Friday, 8 November 2019

I used to be good at things...

I used to keep a detailed journal, faithfully, every day since I was age seven. Now I post infrequent blog posts and rarely get to writing down the important stuff. I forget it before I can get it on paper.

I used to bake homemade bread weekly and would never consider using prepared foods or ordering take-out. I used the best fresh ingredients and carefully plotted my menu plan every week to inform my grocery shopping. Now I dash home from work, whip out whatever's quickest, and am reduced to making pancakes on nights when there just isn't anything to cook. And I sometimes secretly sneak Kraft Dinner when no one else is at home (Gasp!) or have a strawberry milkshake for supper.

I used to sew my own clothing, my kids' t-shirts, quilts, tablecloths, curtains, etc. Now, if I can't possibly avoid having to get new clothes, I buy used clothing from Valu Village. If I absolutely can't find what I need there, I buy things from Walmart that inevitably pill up or fall apart the first time I wash them. I have boxes of fabric waiting in the basement, though!

I used to carefully plan all my gardening a season in advance. I had charts showing where to plant, what to plant, how to care for it, and a space for noting down the yield obtained. I kept the seed packets neatly labeled in a drawer so I could track what was successful and what wasn't, and I experimented with crop rotation and companion planting. I noted the phases of the moon and tracked weather patterns in a notebook. Now I fling whatever leftover seeds I have on hand into the soil, vaguely remembering where things were planted last year and some sort of injunction against planting certain things after tomatoes and potatoes. Things seem to flourish anyway, though sometimes I get weird hybrid combinations of squashes.

I used to be conscientious about visiting teaching and keeping tabs on the women I was responsible for and keeping close touch with friends. Now I shoot off occasional emails or wave at church and dream about moving far away to a deserted island where I am unreachable.

I used to be able to churn out a book a year. All it took was setting aside time to sit down in front of the laptop, and words would just magically flow. A clean-up revision or two and it was ready to send to the publisher. Now I stare at the blank laptop for half an hour and then check on Facebook messages, go walk the dog, read a while, forage for a snack...anything to put off writing. It's like all the words are building up behind a dam and trying to squeeze through a hole the size of a toothpaste tube.

I used to care about what people thought and tried to put my best foot forward. I wouldn't dream of wearing pajama pants to Home Depot or going out without combing my hair or brushing my teeth. Now I wear what's comfortable, never wear make-up on Saturdays, go barefoot as much as possible, and have a hard time trying to drum up any embarrassment or humiliation if I'm caught in a mistake. It's not that I don't care what people think. It's that people seem to have fallen off my radar in general.

I used to be able to memorize swathes of Shakespeare, lists of verb conjugations, and the telephone numbers of all my friends. Now I'm lucky if I can remember my own birthdate. I haven't read Shakespeare in years. I've forgotten all the languages I used to know except English, and even that is iffy on some days. I don't do nouns before noon. I want to get a t-shirt that says, "I used to be intelligent." I think I lost twenty IQ points with each kid.

I used to be a stickler when it came to kids' bedtimes, homework, music lessons, practicing, and room organization. I had job charts and reward systems and individual time with each child every day. I restricted video games and pushed healthy outdoor activity. Now my one remaining child at home comes and goes without my seeing him. I can't tell you the last time we played a game or ate together. (Maybe Thanksgiving.) I don't require him to do any daily household jobs, though he is happy to help if I ask. He spends all of his time (when not at school or work) playing video games. I still make his bed sometimes to keep his father from getting upset. But he's turned out to be a terrific, polite, intelligent, and capable young man. So maybe the hands-off approach worked in his case.

I don't know if all of this is an indication of a general decline, or laziness, or exhaustion, or maybe cognitive failure. Or maybe I'm just finally learning to relax and breathe a little. To allow myself some human frailty. To separate out the important from the not, the visible from the invisible. To be comfortable in my own pajama-pant-clad self.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Thirty Years in Canada

This weekend marks my thirtieth anniversary of coming to Canada. It took us four days to drive from Utah, leaving Nov 1 and arriving in Sault Ste Marie on -- I believe it must have been -- Nov 4. We crossed the border at midnight, in a snowstorm, with a 9-month-old baby and inadequate paperwork, but the border guard was very nice about it and we made it through.

