Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Life, death and oscillations

So twice a month seems to be about my speed these days, for blog posting that is. Not that I have any great speed at anything else, still have a cold, still tired of it, but still alive and kicking.

Hapi and I went to the Kentville Ravine this morning, it was super icy with a thin coat of snow hiding the ice. But a gorgeous cold sunny day. We met Bodhi and his owner there. Bodhi is a 6-month-old all-black Great Dane: acts like a puppy, looks like a horse. Bodhi always tries to get Hapi to play with him and Hapi growls and growls and finally relents and plays with him. Bodhi also likes to push me away from Hapi by body-checking, which is a bit scary when one is standing on a narrow icy path ten feet up from the creek.

As we were walking under some really tall hemlocks the snow on the upper branches started to cascade down in chunks and spray. It was like standing under a snowy waterfall. The whole forest got foggy from the snow spray and the chunks of snow fell from a great height in slow snow motion. Very dreamlike, very beautiful.

Later in the day I went down to the theatre to get some files off the computer in the projection room, and as I passed through the cafe at the front of the theatre someone called out my name. I looked and it was an old friend I hadn't seen in more than a year. I had heard that he suffered a stroke recently but was OK.

I stopped to chat with him. He told me the whole story of the stroke and what it brought up for him. He lives in the Harbour, his wife commutes every day into the Valley for work. The stroke happened in the early morning just after she left to work, and he kind of thought that was what was happening but since he didn't have a car he thought he would just lie down until she got home in the evening. Then he thought that she would probably take him to the hospital, so he should have a shower before she got home.

Crazy, eh? But his symptoms were so mild, a bit of double vision, a bit of dizziness, and that was it. He didn't think it was that big of a deal, and he didn't know that if you think you're having a stroke you need to go to the hospital RIGHT NOW.

As it was, they misdiagnosed him at the hospital and sent him home. They thought it was an ear problem and gave him aspirin(!!!) (aspirin!!!) (omg, so much for RIGHT NOW!!!). He ended up having to return the next day because he still had the symptoms and wasn't content with the ear problem diagnosis.

O, ...M, ...G.

Can you imagine?!?

Anyway, that was a few months ago and his symptoms have cleared up with little residual effect. But, it could happen again at any time, and he might not be so lucky the next time. So now, he's not very complacent about that, he is not nearly ready to check out, but they are telling him that besides quitting smoking, improving his diet and getting more exercise (done, done, and done!) the only other thing he can really do is get to the hospital, quickly.

But that's the kicker. He lives a 25 minute drive away from the nearest hospital, and his wife uses the car to get to work every day. He would have to find a neighbour who is home and ready to drop everything to take him in, assuming he recognized what was happening to him and could still use the phone to call around for help. And 25 minutes might not be quick enough.

So what to do. Should he move next door to the hospital? Stay put and take his chances? He has no answers and neither do I. If I lived in the Harbour I would not want to move next door to the hospital in town. But that's a scary choice, knowing it could literally be the death of you at any moment.

Once that conversation was out of the way we went on to some other interesting stuff, stuff I hope to talk more about with him later. But Hapi was tied to a lamppost outside the cafe and I didn't want to leave her there too long, I really had to leave in mid-conversation. I think we could have gone on for another hour or two easily.

In compensation for Hapi's long wait at the lamppost (I looked out the window a couple of times, she was holding court while passersby stopped to admire and pet her) I took her the long way home via the rail trail and the Acadia woods. Still sunny, cold, and icy with a thin skim of snow. But just so nice to be out in the woods with my dog on a sunny winter day.

As noted above, I still have a cold. Very annoying and energy-sapping. I suppose that what I really should be doing is lying low till it is cleared up, but I have a dog that requires a couple of vigourous walks every day. Can't not do that. Our weather is still all over the map but generally way warmer and dryer than last year. The weatherman says it is due to a positive Arctic Oscillation this year. Last year it was negative. It's not a regular thing, no telling if it will stay positive or if next year will be negative again, but generally they say that it is increasingly more often positive than negative. No doubt due to climate change but I can't say I am upset about it. I am all for positive Arctic Oscillations if it means I don't have to shovel the driveway.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A different kind of winter

Today it is sunny, bright and freezing. No snow on the ground here, not even residual snowbanks from previous snowfalls. Yesterday it was sunny and warm, whatever snow was laying around yesterday morning was long gone by evening. And that is pretty much the weather pattern for the past month. We've had a couple of substantial snowfalls, followed almost immediately by substantial rain, warm sunny days and then into the deepfreeze.

