and chauffeur, but I do not know the city that well so I have to ask directions from my blind companions. They rely on their memories to tell me where to go, and sometimes their memories do not quite match up with current realities of road repair, relocated businesses, newly created one way streets, disappeared parking lots. Plus I have a disability of my own, I cannot tell left from right. Shouting Turn Right! in my ear does little more than put me into a panic.

After our leisurely bank-breaking lunch I asked City Friend if she had had enough and she said Not, I asked if there was anything else she wanted to do and she had no suggestions.

I said, Then in that case I would like to go to the Lebanese Bakery to buy some pistachio halvah, and she quickly agreed that that would be fun.

The Lebanese Bakery is truly a lot of fun, so much to look at, so many things to sample, and the staff are very friendly and funny. One young man had a smile to die for, we vied with each other to make him laugh and smile some more.

We bought pistachio halvah and chocolate halvah, grenadine molasses, pita bread, Bulgarian sheep feta, I forget what kind of olives, several different kinds of some savoury pastry (fatayer?), and a small container of tabouli. The young man with the smile gave us samples of the different fetas, in the process managed to hit his funny bone and danced around for a few minutes shaking his arm and grinning painfully.

Afterward we crossed the street (I took the arms of my two blind friends and we strode across waving white canes at the cars) to the Mexican grocery store. The lady who runs that tiny shop is the personality opposite of the Lebanese Bakery people, she sits behind the counter looking very bored and impatient with her gringo customers.

We oohed and ahhed over the many kinds of mole and salsa, I don't know if she actually rolled her eyes but I imagine that she wanted to. A few purchases there and then we crossed back to our parked car with more cane waving at the cars.

By this time rush hour was beginning so our drive back to City Friend's apartment was slow and tortuous, due to traffic and to my unfamiliarity with the city and frequent panics (Turn Right! Turn Left! No you're going the wrong way!).

We had a half hour to kill before picking Country Friend's Husband up at his place of work, so we went to the Black Market. Hardly had I parked when I heard a thump and looked up to see a young skateboarder grinning down at me. He ran into our parked car! No harm done, his board hit the tire.

He skated off and we headed into Market. It's a throwback to hippie days, incense wafting out and bright coloured intricate paint designs all over. Inside creaking old wooden floors, and tonnes and tonnes of beads and multi-coloured skirts and silver jewelry. I don't know what the music was that was playing, but it was quite pleasant. I mused about making Country Friend's Husband walk over so we could stay a little longer.

Note to self, longer visit to the Black Market next time.

Country Friend bought a freshwater pearl mala (a kind of bracelet) and I contemplated genie pants made from a recycled sari.

After picking up Husband we stopped at Costco on the way out of the city, I bought dogfood and they bought pizzas and Clif bars. We were in and out in less than half an hour, the quickest visit to Costco I've ever been on.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Punitive and fearful

The last couple of weeks have been extremely stressful for me so I have not been inclined to post. Since the source of stress is ongoing I am faced with never posting again or somehow getting past the very strong link between stress and not writing here.

I am reluctant to go into the details, suffice to say it involves an encounter with "the Law" which leaves me rather depressed and pessimistic about what a society based on the Rule of Law is really all about.

The last time I went through this was to do with the Leaky Condo issue in Vancouver. Basically my attitude of being confident that how we run our society is Basically Good (if a Little Rough around the edges) turned to its opposite: "They" are out to get Me (you, me, all of us). I relate very much to the George Carlin video Ronni posted on her blog this past Saturday. I know it to be true in a very visceral way.

I spent four years dealing with that situation (the leaky condo) and the fallout from it. Including six months of fairly severe illness due directly to the situation (i.e., not stress-induced). When it was over, I felt I had learned a very hard lesson and just wanted to move on in life, walk away. I did. As a result it is not something I talk about much, I don't care to revive those awful days, months, years.

However. Life catches up with one, doesn't it?

The latest incident might appear relatively benign in comparison, that I am perhaps catastrophizing a minor misfortune. Having had one bad experience it is certainly an easy trap to fall into. And it may apply here, I am not sufficiently objective or distant from the experience to say.

I read the municipal by-law that applies, and it was quite frightening. I was assured that the by-law was not applied in the way that it is worded, but nevertheless the words are quite dire. I have spent the last couple of weeks "laying low" so to speak, and thinking about it. What will I do if...? What recourse do I have? Is there any way to fight this without making matters worse? I will tell you that I have no answers to any of those questions, hence the ongoing stress.