I have lived in lots of houses and cities in my life, but the move to Canada was the best move I’ve ever made. I miss my family back home and the Rocky Mountains, but I am very content to be living here in this welcoming and peaceful place. Driving through the autumn maples, looking out over vistas of farm fields and the vast stretch of the Great Lakes, I want to weep with the beauty of it. The rolling land, the granite boulders, the birch and white pines stir my soul. Even in the most domesticated landscape, there is still a touch of wildness, a promise of places unexplored, the great unknown and unknowable.
Some favourite photos of places in Canada, swiped off the Internet (various real estate ads, in fact!):

Sunday, 27 October 2019

The Garden About to be Put to Bed

Yesterday I dug the last of the carrots and beets, gathered in the last of the dry beans, and tore out the tomato plants. Stacked the tomato cages (which were useless, by the way. The tomatoes grew so thick and fast they bent the cages and tipped them all over. Ah well, lessons learned). There are only a few onions and some kale left. Then it will be time to top the beds with mulch, pull up the wooden walkways and stack them, and it will be done for another winter.

I love to garden. I love getting messy and smelling the damp soil and fiddling with living plants. I love putting up food at harvest. But I also love wrapping it all up and putting it away, knowing that I have six months of rest ahead of me (well, other than shoveling snow, of course!). There are all kinds of things you can do to extend the growing season, with poly tunnels and whatnot, but really, I'm content to let it all die down in its usual season. We've both worked hard all summer and it's time to rest, myself and the soil.

And to put trays of lettuce and spinach under the grow lights in the kitchen...

Yeah, a gardener can never let go of plants completely.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Thoughts on a stash of yarn

A member of the local weavers' guild passed away recently, and her family is making her yarn stash available to those who want to buy it at a discount. I thought about it and managed to talk myself out of it---I have so much yarn tucked away in bins in the crawlspace already. Really, I shouldn't buy more unless it's for a specific project.

It got me to thinking, though, of all the "stashed" stuff I have that my family will have to clear out when I'm gone. Will any of it mean anything to anyone but me? The old sepia photographs I found of plump women at the beach in about 1940 (not relatives). The mismatched crocheted angels and bells and snowflakes that won't fit on my Christmas tree. The notes I took at the Provincial Archives while researching the McKendry family tree. The stack of antique postcards from Germany. The drawers of recipes enthusiastically copied but rarely tried. The dried-out paints left from that glass-painting hobby. A Dremel and all its parts that I haven't used in a decade. Doodled floorplans and clippings from design magazines. Bottles of self-saved vegetable seeds. Bent spades and dull secateurs. The scrawling drivel of the journal I kept when I was seven.

Is this what my whole life has come down to? Is this what I have to show for it? Well no, obviously there's more to it than that. I have five wonderful direct descendants if nothing else. And a stack of books I've written that I'm proud of. And the journals from my later years have more valuable substance to them. But still...

Some sorting out to do. Some consolidating and discarding to carry out. I always think of myself as a minimalist, generally...and then I remember the crawlspace. Still some work to be done!

Monday, 14 October 2019

Autumn finally comes to Ontario

Last week there were kids in swimsuits playing in the splash pad at the community centre. So NOT normal for Ontario in October! But finally today there's a brisk cold breeze and the maple trees down the street are turning crimson. My tomato plants are still blooming, and there's even a new bloom on the lavender. But there's finally a fall tinge to the air, and I can start anticipating hot chocolate and curling by the fireplace with a book and blanket.

I went for a two-hour stroll along the lake today, just enjoying the breeze and blue sky and sunshine. Need to soak up all I can before the weather goes gray. Lots of people were out (good to see so many like-minded people who couldn't resist this wonderful fall day), but if I kept my eyes on the lovely water and sweeping willows and gracefully dipping swans, I could almost pretend I was by myself. That the beautiful park was my yard that I could walk in and sit in and enjoy but not have to maintain. Really, you don't have to own things, so long as you can enjoy the use of them.

That said, I've been eyeing two beautiful rolling acres on Highway 6 and fantasizing about a little vegetable market garden... Then I remind myself that a) I have a job in downtown Toronto, and b) I don't have the money, and c) one of my favourite passions in life is walking, and it's difficult to do that if you live on a highway with no pedestrian sidewalks. So at least for now, I'll just be content with growing my little boxes of veggies and walking along Lake Ontario. At least until the weather breaks and it's time to retreat indoors for seven months.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

General Conference

A lovely day spent watching the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' General Conference and Women's Broadcast from Salt Lake City. Inspiring messages, and I came away feeling valued, understood, and stronger, like I can tackle anything. And I'm impressed with how musical members of the Church are. Seriously, the Tabernacle Choir is good, but the other (amateur) choirs that sang today, including one made up of girls age 8-11, I enjoyed just as much.

