Wednesday, December 25, 2019


All day yesterday I was thinking about Magic. I get all nostalgic for the Christmas of my childhood but usually not until Christmas Eve. The realities of the commercial celebration of Christmas drown out any thoughts or feelings about Magic, but on Christmas Eve things have settled down—relatively speaking—and it's a lot easier to let other thoughts in.

For many people—myself included—Christmas is a travesty. Some turn to Solstice celebrations as an alternative but I have never warmed up to that one, somehow celebrating the return of the sun at the beginning of winter just seems wrong. In this latitude we have several months of very long cold nights ahead of us before the return of the sun becomes noticeable. Winter in the Maritimes can be quite horrible, what with blizzards, power outages, and bitter winds. The return of the sun just seems like a nasty joke at this time of year. Maybe in March...

On Christmas Eve I remember how I felt about Christmas as a child. When you are really young and gullible you believe in Santa Claus bringing you the toys and gifts you long for, in the whole Nativity story with its angels and bright stars guiding wise men to the birth of a Holy Child. The Holy Child.

The Santa Claus story gets dropped first, at some point you realize it is just make-belief perpetrated by adults. You pretend you believe anyways because there are hoped-for gifts involved. But the Nativity story stays with you longer because even adults seem to believe in that one. And it is a magical event full of joy and wonder. 

The only other Christian Holy Day that comes anywhere close is Easter, but that is tinged with betrayal, horror and despair. Adults give you the story of the Easter Bunny to make up for all that but like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny is exposed as a fraud pretty early. The gifts that the Easter Bunny brings pale in comparison to the gifts of Santa Claus. 

For me, Christmas and Easter are the only times that Magic becomes real, the bright and dark sides of Magic. I think of it as a whole other world that briefly touches our world of reality and cold hard facts at those times. So on Christmas Eve, I think about and feel the bright joyful side of Magic. It is close enough to touch. On Christmas Day it spins out and away, not to return until Good Friday in its darkest form of death and sadness, but Christmas Eve is a time of awe and deepfelt joy. 

Last night I kept going outside to listen for the harness bells of Santa's magical reindeer-drawn sleigh. As a child I convinced myself that I really could hear Santa's sleigh, so I continue to listen for that even in old age. I looked for Betelgeuse but it was a cloudy night and I didn't see it. I have heard that Betelgeuse has dimmed in preparation for going supernova and I would like to see that for myself.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Pre-Christmas newsletter...

It's been a good news/bad news kind of week, but I guess that's normal for this time of year. Going shopping for the necessaries is torturous due to all of the seasonal gift shoppers out and about. I have kept my own gift shopping minimal; in one short hour I went on Amazon to pick out five gifts—four for grandchildren and one for a distant terminally ill long time friend—and had them gift wrapped and shipped to various parts of the country. Sons and their wives will get Amazon gift certificates on the 24th. Easy-peasy if a little ethically compromised. I'd just as soon skip the whole thing but right now might not be the time for it. Maybe next year…

Hapi is cruising along uneventfully, her limp comes and goes. She has discovered garbage which I suspect is deliberately being left out for her, someone out there likes to see her snooping around their back yard and is encouraging her illicit activities (the garbage was not only not in a bin but carefully placed in what looks like a dogfood bowl!). Now that there is a bit of snow on the ground I can track her and managed to catch her in the act, so now she is locked into my back yard. The picture above is her looking morose about her captivity.

After years of sending unreciprocated Xmas cards I decided to give it up this year, and then two of my dogwalking buddies gave me cards at the Reservoir. Now I am considering rushing out to buy cards to give back. Who knew we would become a little community of card-exchanging friends?

The ponds are now at their most dangerous, covered in ice that looks thick enough to walk on but really is not. Hapi learned her lesson long ago and avoids ice-covered bodies of water like the plague, but many younger dogs don't know any better. Then dog owners attempt to rescue their dogs with the not unexpected results, soaking wet and freezing cold humans and dogs.

The park maintenance guys have been busy doing post-Dorion clean-up and over the past few weeks have come to know all the regular dogs. They stop their chipping machine when we walk by to chat and pet the dogs; the dogs have come to look forward to these little encounters. The other day one of the guys was asking after one dog in particular who they hadn't seen in a while and we realized that we hadn't either. The dog's health has been iffy lately so we wondered if something bad had happened. But that very same morning the dog showed up with his owner, who explained their absence as a happy event. They were off in PEI celebrating her 65th birthday.

The bad news is two-fold. One is finding out about the terminally ill friend mentioned previously. That was shocking. I have been debating going to see her (she lives on the opposite coast), but leaving Hapi behind is problematic and taking her with me is out of the question. So for now our relationship will be confined to the telephone.