Here's the thing. The by-law is worded to instill fear and to be quite punitive in intent. It offers no recourse, no grounds or method for contesting, and in its worse case scenario, requires the killing of the subject without trial, warrant or even notification. Private property is not respected in this particular by-law. Police powers are invoked, without the need for consultation, notification, court warrant, anything at all.

It occurs to me that this is the mentality of the formulators of this by-law, fearful and punitive. And these are just ordinary people, this is just an ordinary by-law with its similarly worded counterpart in probably most jurisdictions in the country. We write our by-laws to be punitive and fearful. What does that say about our society, about us?

And that's all I have to say, because my answer to that last question is more negative than I care to repeat here.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Casseroles (pots and pans)

Montreal, May 26 ...

Song translation:

You tell them
You tell them
That it was instinct that
Drove you up to here.

You tell them
You tell them
That your senses were screaming
Deeply driven
By a strange force
Let it be your base camp.
Let it be your base camp.

You tell them
You tell them
That it was intuition that
Drove you up to here
A carelessness
So necessary every now and then
Let it be your base camp.
Let it be your base camp.

Source: here

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Queen Victoria does it again, hip hip hurrah

Ah Victoria Day, glorious Victoria Day! Apparently a Canadian tradition since before there was such a thing as a Canadian tradition.

Here in Nova Scotia the Victoria Day weekend is notorious for rotten weather, but this year it fails to live up to its reputation. Warm, sunny, even hot. My lawn is overgrown again, the chestnut is in full bloom, the entire town redolent of lilac and cherry blossom. And the mosquitoes are just starting.

The heat is too much for Hapi, she is very grumpy with every dog she meets. In a couple of days though she goes to the groomer to lose as much of her fur coat as possible without turning into a whippet. Hopefully her mood will improve. 

The garden is mostly planted, I put my transplants into the ground before the Victoria Day weekend, which is verging on sacrilegious but they were getting awfully leggy, I had to do something. So I am past the hard work part of spring gardening. I could be doing more, but I won't. Most of the transplants are OK, a couple of tomatilloes keeled over. I am now trying to start some morning glories and climbing nasturtiums to grow around the garden fence.

On Friday we went to the Kentville Ravine just in time to meet up with 4 or 5 dog walkers and their dogs, the dog pack romped through the brook and the trees and had a lovely time. One walker who lived nearby talked about how he thought about forming a group to take care of this lovely spot, but then he thought about all the people who would be attracted to the ravine if it was cleaner and safer, and how they would not be happy about all the off-leash dogs, and how they would insist on the enforcement of dog leash bylaws, at which point he abandoned the idea.

Later in the day I went to see the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I loved. The music and cinematography were quite wonderful and the story lovely. Actually several stories but all linked. You probably have to be over 50 to appreciate it though.

On Saturday we went up the Gaspereau River. The mosquitoes were out in force. I brought along Off Botanical repellent---it is supposed to be based on an extract of lemon eucalyptus rather than DEET---and tried it out. I got one mosquito bite before putting it on, and none after. It is supposed to be only good for a couple of hours and that was how long our walk was, so I pleased with that. The woods of course were lovely, the ostrich ferns (that's the fiddlehead fern that you can eat) were almost fully unfurled and quite pretty. The trilliums are done but the trees are all leafed out now and we walked through a kind of meadow along the river that was so full of violets that I could not step anywhere without crushing one or two.

On Sunday I went to see the Anne of Green Gables musical playing at the ATF. My friend Carolyn had a starring role as Mirella. She's been involved in local theatre on a very amateur basis up until recently, this year she is taking on more challenging roles and is just fabulous. She had one song in Anne that brought tears to my eyes, and I am not a terribly sentimental type. There were five performances over the weekend and they sold out every one, which is excellent. Even so they probably only broke even, the costs of mounting such a production are quite high. Carolyn said it was such a privilege to be in this production, she was so impressed by the talent surrounding her. 

Today Hapi and I walked over to Carolyn's via the reservoir to congratulate her on her performance, on the way I met up with another dog walker and we chatted our way around the reservoir. I mentioned that I was going to get Hapi a wading pool and she told me she had one in her basement she'd like to get rid of so would I please come by on my way home.

