Wednesday, 15 January 2020


We're off! Two weeks of sand, sun, and sleep. Books are packed (that's really the only vital thing to take), poor Brio is at the kennel, food is in the freezer for Son Number 3 (Yeah, I know, he's a chef, but habits die hard), and my out-of-office notification is set at work. And it's two weeks of no computer, so I won't be posting for a little while. Talk to you when I get back!


Monday, 13 January 2020

The corollary of travel...

Since we are going to be away, I've had to find a solution for Brio's care, and it's been surprisingly difficult. There are three young men living in my house, but all of them are working or in school or both, and trying to ensure someone would be here at the right time and frequency proved impossible. And even if they were able to let Brio out, no one would be willing to walk him as much as he needs. And he needs a lot. This is one energetic dog!

So I looked into having a friend watch him at her house. But she had to work out of town and he'd be left alone for huge stretches of time, which wasn't doable. Then I looked at having another friend down the street just come to the house when the three young men weren't available. But she never could firm up details or commit to anything.

Then I looked at professional dog walkers and dog sitters, but they wanted $16-25 a visit or $50 a day. Wow, so not doable. I'd have to mortgage the house. It seemed like a lot for a $150 dog.

Then I looked at having someone just come house-sit in general, but it would have been awkward for them with the three young men bustling in and out.

I considered making friends with a homeless person and offering them a place to stay for two weeks in exchange for watching Brio. But my social worker husband informed me they would likely lose their beds at the shelter if they missed a night.

So as a last resort, I booked him into a kennel, run by the vet. He's been there before and I know they'll take care of him, and it's cheaper than a dog walker. I know they'll let him out on a regular basis, though not as frequently as he's used to, and they won't play Frisbee and ball off-leash with him. I know he'll cry for a lot of it. But they'll be on hand if there's any medical emergency, and they might consider letting him lie on their feet under the reception desk all day if he's lonely, which would make him perfectly happy. (They did note that they couldn't put him on payroll, but it's okay if he volunteers at the desk.)

So the problem is solved. But I'm already getting teary-eyed at the thought of leaving him for two weeks. Which tells me I'm way too in his head, and he's way too in mine. Maybe the separation will be good for us. We've become a little too reliant on each other. I'm trying not to think about it.

Funny how these little furry friends get under your skin, isn't it?

Meanwhile, I'm not concerned about leaving Son Number 3 at all. Which tells me I have confidence in his responsibility and self-reliance. Which means he's an adult now. Which means my work here is basically done.

Which means I am now free to go travel!

Saturday, 11 January 2020

My Year of Travel

Last year I travelled to New York City, Utah, Idaho (twice), and Washington State, and I thought surely this year I won't travel so much, because really, that's quite unusual. But...

Next week we go to Hawaii for two weeks, to escape the winter.
This summer my sister and her husband are coming to tour Quebec with me, entirely due to reading too much Louise Penny.
And my husband is competing in Scotland in August, so I'm tagging along. We're going to spend two weeks in Scotland and...drum roll...three nights in Iceland!

Now, I'm currently sitting outside Toronto, Canada with Arctic temperatures and freezing rain outside, so you might be surprised that I'm more excited about going to Iceland than Hawaii. But it has been a long-held dream of mine. My husband spent a month in Iceland many years ago and came back full of glowing reports, and I've been wanting to go ever since. The thought of that totally (to me) alien landscape, the ocean, the history, the language -- I am enamoured. Icelandair is having a great deal where you don't have to pay for the extra flight when you stop off on your way to other places, or I never could afford it. But because they're trying to attract tourists, I'm able and happy to oblige.

I know three nights isn't enough time to get to know the place, but it's a beginning. I'm saving my pennies to go back someday and make a proper tour of it. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy what I can do. Because who knows how long I'll be able to do it? Seize the day and all that. I know we have to be frugal and plan for our futures, but we also have to act while we're still young and healthy enough to do it. I've heard it said it's more likely you'll look back and regret the things you didn't do than the things you did.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Lessons from a Rabbit

Son Number 3 was walking along the road one day and saw a rabbit just sitting on the grass at the side of the road, not moving. My son approached closer and closer, but the rabbit still didn't move a whisker, just frozen in place. My son stopped a couple of feet away, puzzled, and then he noticed what the rabbit had seen earlier---a coyote was crossing the road.

So my son froze alongside the rabbit. The coyote continued on his way, and once he was gone, the bunny bolted. So did my son.

Lessons learned: Awareness is crucial. When in doubt, hold still. Think things through before you react. Pay attention to small furry creatures. Keep one eye out for escape routes. Small details will keep you safe.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan

I am reading a delicious little book right now by Michael Pollan. I've enjoyed his other books, but this one really speaks to me. Ostensibly it's about him building himself a writing retreat in his backyard, but really, it's about much more than that. He explores the psychological needs people have in relating to their environments, how space and light affect us, and how shelter means much more than its sheer functionality.

A few of the points he has made so far really jumped out at me. He talks about how a part of himself has always stood apart from the people around him, and he wanted to build a structure to house that part of himself. That hits the nail on the head! I've always felt a need to withdraw a little on a regular basis to "regroup" and think. I just can't find that renewal and clarity when I'm surrounded by other people. Maybe that's part of being a writer, and maybe it's part of being an introvert who is forced every day to interact outside of my comfort zone. Last night I even found myself sitting on the couch beside my husband, watching TV, and pulling on sound-cancelling headphones and picking up a book, just to retreat for a few minutes from the noise and information input. All I needed was a few minutes and then I could breathe again. It has taken me a lot of years to acknowledge that introversion and realize it's okay to accommodate it. Without apology.

