Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sad story

Goldfinch at the bird feeder
The other day I heard a loud thud as a bird hit one of my living room windows. This happens occasionally as I have a bird feeder hanging in a tree nearby. I looked out the window but did not see any birds on the ground, so I thought maybe it just bounced and flew away.

But later I went outside and found the bird's body on the ground below one of the windows, it was dead. It was a Downy Woodpecker, black and white with a spot of red on the back of its head. They don't come often to the bird feeder but I do see one occasionally. Anyway, I left it where it was and went on to haul more dirt for the holes in the front yard. Later, I noticed that Hapi had been digging in my garden. I try to discourage that but she likes to bury bones and other edibles there. Since she hadn't been fed or given a bone in some time I wondered what she was burying so I poked my finger in the disturbed soil. It was the bird.

Proper thing, I thought, what I should have done.

Now, I wonder about that bird. Did it have a mate? Youngsters to feed? Did its mate wonder what happen to it? Did it mourn the loss? And if there were youngsters was the mate able to care for them alone? Or was she (or he) forced to abandon them for lack of a helpmate? An adult bird being killed at this time of year can have a ripple effect.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Dirt Tales

In the ravine
I spent last weekend hauling dirt. The local Big Box building supply place had "topsoil" (it's a mix of stuff so not really topsoil) on sale at $0.98 a bag. I could only get 20 bags in the car at a time so it involved numerous trips as I required about 2 cubic yards of the stuff. I was going to order real topsoil which would have been delivered loose by truck, but I did the math and figured that the bagged stuff was comparable in price and way more handy to move around. Just so you know, it takes 30.6 25-litre bags to make one cubic yard (Yay internet!). Volume-wise I could have fit more than 20 bags into the car, but weight-wise I couldn't.

I took Hapi along for the ride(s). Just so happens that the building supply place is dog-friendly so she could go inside on-leash and wander around outside off-leash while I got my dirt loaded. Lots of dog treats involved. On Saturday there was a hotdog stand outside the store and Hapi snagged a couple of hotdogs, which she much prefers over dog treats.

From the parking lot you can get into the ravine where I used to take Hapi regularly for walks. So at one point we did that too. Still some ice on the ground there though, so it was a bit tricky. I don't go there very often any more.

When I was walking through the store a woman came up behind me and said, "Is this Hapi?" I turned and looked at her, she looked vaguely familiar but I couldn't quite place her. "Bodhi," she said. Oh of course, she's the owner of the big black Great Dane named Bodhi! I used to run into her often in the ravine. I asked after Bodhi but sadly he had died at a young age; she now has two new Great Danes. Hapi was scared of Bodhi because he was so big, about the only dog Hapi was ever scared of. But Bodhi was very friendly, he'd lean up against you to be petted and just about knock you over he was so big. Like a small pony.

Funny how I remember dog names but not their owners, I still have no idea what that woman's name is.

The dirt was for filling in a couple of sinkholes left from the sewer line excavation in the front yard last fall. So in between trips to the dirt store I was dumping bags of dirt into the holes. Two days of that and it was exhausting, I'd come indoors at suppertime and collapse. But the new soaker tub and Epsom salts came in handy. I was planning to put in grass seed when the dirt settled but one passerby who stopped to watch me work suggested a garden in one of the holes instead and I think I will do that. Not that I need any more garden beds, but I have too many hosta in the back yard that desperately need dividing so some of them could move to the front yard.

I ended up with closer to 4 cubic yards of dirt and composted manure (also on sale) when all was said and done, a lot of that is still sitting in the driveway awaiting good ideas for how to use it. Just couldn't resist the sale price. But I got the holes filled just in time for a major rainstorm to settle it all in, so I was happy with that.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


I turned 70 shortly after my friend died in the city. There was a celebration of life at her son's place on what would have been her 69th birthday, I went down for that. There was a good turn out. It was basically a party with food and drink, no speeches or anything. All her photo albums were out so you could go through them. I was impressed at what a record she left behind. I take pictures of dogs and trees and birds but she took pictures of people, a good half century of people. A lot of shared memories there.