The other is regular visits with B, who is in terrible shape. Can't move, can't breathe, can't sleep. All efforts to get her help have either failed, been put on hold due to the holiday season (!!!) or been sabotaged by B herself. It is so depressing and makes me so angry that I am almost beside myself after such visits. I fantasize about angry calls to various authorities but am afraid I will only make matters worse if I follow through on such fantasies. Three times in the past few weeks her son has called an ambulance to take her to Emerge because he can't move her himself. At $140 a pop it's an expensive proposition and they have no money. I said to him, well, they can't get blood from a turnip so keep those bills coming. Maybe someone will take notice of her if she becomes a regular ambulance user. He agrees.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

December howls

Almost everyone I know around here was bleary-eyed with exhaustion yesterday, none of us could sleep with the wind howling through the night. After two days it finally died in the wee hours of this morning.

Can't speak for anyone else but I lay awake listening and imagining worst case scenarios with all that noise outside. Last night I did manage to go to sleep in confidence that the wind was slightly less howly.

The hot the cold the rain the snow, I can live with all that, but the wind, oh the wind...

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Story tails

It was an unseasonably warm day, rain was forecast but was minimal. I turned off the heat pump and opened all the doors and windows to get some fresh air into the house, something that is in short supply in the wintertime. I puttered around getting some winterizing chores done. Then I noticed that Hapi was nowhere around and I had left the gate (and the front door) open. So I set out to find her. I headed in the direction that she had last been sighted a couple of weeks ago, a small row house complex up the street and across the field. There were a couple of older men loading junk into a pickup there. I asked one of them if he had seen a large grey wolf-like dog around.

"Oh, I've seen that dog, beautiful! But not today, sorry."

I was about to turn away and head in another direction but he asked for my phone number in case he did spot her. So I gave it to him. One thing led to another and in less than ten minutes we had exchanged the broad details of our past lives, our children, what it's like to live in this town. I'm guessing he was a few years younger than me, but not much. Another younger man with long black hair and tattoos all over bare arms (it was warm out!) came by and the older man asked him if he'd seen my dog. The young man said no he hadn't but he could text his wife to see if she'd seen her.

"That's okay, she only just got out, I'm pretty sure she's still close by," I said.

The young man nodded and continued on his way with a bag of garbage for the outdoor garbage bin.

I went back to chatting with the older man, now we were on to where our children lived and what they were doing there. Eventually though I had to call a halt to the conversation, I was expecting company and I should probably be at home when they arrived. Besides, I had left all the doors and windows open. As I left, the man said he wanted to know more about my son who had recently bought a house in town, he himself made his living as a landlord of over thirty units and was curious about someone just starting out on that career path.

"I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger, I'm not sure I would do it over again," he said.

When I got home Hapi was in the basement, sleeping. I think she was there all along.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Good advice

These days I am not taking a lot of photos, so pictures for my posts are going to be scarce.

Last night I ushered at the Jeremy Dutcher show. Wow. Powerful music. I'd never heard of him before, but last night was amazing. We ushers were invited to a reception for Dutcher after the show but I had already agreed to meet another usher at a local pub so I didn't go to the reception. Some nights the last thing I want to do is usher but I go anyway and sometimes it is really worth it. Dutcher and the previous show, Between Breaths, were spectacularly worth it.

Dutcher talked about his (and his parents') efforts to preserve their language, Wolastoqey (Maliseet). He said that there are only a hundred native speakers left now. He said that it was not just about the words lost but the unique worldview lost. Every language expresses a worldview, when you speak that language you participate in that worldview. When a language goes extinct, so does that worldview. I think this is true.

* * * * *

The usher that I met at the pub is francophone, from Montreal. At 77 years old she is one of the most beautiful women I have met. I love the sound of her voice and her laugh as well. Mostly I spent the evening just listening. Our server recognized her as someone who had participated in a panel on women aging in her sociology class. The server said she really appreciated my usher friend's advice. After the server took our order I asked my friend what her advice had been.

"I told them to get an education, it would set them free."

She said that living free is the most important thing; and maybe a university education these days doesn't get you as far as it used to, but it is still important enough to help young women be free in their lives. Apparently our server took that to heart.

* * * * *

I gave myself a good scare this week, really silly of me. It started out consulting Doctor Google about some signs (symptoms?) that Hapi was displaying. I came to the conclusion that she had Cushing's Disease. Among other things, one sign of this disease is increased appetite, so one day I let Hapi eat as much as she wanted to see just how far she would go. She used to be very picky about what, how much and when she ate but that seemed to be changing. So that day I just kept refilling her bowl to see how far she would go. She ate twice as much as usual. In my mind that kind of confirmed the Cushing's diagnosis. However the next day she didn't eat a single thing and she seemed to be in pain. All she really wanted to do was hide in the basement. So I made an appointment for Friday with the vet to discuss, by which time Hapi had recovered from her day of overeating.

The vet darn near laughed in my face. She waved the results of Hapi's recent bloodwork at me and said, "She's healthy! Old, but healthy!"

I got myself all worked up for nothing. Hapi might have Cushing's, but it's kind of irrelevant. The tests are expensive, there is no cure, and dogs can live for years with it. I'll try not to overfeed her again.