Saturday, 29 April 2017

Kindred Spirits

So I just realized it's been a week already since my last post. Good grief, where did the time go? I haven't even put away the gardening gloves yet from last Saturday. Sheesh.

This week I made two great connections, one with a cousin I haven't seen since childhood and one with a friend I haven't seen since high school. My cousin and I have chatted on Facebook from time to time, but this week a deeper connection came when we found out we both have Fibromyalgia. Suddenly there was someone else in the universe who knew exactly how I feel! I am sorry to hear she has the same dilemmas, but it was also comforting to know she still manages to carry on, raising her kids and having a good life. So now we can support each other on rough days. You know, those days when it's a burden to tie your own shoes and your earrings feel too heavy.

My friend I managed to connect with through a lucky chance encounter with her nephew here in Canada. She still lives in Utah, and the emails have been flying back and forth since we got back in touch. Thirty-two years to catch up on! Hard to believe. We were once inseparable. She's the one who fed me cornbread and turned a bad day into a good one, which I've blogged about before. So great to hear about her life, her family, her ambitions. She's still the same fun and energetic person and it's great to find her again.

For most of my adult life, I haven't really felt the need to have friends. I'm busy with work and hobbies and family and church, and I'm quite content on my own. My husband has been the greatest friend, always there. But now and then I feel the lack of sisters up here, and realize I need some female companionship to round out my life. I had a good friend Tracey Firth who died too young over a year ago. There are people I love but they're just as busy as I am, so we rarely connect. And I have acquaintances from church and work, but it's not like we really get together or anything outside of those venues. It's primarily people I've stayed in touch with over the Internet who fill the friendship role for me. Now I have this newly re-found friend to enrich my life. So grateful for technology at moments like this!

So lots to catch up on, thirty-two years to summarize...and yet no words are really needed at all. That's the best kind of friend!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Earth Day Activities

I was outside by about 8:00 this morning, after a decadent morning lying in late and reading a book about the Borgias. Came back in at about 2:30 and it felt as if only a couple of hours had passed. I love being outdoors!

Got the entire garden weeded and raked, the support structure for the peas put in, and the peas planted (Swedish Reds). Also planted beets, onions, lettuce, spinach, kale, and lamb's quarters. (Yes, I know it's a weed. But it's yummy, so I save the seeds and purposely plant it.) Hubby bought dwarf raspberry and blackberry bushes and planted them. Built wooden raised boxes to go around the two existing asparagus beds. Set out paths and stepping stones in the garden. Planted some flowers and sedum in the front yard. Stirred and distributed the compost. Filled the two planters beside the front door and planted them with chives. (Yeah, I know, but they have lovely purple blooms!) Came in to find Son #3 making a delicious cabbage/vegetable/noodle stir fry. Threw in two batches of laundry. Made spaghetti squash and sauce/cheese (the low-carb equivalent of pasta) and put it in the oven. Browsed farmland on the internet for a little while... (Yeah, I know.)

Now it's 7 p.m. and I'm back on the couch with the Borgias again. I wish all days could be like this!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Spring Planting

They say that when the daffodils bloom, it's time to plant chard, spinach, beets, and onions. When the maple trees start to blossom, you plant peas. When the white oak leaves are the size of a cat's ear, you plant potatoes. Beans and cucumbers go in when the apple trees drop their petals. And you set out your tomatoes, melons, and eggplants when the peonies flower (which is always on the Victoria Day weekend, our last-frost date). That's the holiday weekend when gardening centres burst with hopeful shoppers, and everyone is outdoors trimming their grass and spreading mulch. It's as if we all emerge from our cocoons at the same time, and people bask on their front porches, softly fanning new wings.

I've always been impressed with how neat and tidy people keep their yards here. I guess when your summer season is only a couple of months long, you milk it for all it's worth. The sound of lawnmowers revving up is the sure sound of summer. Strangers smile at each other as they pass at the store clutching lawn bags and canvas gloves, as if congratulating each other on surviving yet another winter. There's a collective sigh of relief---and then frenzy to get out into the garden.

To me, the fascinating part of spring is when the hillside at Dundas Street and Mississauga Road suddenly goes from being a non-descript and uniform blah-brown to flaming yellow as the forsythia bursts into blossom. You don't know they are there all year, but for a few exciting weeks in April they make their presence known. It's a brief shout before they fade back into the understory. I planted a forsythia in the backyard and I'm always thrilled at the first shimmer of colour, like a fire about to catch hold of dry twigs. I stand at the kitchen window and let my eyes drink in the colour the same way my skin soaks up the fresh-emerging sun.