Ice is a big problem, I have put cleats on my rubber boots. Rubber for the melting days, cleats for the freezing days.

If it weren't for the non-stop succession of colds (I am into the third this month alone) I would be happy about not having to shovel snow from the driveway. Looking at photos from this time last year I know that bare ground was nowhere to be seen, shovelling was the major physical activity of the month. However I was not sick.

Hapi still needs her daily walks but we are down to one a day, I no longer have the energy for anything more than that. The back yard is filling up with her poop. Good thing it is frozen today.

A couple of days ago I went out for lunch with a couple of friends at the local Big Stop (Irving gas station restaurant). Lin and I had Haddie Bits, Val had turkey soup. The Haddie Bits were good (deep fried bits of haddock sitting atop a pile of fries, coleslaw on the side). But by the time I got home I had no energy left at all, could not even put leftovers in the microwave for supper. Went to bed and slept 12 hours and still felt exhausted. I am marginally better now, but still a ways to go, and I am giving up hope that this will be the end of it. I am quite certain my immune system is shot and when I start feeling a bit better I will be felled by whatever cold virus is lying in wait for yet another round of this miserable business.

A fellow I met while walking Hapi in the Kentville Ravine says he is sick for the first time in years (he called in sick at work but would rather be out in the ravine with the dogs than home in bed, I don't blame him) and his wife is in the same boat as me, her third or fourth cold of the season. He blames the weather, the up and down of it all. I am becoming a believer.

I got a Kindle for Christmas (a late Christmas gift), what marvelous timing! Reading is my principle activity besides sleep.

I am torn between the handiness of the Kindle and the familiarity of real books. It will take me a while I think to find free ebooks on line that I want to read, and the fact that I can't use the Kindle to read library books is a bit of a drawback. Apparently Amazon allows US library books to be read on the Kindle, but not Canadian. Amazon seems very reluctant to move beyond the American market, unlike Apple.

But still, it is extremely user-friendly once you get used to the limitations. And the usage paradigm is quite different from the iPhone/iPad/home computer paradigm. But once you get used to that it is fine.

I've shown the Kindle to a couple of friends and they immediately try to navigate by touching the screen. Since this model is the most primitive of the Kindles, touching the screen gets you nothing but fingerprints. And there is no keyboard either so initially it is a little mystifying as to how exactly one uses the thing. It has a soft keyboard of course, displayed onscreen by pressing the keyboard button, but the characters are not arranged in the familiar QWERTY style. Another learning step. Amazon seems to go out of their way to get you to understand that their product is totally, TOTALLY, different. The screen is not backlit, so you cannot read it in dim light any more than you could read a real book.

So far I have not taken the Kindle out of the house because I am scared of its fragility. I went to Staples to get a protective case for it but they were sold out; apparently a lot of us got Kindles for Christmas. So I am waiting for them to be in stock again. And for me to have the energy to go out and buy one.

Sucks to be sick.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Janus, looking backward and forward

Apparently my brain goes to sleep shortly after supper. The longer I can postpone supper, the longer I can keep it awake, but I think there might be a limit to that.

I was supposed to go to a birthday party tonight, a friend's 50th, but I could not get up the energy. I feel bad about that, but I don't think it would have been much use to force myself out the door. I'd like to think this is the tail-end of the 'flu but I am pretty sure it is not, I think I am pretty much over that.

Today was one of those crisp bright January days with a light dusting of snow on the ground, just enough to be blindingly bright. Hapi and I went for a brief walk along the Gaspereau canal, a kind of short elevated canal along one side of the Gaspereau Valley. It's about halfway up the side of the valley so you get quite a view from there, and you're mostly looking down on treetops on the lower side of the canal. The canal is not frozen.

Most of the electric energy produced in Nova Scotia is from coal, but there are a few small hydroelectric dams scattered through the province. The Gaspereau canal connects two small power dams. No boats use the canal, it is only about one kilometer long and there is no place to put a boat in, the sides are too steep. In the summer kids jump into the water from the one bridge that crosses the canal, but that is the only use the canal gets other than power production.

