Thursday, 26 October 2017

Overheard on the Subway

On the subway home today, I was struck by the sight of two older women talking together. They had such interesting faces, such animated expressions, and I thought to myself, "I bet they've lived interesting lives." And I admit I sidled over and shamelessly eavesdropped (which really isn't hard to do on a crowded subway. I mean, no one has a private conversation on the subway, right?) Anyway, I was right. In the space of a few minutes I learned one was on her way to the airport for an international flight, and the other was an artist who had something to do with organizing concerts. And she knew a fantastic violinist in Kyrgyzstan (I think she said) who was asked by the president of the country to set up a music school, and when the violinist said she didn't even have a decent instrument of her own, he bought her a Stradivarius. And the lady on the subway whipped out her phone and played a video of this violinist playing an achingly beautiful piece in concert. She told her friend about cornering a couple of political bigwigs and insisting they organize a concert featuring this violinist, and the concert is indeed happening.

By the time we reached my stop, I had gleaned leads on about five topics that would be worth writing about. There were so many magazine articles I could draw from their minds, maybe even a biography or two. I was tempted to turn to them and say, "Please let me interview you!" But I didn't have any business cards on me, and the only paper I had to write my contact info on was an old receipt. And then I got an attack of shyness and chickened out altogether and ended up not interacting with them at all, but got off at my stop and thought about them on the bus home.

Lost opportunity, probably. Terribly bad manners for eavesdropping? Undoubtedly. But what an interesting ride home that was! I wonder what other intriguing people were on that train car.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Tucking the garden into bed for the winter

This week I planted the garlic and pulled out the remainders of the cabbage and peppers, cut down the asparagus ferns, and piled six inches of straw over everything. I left the kale, which is still producing, and I let the cherry tomatoes remain standing to act as a sort of retaining wall until the straw is damp enough that it won't blow too easily into the pool.

I love spreading straw. That dusty smell isn't quite the same scent as hay, but it's close enough to send me straight back to childhood and Grandpa's farm and my horse Shadow. That hollow sound horses make when they chew oats. The damp-wood smell of Grandma and Grandpa's back porch. The particular squeak and slam of the back door. The crunchy sound of boots on gravel. The fascinating view of gravel speeding by underfoot as I peered through the hole in the floor of Grandpa's pick-up. Good memories.

I wonder sometimes if my farmer grandfather is watching me from beyond as I dig potatoes and dry mint and play mini-farm in my backyard. I feel him nearby as I harvest my own wheat and oats, hoe carrots, and pick zucchini. I picture him grinning as I dig up my four sugar beets. (They were an experiment, okay? I just wanted to see if I could grow them.) I am grateful every day for my heritage and that my parents passed on to me the love of land.

I took my grandkids to the park the other day, and as we walked we took notice of the birds, ducks, squirrels, chipmunks, and even a garter snake wriggling like a bootlace on the path. My granddaughter sighed and said, "I love nature. I would never hurt it."

Mission accomplished.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

I've forgotten how to wear shoes

My last pair of shoes wore out completely some time ago, so I have spent all summer in sandals. It has been heavenly, I have to say, and so convenient to just slip them on and go. But the cold weather is descending, the leaves are starting to fall, and even I know that it isn't fashionable to wear socks with sandals, so this week I broke down and bought another pair of tennis shoes.

And they're awkward. I mean, I know they're the right fit and they're comfortable. But I guess I have a rolling-out gait, because now that there's actually support in my soles, I feel like I'm rolling in. I stub them on things. The soles scrape the ground because I'm not used to picking my feet up that far, as I walk. My feet don't bend right. It's weird. It's like learning to wear shoes for the first time.

It's funny how quickly we can become undomesticated.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

My "Happy Spot"

My cousin challenged us to post something positive on Facebook this week, so I posted a photo I took many years ago of Swasey Basin in Utah:

I went backpacking here with a group of young women from church and the Bishopric. My dad was a member of the Bishopric at the time, so I got to spend a week hiking with him. The lake water was fresh off the glacier and freezing to swim in. Burke Peterson built us an amazing hot shower out of a milk jug and a tiny machined showerhead. He also managed to contrive pineapple upside-down cake over the fire, in a dutch oven. The stars were astounding. The campfire smoke always seemed to follow me no matter where I sat. And at one point the Bishopric lost their minds, rolling boulders downhill and whooping it up like ten-year-olds.

Above and around all of those fun memories is the beauty itself, permeating everything. Mountains have always called to me. There's something about their particular beauty that I find glorious, and the only fault I can find with where I currently live is that it isn't mountainous. When I go home to Utah, I go into my parents' backyard and greet Mount Timpanogos as if it were a family member, long unseen. I've missed you. How have you been? I wish I could take you home with me.