Tomorrow is Earth Day and I'm planting... The maple trees are blossoming.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Beautiful Buzzards

As I waited for my bus today, I was enjoying the mild air and soft sunshine, and I looked up to see three enormous birds circling above a nearby condo building. They were far away but still looked huge, and from the shape of their wings I think they were likely vultures. I watched for at least ten minutes as they soared and swirled gently, riding the breeze against the pearl-coloured sky, and not once did any of them flap their wings. They just glided, higher, in lazy swoops, and finally disappeared over the horizon.

There was something lovely about it---even if they were vultures. Something was so calming about their effortless dance. They don't fight the currents, they play with them, and look how high they soar.

I who struggle constantly against all currents can learn a lesson here.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Lots of Planning, No Progress

My husband and I decided to tackle a project today. We're both off work and there was a whole day ahead of us to get a lot done. We went out to the backyard to look it over and decide on one thing we could accomplish. But there's so much to do. Should we focus on the far corner of the yard where a mulberry tree would look good? Should we put up grape trellises or espaliered apple trees? Should we just focus on getting the fountain to work and clean up the winter debris? What about building a box to shore up the asparagus bed?

We ended up driving to the greenhouse to look for a mulberry tree, but they hadn't been delivered yet. So we ended up wandering around looking at jade trees and lemon trees and fantasizing about putting up a greenhouse. Lining our walkway with oleander. Putting a gong out front to act as a doorbell. Talked to the lady about what to feed my orchids. And then we saw an oil painting hanging on the wall of the garden centre that would be perfect for my grand-daughter's bedroom. And today is her birthday. So we bought the painting and then picked up Son #3 and drove to visit the grandkids to deliver the painting and Easter chocolate and stuffed bunnies. Stopped for fish and chips on the way home. Hubby went to take a nap and I retired to the couch to read and doze. And now it's 6 p.m. and we didn't get a thing done today. We didn't even decide on a project, much less do one. And the laundry hasn't been done and the floor needs sweeping. And we'll probably end up curled up watching TV tonight and not do those things either.

A pretty nice day, all in all!

P.S. An hour later -- I went out and took the mulch off the asparagus beds, and my husband got up and went to band practice. So the day's not a complete washout!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Home Day

I stayed home sick today so I wouldn't spread Pink Eye around my office. Spent a peaceful day reading, cooking, writing, walking the dogs, and sitting in the back yard. Then I came in and watched No Reservations. In part of the movie, they are cooking Dover sole. And guess what Son #3 cooked at school today? Dover sole. Ha!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Even More Amazing

I was supposed to babysit my grandkids tonight, but I woke up with pink eye...of course. So Amazing Son #3 is going to babysit them instead. It's noble. It's wonderful. I am blessed.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

My Amazing Son

I came home from work on Friday just beat, to find Son Number Three making leek and potato soup with french bread. And honestly, it was the best soup I've eaten. And I'm not just saying that because he's my kid. The fact that he would think of doing it is just as amazing as the fact that he can do it.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Practising for Someday

It was a difficult day today, and I can't even pinpoint why. The usual two-hour slog to work and the usual two-hour slog home. The busyness in between. Nothing extraordinary. It was a gray, rainy day, though, and somehow my spirits just plummeted as I travelled, and by the time I got home all thoughts I'd harboured of writing went sort of out the window. I could tell I was headed for a bout of major depression, so I decided to be nice to myself and try to head it off.

I covered the windows with dark curtains and turned on a low light. I turned on the Fireplace Channel on TV (don't laugh. It was the best I could do because the switch on our gas fireplace is broken). I curled up with a fuzzy blanket, my dog, a mug of hot chocolate, and Susanna Kearsley's The Shadowy Horses, a favourite no matter how many times I read it. And I just pretended I was in a cabin in the Muskokas, with loons on the lake outside the window instead of mallards in the swimming pool. All I lacked was a candle scented like wood smoke to add authenticity.

And it worked. I'm feeling cozy and restored to myself again. I wrote for an hour or so. Now I'm going back to the couch with my book and dog.

Someday when I'm retired, I will do a lot of this.

The book I'm currently working on is one I'm co-writing with my biologist sister about caring for the earth. It's also a cozy sort of book, and I'm hoping one day some other frazzled woman will find peace curling up with it by the fire.

Writers start young in our family...

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Loreena McKennitt and Doomsday Preppers

Yes, I really can link the two.