My own birthday was the next day. Had a big party at a local brew pub, then the next day attended the 70th birthday of a friend at a local winery. A much more upscale affair. Then I had a second small party of friends in a cabin on the mountain. A local guy gave me a shadow box model of a boat that he made. I love his boat models.

The brew pub is actually a malt house, they malt grain for craft breweries to use in making beer. Then last year they opened their own little brewery and pub. It's out in the country surrounded by farmland, so a lot of their regulars are farmers. It's a nice place, very cosy. On your way to the washroom you can take a look at the malting operation.

Then a friend and I reserved a table for six at a local pasta place where once a week he has Burger Night. He makes 60 burgers, bakes the buns for them, and when you make reservations it's more for the burger than for the seat. He does two dinner seatings that night and when all the burgers are reserved that's it, there ain't no more. Right now Burger Wars is going on locally, but this restaurant does not participate because their burgers are so good that they would win hands down every time. On Burger Night you get one burger, one local craft beer and a salad for $17. Right now my favourite local beer is Wayfarers Hellene. The burger that night was a Pizza Burger, it had pepperoni and tomato sauce in addition to the usual hamburger and fixings. And they do a vegetarian version too, but when you make the reservations you have to specify whether you want regular or vegetarian so he knows how many of each to make.

I was invited out to two other dinner/beer events but I had to say no because all that partying gave me a gum infection and I guess at age 70 you can only push your luck so far.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

She has left the room

This morning, Easter Sunday and the first of April, a dear friend died.

I first met her in the mid-'70s, she was visiting her sister in the commune that I then lived in, and I was just returning from out west, newly pregnant with my last child. I thought she was a great person but was preoccupied with severe morning sickness, new single-parentdom, and the exigencies of living in a cabin in the woods on a commune. Eventually I moved away, first to town, then to another province, and then to another coast. But I returned many years later and reconnected with her. By then she had been married, separated, and diagnosed with a host of health issues that among other things necessitated dialysis three times a week. For thirteen years she lived with that, and if you know anything about dialysis then you know that that is an extremely long time.

Our birthdates were one year less a day apart in early April. Two years ago I went to Halifax where she was then living to celebrate our birthdays together. I stayed overnight on her couch and on the first birthday we went for a fabulous Italian dinner washed down with Prosecco at a great little restaurant near her home. On the second birthday we went for a wonderful brunch at another restaurant near her place. And throughout we just hung out and talked and laughed and enjoyed each other's company. I think that will always be one of the highlights of my relationship with her.

She loved good food and drink. She loved life no matter the adversity, and there was a lot of that. Since then she has been in and out of hospital, more in than out. I visited her in her various hospital rooms, frequently requiring "downing-up" since she acquired a couple of hospital-related antibiotic-resistant infections. At one point we had to wear bizarre face masks in addition to the paper gowns and latex gloves. In the end, the infection was what killed her, but her health was such that it could just as easily have been something else. She got good care in the hospital and I think she enjoyed the company, since she was fairly isolated in her little apartment in a city where she had few friends (most of her friends lived in the Valley and she had no way to get there, and we Valley people did not go to the city as often as she would have liked).

My mother died at home, we kids took care of her with assistance from the local palliative care. It was a good death as these things go, but sometimes death takes a long time and the stress of daily care and four siblings who are not used to prolonged proximity and the exigencies of taking care of a dying parent can be overwhelming. I know that the first emotion we all felt at the moment of her death was relief.

My friend died in hospital, where her basic needs were taken care of by hospital nurses and staff. The only restrictions on visitors were those in defence of her dignity and privacy, and mental and physical health needs. They were minimally invasive and took pains to keep her comfortable, I never got the sense that they were keeping her alive at any cost or that they were being insensitive toward her or her visitors. Her son left his guitar in her room so he could play it to her whenever he was there (and he was a very attentive son).

I am glad that her family had the time to gather around her at this time. I am glad to have known her, and relieved that as these things go it was a good death. A friend described it as "torturous", but I think that she herself was not tortured but at peace with her end. It was torturous for those she left.