Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Up Close and Personal

Five o'clock this morning, I was walking down to the bus in the semi-dark and heard clicking steps to my right. I turned my head and saw an animal trotting across the street right toward me. My first thought was that someone's dog had gotten loose...and then I saw the fur, the long tail, the height, the glint of silver and rust, and realized it was a coyote. He was much bigger than I'd expected, more the size and heaviness of a wolf. Not at all lean or rangy as one is led to believe. I would have thought him a wolf, in fact, except he was on his own, and I've heard there are coyotes in the neighbourhood.

Would he attack? You hear stories...Would my backpack provide any protection? It's a testament to how much the human brain is trained to be attracted to dog-shaped things that my first instinct was to call out, "Here, boy!" But I caught myself in time. I didn't break stride and kept walking briskly, trying not to look appetizing. But he kept going, crossing the sidewalk about ten feet behind me (by unspoken agreement, we didn't look at each other, on the well-known premise that without eye contact, you can't see me) and carried on trotting down the grassy slope behind a row of townhouses. Clearly he had other priorities this morning than pudgy me.

When I saw he had no interest in me, I paused to watch him swiftly disappear into the dark at the base of an apartment building. While you sleep, do you have any idea what's running by your window? A word to the wise: don't let your cat out at night.

Where does he spend the day, that we don't see him? Should I carry a stick tomorrow morning? What earthly good would that do against something that fast and muscular? I think---though it sounds odd to say it---it would be an honour to be eaten by something that amazing. I can think of worse ways to go.

I continued on to the bus, heart pounding, and an overwhelming feeling of awe and gratitude that I could have met (from a short distance!) such a beautiful creature. I suppose he didn't regard me as anything more than a blip on his radar, but he changed my whole morning.

p.s. When I got to the office, I looked up descriptions on line, and I think what I saw may have been a crossbreed of some sort. Way too big and heavy to be a pure coyote. The closest picture I could find to what I saw (swiped from Internet) was a coywolf.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Two-Year Needlepoint Project Finished!

I took the pattern from a stained glass pattern. It's 18 x 34". It was probably a bit ambitious for my first needlepoint project, but I really enjoyed doing it and love how it turned out.

What shall I do for the next one?

Friday, 15 November 2019

The Architecture of Happiness, by Alain de Botton

I am reading a fascinating book right now about how the spaces we surround ourselves with affect our spirits and how our values are reflected in architecture. The author asserts that we are attracted to architecture that reflects the characteristics or elements we don't have but want. People bored with routine and dullness and rigidity are drawn to the flamboyance of Rococo or Louis Quatorze; those seeking communion with the sublime are drawn to the upward-reaching Gothic, etc. You can tell what a person lacks by what they find beautiful or compelling.

I am drawn to Japanese and Scandinavian simplicity -- clean lines, smooth curves, uncluttered space, hushed colours, natural light and materials. Does that mean I'm lacking in calmness and serenity? Well, yes, probably. It's what I crave, so therefore I must not have it. You don't crave what you already have. So if I moved into such a space, would I become serene? Well, maybe at first. But sooner or later I'll have a bad day, clutter will start to creep in, laundry will go unfolded, a glass will be left on the counter, and papers will accumulate on the bare surfaces. Because I'm still me, you see.

What I need to do is clear the clutter of my mind, cultivate serenity here and now. Address the space and pace in which I currently live. Then maybe even my 1970s suburban side-split will start to take on those peaceful characteristics I want. I picture my current living room sparse as a monk's cell, with just some cushions to sit on...

No, I'd throw my back out trying to get up off them, and Brio would shed hair all over them, and the electronic vacuum would get hung up on them...

I need a house with no dog hair, no dust, no need for a vacuum...

But that would mean a house without people or pets, and that would be unbearable. So I guess my suburban side-split remains creatively chaotic and open and generous and undemanding.

Maybe its traits will rub off on me! Let's hope.

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!):