At Carolyn's Hapi stayed in the fenced backyard with Carolyn's dog Ava. Ava has had the experience of Hapi digging up one of her bones so she kept a very close eye on Hapi, following her all around the yard. If Hapi squatted to pee, then Ava moved in to do the same. Hapi did check all the places Ava usually buries bones, but did not find any.

Carolyn's backyard is full of forget-me-nots, one of my favourite wildflowers. We sat in the sun and admired the flowers. She won't mow her lawn until they are done flowering so the grass is pretty high. fortunately the forget-me-nots are higher, the backyard is a sea of blue with ribbons of green and dots of yellow (dandelions).

I had a significant computer mishap this past week, I won't go into the details suffice to say that I am quite annoyed with Microsoft and the store I bought the computer at. Carolyn's son is enough of a geek that he thinks he might be able to come up with a partial fix, even though I have been categorically told by Those In The Know that it is not possible. Well, at this point the computer and its contents are a write-off so anything he can do will be a bonus and if he fails I am no deeper in trouble than I am already. My one dilemma is that I probably need to buy another computer and there aren't a lot of choices here of places to do that. I may be forced to deal with people I really don't want to. We shall see.

I am sitting on my back deck gazing at blue sky and flowering chestnut, it's hot but I am in the shade and there is a breeze and the scent of lilac. Hapi is under the deck lying on the cool earth there. A little female goldfinch just flew onto my deck looking for food, it left again after a few moments. The birdfeeder is out front.

It is just a gorgeous day.

Which I am soon going to disrupt with my lawnmower. the one downside of great spring weather, it necessitates lawnmowing.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May be...

The kayak trip was scheduled for this week, from Tuesday to Saturday. I bowed out, I did not want to leave Hapi for that long. This would be the first time, and I just felt it was too long for a first time. However, I was not the only one who could not manage 5 days, only two women went. Looks like they are getting good weather for the trip.

Instead, I am planning to go on an all-day trip with a couple of the women who could not make it for the 5 day trip. We intend to cover the same route, but much faster obviously. And, as luck would have it, we might get some rain. I have a dogsitter lined up for Hapi, she will take Hapi for a full day and one night as a trial run. Michelle runs a doggy daycare and also keeps dogs overnight as needed. She does not have a kennel, she just keeps the dogs in the house with her own dogs. Some friends of mine use her doggy daycare service and are quite happy with it. I am kind of looking forward to this, I am hoping it works out and I can do it again sometime.

The route we are kayaking will be about 16-18 km, paddling with the current along a canal and through two lakes. One lake is long and narrow and we might encounter wind in the wrong direction there, but hopefully not. We will leave one car at the end so that we can drive back to the start to pick up the other car. The black flies are just starting to make their presence known, but not too bad yet. I was walking in the woods with Hapi near where we will be kayaking the other day and I did not encounter any.

One of the places we walk regularly, the Acadia woods, has a small pond with four goldfish in it. The pond is actually an old well, so it is steep-sided and you can't wade into it. Hapi is totally fixated on those fish. Whenever we go to the woods she has to go to the pond, and when I get bored of watching her pacing around the pond staring at the fish, I have to drag her away. I think she hopes that if she waits long enough one day a fish will jump right into her mouth.


The fish...

The garden is now fenced and the paths between the raised beds mulched with the remains of the spruce trees.I had to fence because Hapi likes to dig, and she thinks the manure in the garden is tasty. She was already digging up the peas before I got this fence up. It takes up a lot of space, it seems to dominate my backyard now. But of course, besides the grass the other plants are only beginning to emerge.

Speaking of, I have to mow today, the grass is getting quite long. I seem to have done something to my ankle, I think I have tendinitis in it. Which is bad, with a big dog I can't stay off of it and of course that is how you treat such things. Also fence-building, mulching and mowing are not things I should be doing either.

Kayaking should be good for it though.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April flies by...

Wow, time flies when you're busy!

Have not had a lot of time to sit down and blog, I have been busy doing stuff around the house.

I built my garden frames, hauled a whole lot of horse manure and filled the frames up. That was two days of back-breaking labour over Easter. I had to get it done in two days because a snowstorm was forecast and I wasn't looking forward to hauling wet manure.

I did a bit of planting, some indoor transplants and peas, greens, onions and garlic outdoors. Three of the eight garden frames are mostly done.