My great-grandmother used to call spiritual experiences her "blood transfusions," because she came away from them strengthened and refreshed. That is just how I would describe today. One of my favourite things ever is to sit and do my needlepoint and listen to prophets and apostles. Timely topics, powerful messages, and an infusion of happiness. I recommend it to anyone!

Friday, 27 September 2019

Toronto Climate Strike

Today I took part in the Toronto Climate Strike (though I took a half a vacation day to go, so I don't suppose it meets the criteria of a strike). We met at Queen's Park for an hour and a half of speeches we couldn't hear very well, though I liked the native drumming and singing. The march itself was very late in starting, and after standing for so long I started getting antsy. And noticed some people were just heading off to march anyway, without waiting for the "Go." I hesitated, and then I saw a placard one person was carrying that said, "Actions not Words," and that was enough to set me off walking.

I have to say, it was a moving experience (no pun intended!). Halfway through the walk, I stopped at the corner of Bay and Dundas and just watched the stream of people going by. I felt like a witness to something amazing. Toronto is truly a microcosm of the world. People of all races and nationalities, all religions and orientations, all ages from babes in arms to white-haired grandparents. A Jewish group blowing the shofar. A collection of "uprooted" people -- refugees to this country. Trans people marching with collared priests and a Tibetan woman in traditional dress, a Sufi mystic, Sikhs, First Nations...everyone was represented. People brought babies, dogs, even a goat. Protest signs in multiple languages.

I was flowing along quite happily, and then I saw a shirtless man walking barefoot down Bay Street, and I suddenly realized I was crying. It's Toronto. It's almost October. He shouldn't be able to do that! Why is it 30 degrees Celsius and I'm thinking I need sunscreen and everyone around me was in shorts and sleeveless shirts? Climate change doubters, I rest my case. This isn't normal!

The signs and slogans I found fascinating in their fervency and variety. They ranged from clever to simple:

  • Leo DiCaprio's girlfriends deserve a future too
  • Hugs for Bugs
  • I'm skipping my lesson so I can teach you one
  • Why study when I won't have a future anyway?
  • Keep it in the Ground
  • Planet over Profit
  • What good is your money on a dead planet?
  • The wrong Amazon is burning
  • I'm marching for my grandkids
  • I'm with Greta
  • Start Acting like a Child
  • A picture of a windmill that said "Renewable Energy: I'm a big fan!"
  • Policy Change, not Climate Change
  • Run Forest Run!
  • Architects for the Planet
  • Act now! Need Advice? Ask a scientist!
  • Make Canada cold again
  • Make the planet Greta again
  • This planet is hotter than Young Leo
  • The oceans are rising and so are we
  • I can't believe I still have to protest this [word I try not to use]
  • I stand for what I stand on
  • Existence requires resistance
  • A tiny sign that said "Save paper."
  • And a chalkboard that said something like "This sign causes no waste!"
But my favourite sign said, "It's so important, even introverts are marching!" I told the woman holding the sign that I had found my people, and she replied, "We're here. We're just invisible."

As we walked, people chanted football-rally type of slogans, though "Climate Justice Now!" seemed a bit vague to me. Then again, I guess it's not so catchy to march to "Lower the voting age to 16" or "Responsible forest management" or "Conspicuous consumption has no place on a finite planet."

I watched this stream of passionate humanity -- green hair, globe-painted faces -- and felt the tears on my cheeks. I haven't stopped to think why. Touching to see such conviction? Love for this crazy, messy, exuberant city? Pride for Canadians who left work and school to participate? Or just sorrow for this achingly beautiful, abused, patient, generous, injured planet? I echo Enoch's cry: "When will the earth rest?" We owe it such a deep apology. The earth trembles. I'm surprised it hasn't shaken us off like fleas long before this.

Climate change is the only issue. If we had social and racial justice, equitable economics, fair distribution of resources, safety, tolerance, and peace, we could more easily address it. But without a planet to stand on, even those weighty matters...won't matter.