He also describes---in hilarious fashion---how important books are to him, and as I read it, I felt I had met a kindred soul. For example, page 44: "...Marshall McLuhan had likened opening the Sunday paper to settling into a warm bath. The metaphor delivered a tiny jolt of recognition, because I too found reading---reading almost anything---to be a vaguely sensual, slightly indulgent pleasure, and one that had very little to do with the acquisition of information...the deep piles of words on the page comprised for me a kind of soothing environment, a plush cushion into which sometimes I could barely wait to sink my head." He talks about feeling naked without a book, and reading over people's shoulders on the subway and never thinking to look into the faces of the people opposite him. That's it exactly! It's an addiction, I acknowledge, one that feels like sinking into a bath of warm honey. He also admits that half the appeal of starting a new project or hobby is the fun of reading about it. I fully confess the reason I still garden is because I love poring over the seed catalogs and reading the histories of certain varieties. And how can you not order seeds and plant them when confronted with such luscious photos?

The part I'm reading now is how buildings are experiences more than objects. That resonates with me too. All of my hunting for real estate is about the stories that jump into my head when I see a place. I'm looking for a feeling and experience, more than the actual tactile structure. The certain slant of light brings to mind curling up with a book or smelling cinnamon rolls baking. The graceful arch of a doorway has me walking through it, hanging my coat just here, bending to greet my dog there. I can't really explain it well, but Michael Pollan, I sense, understands it. But it's the reason why I could see myself living equally well in a Quebec City loft with exposed brick walls or a rambling white farmhouse on the Bruce Peninsula or a glass-and-steel condo overlooking Lake Erie. There really is a coherence to all of those disparate places---the fall of the light, the space above my shoulders, the warmth of golden-wood bookshelves and a crackling fireplace---they're all possible in all of those places. The experience of each place ties them all together. Maybe I'm not fickle or indecisive after all.

He also talks about how a home needs to be situated and crafted to fit a certain site, and the site determines much about the structure. In turn, the structure molds the person, and vice versa. Maybe that's why the cookie-cutter suburban house never has appealed to me. It isn't the sameness so much as the all-oriented-to-the-street-the-same-way-ness. The way the roads ignore topography and blast their way through rock in order to stay straight instead of curving and allowing the flow of the landscape. The way we try to cram as many houses onto the head of a pin as possible. The way we clear away all of the trees to build the houses and then stick trees back in again. That kind of building doesn't honor the location, even as it tries to own the view.

Back to reading now. Can't wait to see what he says next!

Photos swiped from the Internet of favourite houses:

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

It's been an interesting year!

I've been keeping this blog since 2011, and each new year's eve I tend to write about how the past year went and what the new year will hopefully hold. But let's be honest---this past year has seen some pretty horrific things on the world stage that I don't want to review, and half of the challenges I experience usually come from looking too far ahead into the future. So this year's End-of-Year post will be about the present.

I often forget to be grateful for what I have and take for granted so many of my blessings. I thought it would be a good idea to inventory some of them now, as the year winds to a close and a new one begins. I've spent today reading and watching Hallmark movies, making homemade bread and lentil soup, and dashing to the conveniently-located store for more milk. I'm thankful for good writers, artists, musicians, farmers, and people who are willing to work on new year's eve. I'm thankful for the easy access we have to an abundance of food in this country.

I took Brio for a walk and the air had just the right crisp coolness. I'm thankful to live in such a beautiful province in a community where I feel safe and welcomed. There are interesting things to see and do all around me. I'm thankful for opportunities to learn and explore. I'm grateful for friends at church who keep good track of me, for the gift of strong faith that sustains me, and for a Father who gives me what I need and is loving enough not to give me everything I want.

Tonight I'm sitting in a warm, dry, comfortable home.  My dog is curled snugly beside me, my husband is napping upstairs after a day of working hard, and my dishwasher is sloshing my dishes around so that I don't have to. The gas fireplace is sending out cozy heat. The wind is banging at the windows and it has been snowing most of the day, but it's at just the right temperature so that the snow sticks to the grass but not to the sidewalk, so I don't have to shovel. (Come on, how lucky is that?!) I'm blessed with a close-knit family, siblings who feel like best friends, and warm and wonderful parents. I'm grateful to have fun, loving children and two terrific grandchildren. I'm grateful for moments of contentment, for the gift of time and leisure, and for a family who lets me regularly disappear into my writing. I'm thankful for a husband who indulges my looms, spinning wheels, quilt frames, scroll frames, instruments, grow lights, plant trays, piles of books, hyperallergenic dog...well, you get the idea.

Much as I don't want this peaceful Christmas break to end, I have a good job to return to on Thursday, with a bus to take me there. I have food in the fridge, money in the bank, a roof over my head, clothes in my closet, and a stack of books waiting. All in all, I am feeling very blessed. As Lao Tzu says, he who knows he has enough is rich. And when you realize you lack nothing, the world is yours.

Best wishes to all for 2020. Let's hope we enter into it with (pardon the pun) clear vision and purpose.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

A lovely Christmas

All my children and grandchildren home for Christmas. Lots of food, laughter, coziness, and hugs. I love it when my boys are all together. It's like having a litter of puppies tumbling around.