I've been to a lot of lovely places, from the smooth rolling green of Wales to the caramel beach of Makaha, Oahu and the curling white waves and rugged rocks of Lake Superior, but nothing touches my heart the way Utah's mountains do.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Spinning Wool on the High Seas

My 5-year-old granddaughter Rowyn was visiting yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner, and the first thing she saw when she came into the living room was my spinning wheel.

"What's that?" she asked. I explained to her that it made yarn.

She insisted I show her how it worked, so I showed her how to lightly pump the foot pedal (it's not entirely put together yet, but the wheel spins). Rowyn demanded a chair and spent a while getting the rhythm of the pedal down. The adults carried on with their conversation. And then 2-year-old Eoghann wanted a turn at the wheel, and a small scuffle broke out.

Eventually the young folk were convinced to take turns, but Eoghann had no interest in the pedal. He just wanted to spin the wheel with his hands, which is a perfectly sensible activity for a toddler, but incensed Rowyn. It wasn't right.

But then five minutes later, when it was her turn again, she tried spinning the large wheel with her hands too, and it proved more fun. The pedal was abandoned, and soon she was gripping the wheel as if she were piloting a tall-mast ship and declaring, "Look, I'm a pirate!" She went from demure 18th-century spinning maiden to Blackbeard in about thirty seconds.

I wonder how many bored young girls over the centuries, quietly spinning wool at their mothers' hearths, pretended they were actually pirates and sailed away from their task across the raging sea.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Counting my blessings

It's Thanksgiving here in Canada, a bit ahead of the U.S. because theoretically our harvest is about six weeks earlier. (Though this year, the extended warm weather has also extended our harvest. I'm still picking green peppers.)

I have much to be thankful for -- all the usual things like home and family and pretty good health and the gospel and good food. This week I've also found I'm hyper-aware of smaller little blessings -- the beauty of the full moon rising behind ragged clouds. The snuggle of my dog against the back of my legs as I lie on the couch. The enjoyment of a good book and gratitude that there's someone out there writing them. The discovery that the $5 Wal-Mart reading glasses work exactly as well as my expensive prescription glasses, meaning I won't have to buy new Rx ones for ages. The happiness of a friend just dropping by the house to say hello and scoop some cherry tomatoes and feeling she's welcome to do that. The ability to Skype with my grandkids to read bedtime stories together (one of the few times I appreciate technology). The generosity of my weaving teacher, who spends so much of her time helping me. The selfless kindness and compassion of my husband, who indulges me beyond all reason. Above all, I'm grateful for the opportunity Christ gives us to start over and try again and keep progressing. Fresh beginnings. Hope and comfort in a challenging world.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Backyard Chickens in Toronto

Of course, the instant I say I'm ready to let go of owning animals, Toronto agrees to a pilot project allowing backyard chickens in some parts of the city. This is something I've campaigned for in Mississauga, and it would be great if it works out. Other cities around us allow them, but if Toronto falls in line, Mississauga will have little footing to stand on. If I could raise a source of protein like eggs, I could almost entirely provide all our food from the backyard. The exceptions would be things like salt and olive oil...

Sunday, 1 October 2017

New Puppy and Old Dogs

My son has a new puppy, an adorable mixed breed with a face that melts your heart. As soon as I saw a photo, I felt that old tug -- memories of that new-puppy smell, the cuddles, the face-washings, the fun of selecting a breed, the expansive feeling of embarking on a new adventure with a new friend.

And then I remembered the crate training, the middle-of-the-night whinings, the vet bills, the chewed furniture and stained carpets. It's definitely as much work as having a new human baby, the first little while. I've gone through it with a lot of dogs in my lifetime. I look at Maple curled in his basket like an apostrophe, Brio flopped on the couch with his legs dangling over the edge like a spider plant, and even though my heart swells with love and memories, I think I can say with confidence that these pets will be my last ones. They hold a special spot in my life; Brio is especially irreplaceable, I'm not sure why. But he's the best dog I've ever had, and there's nothing I enjoy more than when he settles his head on my lap with a sigh. But I'm getting tired. I'm reaching a stage in my life where my motherhood responsibilities are waning, and I want to be free to travel at the drop of a hat without worrying about kennels and sitters. (And my long-suffering husband is allergic to Brio but has been heroic about it. He needs a well-deserved break from histamines.) So by the time my life fully reaches that empty-nest stage, the dogs will be gone, and I think I will be ready to let pet-ownership go.

It will be a weird adjustment, not having a dog around. I've had pets all my life, and other than brief intervals between losing one and getting another, I've always had a dog. I believe all kids, all people, should have animals in their lives. They enhance it in ways I can't define; their love is different from humans'. And I am different because of them.