I once went to a live concert to hear Loreena McKennitt, a talented musician. Her music combines folk music and poetry from several cultures, and since I love her CDs, I was looking forward to seeing her in person. And the music was good. But she spent long periods between songs talking to the audience, explaining the sources of her inspiration, giving lectures on musicology, and generally yammering. I found myself at first interested, then bored, then irritated. I didn't want her doctoral thesis. I wanted her to just sing already!

"Preppers" are people who spend much time and energy focusing on the future. They prepare for predicted disasters and challenges, which can be a smart thing. But if you focus too much on the future, you're in danger of missing the joy to be found in the present. Sometimes they're too buried in emergency candles and freeze-dried stroganoff to remember that they're alive now.

I'm the same in many ways. I dither and prepare and plan and make sure I have every micro detail covered, but I never get around to doing the thing I've studied and prepared for. Witness: I've studied eleven languages, and the only places I've travelled to outside of North America are Italy and Britain. I've learned everything I can about farming but still live in the suburbs. It's as if I'm always waiting for life to start, but meanwhile it's going on all around me.

I admire Son #2 because he's actually acting. He and his partner have strongly-held values regarding right living and being close to the earth, and they're doing something about them. They've taken a 5-month leave from work in order to go WWOOF (volunteer) on a farm run by an intentional community. They'll try it out and decide if they want to join such a community and/or homestead themselves.

It's cool to me that they're willing to take risks and reach out to grasp the lifestyle they believe in. They're willing to take action and try...even though rather unprepared. I respect that, and I sort of envy that fearlessness. I need to stop tuning my instrument and just sing my song. Good or bad, this is what I have to offer. I need to stop yammering and just get on with it!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

I was born a century too late and twenty years too early

One of my favourite things is watching Ruth Goodman on TV. She's the kind of person I want for a friend. I want to work with her. She has taken the ordinary bits of history, the small things that make up regular life, and made them fascinating. I watch these shows or I read books about the last half of the 19th century and I feel  almost as if I've come home.

I don't have an idolized view of that time period. I know it was hard labour, without the medical knowledge we have now or the conveniences we've come to see as necessities. Women were often isolated and overworked and undervalued. But there is something so appealing about it at the same time---working with your hands, connecting with the earth, providing your own basics, focusing on needs instead of being distracted by wants. You can sit down at the end of the day knowing you have accomplished something useful and of worth. You can see the connection between your labour and your life. Right now all I do is push paper around all day and sometimes I can't see the use of it all. Yes, I get a pay cheque, but I am not convinced it contributed anything worthwhile to the universe. I'm removed from any good I might be doing.

On the other hand, there is a back-to-the-land movement going on right now that rivals anything in the 60s. This time I think the movement is more thought-out and organized and will be more permanent (because it has to be, I think). Young people have an ideal that really is doable and based on values, not just a reaction to the dominant culture. I look at the great ecological projects and communities that are arising, and I want to be a full-fledged part of it. This is just what I've planned and prepared for all my life! Finally I find like-minded individuals. Except I'm getting too old and creaky to labour that hard physically. I'm closer to the sitting-by-the-fire period of my life than the go-into-the-woods-with-an-axe period.

The other day I was reading an article in the newspaper about a group of young people who are tackling the problem of the urban tree cover and forestry in general, and the thought came to me that the future is in pretty good hands. The younger generations have an interest in this stuff, some of them feel a calling to address environmental issues, and there is an awareness and will among them that is less visible in my generation.

The idea also occurred to me that these young people have a lot of knowledge and resources at their fingertips. People my age and older have put a lot of their knowledge into books and YouTube. I have learned and studied all my life, but the younger generation can learn from the same sources I did. They don't need me specifically in order to carry on. Which means I can sit by the fire and leave it in their hands with confidence. I don't know if this is a sad thought or a comforting one.

Then I catch myself thinking like this and tell myself, "You're 49, not 79. What's the matter with you? You still have 40 years left!" Except it doesn't feel that way. It's getting harder to get out of bed and get down the stairs every morning. Sometimes when I've been lying on the couch I can't sit up and stand; I have to roll off onto my hands and knees first and pull myself up to stand. There are days the dogs tow me around the block and I can hardly keep up with them, and I tire out before they do. But, granted, there are also days when I feel fine and get a ton accomplished with hardly a twinge. Those are the days I browse the real estate ads looking at acreage and daydreaming.

I guess I have to approach it with a different mindset. Sometimes there are days (not periods) for sitting by the fire, and there are days for plowing fields. And that's okay. I can feel good about both.