Sometimes it seems like the year has two beginning months, January and September. September always seems like a beginning, being the start of school after the summer I guess. And January is the official start of the year. You'd think the first month of spring ought to be the start, not a month into winter. Anyway, winter here doesn't really start until January. Might have a couple of good snowstorms in November or December, but January is the real start. In January there is nothing to look forward to except winter, at least two or three months of it. Sure, the days do get longer, and that is definitely a blessing, but it's still winter.

I've been trying to think about what I have accomplished in the past year and what I hope to do in the year coming. It's hard to think about accomplishments, I had a fairly aggressive list of things I wanted to do and hardly any of them got done. I was going to do so many things around the house that need work. A lot of painting, a couple of building projects, a few repairs...

The fence got built. Sam replaced the kitchen faucet. I got my loom set up and took a weaving workshop. I joined a choir and then unjoined. I got a dog. I stacked 4 cord of firewood, a cord and a half of it had to be stacked twice because I had to move it from inside the woodshed to out behind in the lean-to.

I built 4 raised garden beds and grew some vegetables, I planted 6 berry bushes (raspberry, blueberry and gooseberry), bunches of chives, strawberry plants and asparagus. I froze some of the vegetables and a whack of strawberries and blueberries (not my own), I made quince jam from 6 quinces I got off a bush in front of the house. There would have been more than 6 if I had not done an overzealous pruning job before I knew that it was a quince bush.

I also have a plum tree that does not produce plums, I thought it was because it is a type of plum that requires two trees to pollinate each other. But apparently it did produce one plum that a young man visiting next door managed to snag and eat before I realized what it was.

I got into artisanal bread baking and have developed a sourdough recipe that works pretty well. I bake about one loaf a week. I don't eat a lot of bread.

I volunteered at the foodbank and at the film society. At the foodbank I help bag up food for distribution every couple of weeks or so with 5 or 6 other women. There are over 90 families in our town that use this foodbank, up from around 60 during the summer.

At the film society I help put together a short presentation of movie trailers as previews of upcoming shows. It's a complicated process, but sort of interesting. I now have my own key to the projection room. The projectionist, also a volunteer, is a quiet but multi-talented fellow who is among other things a playwright, a director, a dancer, and a fiddler. We kid him about his hidden talents, that the next thing we know he's going to reveal that he is also a NASA space engineer or something. He says not.

I had a bunch of visitors, friends and family, who came to see my new-old place. I took care of my son's two dogs for a couple of months. I visited PEI twice for a couple of days each time. I went kayak camping once.

I think that pretty much sums up the past year. Mostly it seemed to me that it was about getting settled here.

The to-do list from last year is still around, I still need to paint and repair and so forth. I would like to expand the garden, from 4 beds to 8. I would like to get out more often with the kayak, although how exactly I am going to do that with this dog I don't know. She really does not like being left alone. I would like to go to Cape Breton. This winter I hope to get out skiing and snowshoeing.

I think I would like to be a little more focussed in the coming year, but what exactly that means I don't know.

I was in the Kentville Ravine the other day with Hapi, we ran into a woman I have met there before with her Great Dane puppy, Bodhi. This "puppy" weighs 137 lbs. Last time we met Bodhi kept trying to get Hapi to play with him and Hapi just growled at him. This went on for almost half an hour before Hapi finally caved and played chase with Bodhi. This second time Bodhi again tried to get Hapi to play and Hapi again growled at him. Only this time Bodhi appeared kind of upset by that, he started barking at her and leaning up against me. He leaned so hard that I had to step back a couple of paces.

His owner was watching this and said, I think he is trying to push you away from Hapi. We wondered what Bodhi was up to, but it really did seem like he was pushing me away from Hapi. Almost as if he thought Hapi was dangerous and he was trying to protect me from her. Or else maybe he thought Hapi would play with him if he could just separate us.

Last time we met Bodhi's owner asked me what my passion was. Kind of an odd question and I couldn't answer it. I said I was too much of a dilettante to have a passion for one thing in particular. She said her passion was for gardening and creatures, she likes plants and animals. I think it would be nice to have a passion for one thing, I just have too many interests and not enough time or focus.

I am just too scattered, too much of a dilettante.