I had the spruce trees cut down. That was a bit traumatic, I miss the trees. I have to keep reminding myself of the benefits of their absence, but still, I miss them. A lot. I am hoping that as everything else greens up I will get over it, and I will be grateful for the sunshine in the winter. But in the meantime I try not to look at where they used to be. My neighbours think it's great that they're gone.

The black dot at the top of one of the trees on the left (below) is a crow. Wouldn't you know it, a pair of crows started building a nest in the trees the week before they were felled. I hope they didn't lay any eggs.

Two left (the crows' nest is about 10 ft down from the top of the tree on the right)...

...and all gone (this pic conveys very well how bleak it looks without them).

I started digging up the grass overgrowing the slate pathway to the front door. More back-breaking labour, and I am maybe half done. I think it will look good when it is done but it sure is hard. The slate path in the back yard is in a little better shape, but part of it will need digging up too.

All the grass sod that I am digging up I am transplanting under the pine trees on the north side of the house. I don't really expect it to survive there, but one can hope.

The boys that cut down the spruce trees turned the branches into mulch. They took most of it away but I kept a pile that I have used to mulch around the garden frames. There is about 30-35 wheel barrow loads that I kept, I used around 25 barrow loads around the garden frames and am stockpiling the rest. There was close to two cord of firewood when they were done, but I let them haul it away because I am reluctant to burn softwood in my woodstove. In any case, I still have more than two cord of hardwood firewood left over from the last two winters.

The fellow who owns the field behind my back yard mowed it the other day for the first time; after he was done I raided his pile of clippings to use as mulch on the garden. I figure that an April mowing is not going to have much in the way of grass or weed seeds in it. Some of his clippings from last year are well on their way to being compost, I took some of that as well.

Hapi and I have explored some new walking places:

- the gravel pit on the dykes in New Minas

- the Gaspereau River west of White Rock

- the dykes between Wolfville and Port Williams

- a trail through the woods up Gaspereau mountain to the new Wolfville reservoir (the old one is in town, just down the way from my house).

Hapi loves the Gaspereau River, I am pretty fond of it too. I don't know how far the trail goes, after an hour I turn back. I suspect that it goes a lot further and maybe one day I'll pack a lunch and see just how far. On the return walk Hapi crisscrosses the river because it is shallow enough for her to wade across. By the time we get back to the road where we started, she's on an island in the middle of the river at a point where it is too deep to wade to shore.

The first time she stood in the middle of the river waiting for me to rescue her; when that didn't happen she returned to the island and proceeded to hunt for critters. I guess she figured she'd just have to make the best of it. I walked up river to the back end of the island and called her to a point where she could wade across. Twice now she's done that, you'd think she'd learn.

Hapi also loves the muddy ditches out on the dykes; she goes down into them to hunt for critters and comes out absolutely covered in black stinky mud. She even buries her snout in the mud. All her white fur turns black. It's a good thing she doesn't come indoors is all I can say.

Today we went out on the dykes and she didn't get quite so muddy. Then we went up to the Acadia woods and she romped in the brook to shed what little mud she had picked up.

Here's a picture I took of some posts out on the salt grass. You can just make them out, they stand about two feet above the mud (you may have to click on the pic to see a larger version).

There used to be a lot more of them all along the dyke, they were for drying hay. Back in the day farmers harvested the salt grass out on the tidal marsh beyond the dyke, they put it up on the posts to dry and I guess they fed it to livestock. I don't think they've done that in at least 40 years, probably longer. I remember seeing the posts when I first arrived here in the early '70s, but they weren't being used then. Some people around here still use the salt grass as mulch in their gardens.

We go walking in the Acadia woods several times a week. We check on the fish in the pond at the south end. They've been there for several years and all four of them made it through this past winter. Hapi caught a glimpse of them last fall and has been keen to look for them ever since. But since she can't wade into this pond the fish are safe.

Some time this spring some students at the university started building a structure in the woods under a fallen tree. Every weekend they do a bit of work on it, so it is fun to go down on Monday to see what they have added.

We had one last April snow storm on Easter Sunday, but it was pretty much gone by Monday night.

(my lettuce in the snow)

Since then it has been quite dry and warm, people are actually looking forward to a good week of rain that is supposed to start today. I've had to water my seeds outdoors.

Tomorrow we are having a meeting to discuss the annual spring kayak-camping trip. I am not sure if I will go or not. We shall see.