Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The dying of the light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My summer thus far


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Doing and planning


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The whales of St. Vincent's


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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

Road tripping music

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Old photos on a rainy day

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

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

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

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

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

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