Monday, December 30, 2013

Status Update

Qidi Vidi Village in the heart of St. John's - photo by Perry Howlett

It's been an unusual December around here. Normally, our December is green. But we've had lashings of the white stuff. Then a layer of ice on top. Then more lashings of white stuff. I have a tunnel up my driveway to the garage. I am very lucky I've a lot of land around me to handle all the snow. In the city people are stuck. Nowhere to put it. And St. John's does not clear off its sidewalks. Seriously. Like at the first sign of snow it rolls itself up in an ice fortress for the winter and tells everyone to feck off. I fantasize, sometimes, about living there in the heart of downtown St. John's which is uber pretty. But holy Hannah, I would go mental in the wintertime. Especially at my age, nervous about breaking something in a bad fall. Hearing the horror stories of others who smash their pelvises and other sundry bits on icy sidewalks. Kids risk life and limb meandering through traffic in the middle of the roads going to school. I've seen sidewalks piled six feet high with the snow from the roads. Impassable. Completely.

I'm reading Caught by Lisa Moore. And I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I love her writing style where the small is magnified into something beautiful, the swish of fabric, the lupines at the side of the road, the lighting in a bar. I was fortunate to be her dinner companion at a conference and was in awe of her vast general knowledge.

I'm trying to put a priority list together and getting nowhere. Screen sucking distracts me. I need to unplug the effing Thingies and get on with my life rather than create these endless byroads in my brain. I can waste, um, two six hours and not be able to tell you what the hell I was doing or even try and sound minimally intelligent at the end of it all. Not good. For me. For anyone.


I'm the expert.

Free lessons.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

To Soothe the Inner Beast

I know. Some of you haven't a clue what I'm talking about. I do have inner beasts. I would slay them with alcohol, food, whathaveyous. Sedate them into briefly napping. And then they would wake up and start to savage me from inside once again, they were insatiable. It was an endless cycle.

Not anymore. Not for today.

I felt them tickling my brain earlier today. I made a few phone-calls. Talked to others who like me, feel the dragons stretching and yawning. Not all the time. But especially this time of the year when the intensity of the Christmas is passed and there is a lull before New Year's and all is quiet. And then the slow stirring of the inner monsters begins.

I don't entertain them, these dragons followed closely by the Black Dog. I put plans in place: my annual Nollaig Na mBan for Sunday, January 5th. I reach out to others. I think: I need to paint this place. I think, like my father in his time: what can I truly look forward to this year? I think: my town has put me in such a position of trust, I will not let them down. I think:what a gloriously awesome day, can I put grippers on the soles of my boots and negotiate the now ice-layered snow. I think: what else can I do with turkey, what was that dish I would do with noodles? Tetrazini or something.

And I play Haydn's Maria Theresa Mass, see above. It soothes. Oh, how it soothes.

For a truly and thoroughly recovered former Catholic that is ironic, n'est pas?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Best of Times

For your pleasure ~ The Chieftains - The Bells of Dublin

I don't take anything for granted. Some are alone and in despair this time of the year. Some are overcrowded and miserable and overeating and overdrinking. Some are alone by choice and loving it. It takes all kinds, right?

Whatever you're doing, I hope it is what you desire.

The season can be fraught with pitfalls. I know. One of my friends would brace herself every year for the 911 calls over the three days. They would draw lots in her office for who was unlucky enough to answer the non-stop telephone calls. It was the worst time of the year. Suicides, domestic violence, drunkenness, homicides or serious injury, overdosing. The stories she would tell from her 3 agonizing days of double pay had me never viewing Christmas in the same light again.


I am truly grateful Daughter and Grandgirl are here with me. We are into a rhythm of daily walks in the snow, taking turns cooking and dishwashing, fire-lighting, movie watching, music listening. And most of all peaceful reading. We three are all avid readers and bonus! love each others' favourites.

I've loved our walks the most, I think. The snow has been deep and crisp and even and we play with our footprints in it and chase the dog who runs around us trying to decide who her favourite person is - for the moment. A friend took a wonderful portrait of the three of us at her house which some of you have seen on Facebook.

Memories. Created by the minute.

I wish you peace.
I wish you contentment.
I wish you quiet joy.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Maple Leaf Christmas

Leo's easy to buy for. And I buy for him rather than make for him as his mental age is 12. He keeps my house running beautifully. The stuff I would be reluctant to learn. At my age we know our skill sets. And I have many. But the sawing of wood and the drawing of water are not amongst my talents.

He has an undying passion for the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Team. A totally losing team. And before a game starts on TV, he dons it all before he sits down to watch: the hat, the jersey, the pants. All logoed.

I've managed, over the 10 years I've employed him, to endow him with Maple Leaf gear: the watch, a bed blanket, coffee mugs, a rack, etc. I am running out of items to get him. Each gift is met with a joy beyond bounds. This year Daughter tracked down a wreath, a wreath with two Maple Leaf snowmen in the middle - see above. It came in a big box. When I gave it to him, I was reminded of my own childhood Christmases. The longed for teddy. The books. The fresh supply of building bricks. My brother's first train set. Magic.

Leo takes care of all my wood. He harvests it up on my back woodlot, he brings it down to the meadow in his ATV trailer. He chainsaws it, he makes the splits, he stacks it in the barn. He makes sure my indoor woodbox is always full. He cleans out the chimney every 3 months, top to bottom. He mows my lawn, he takes care of the sheds.

He is indispensable. And he teaches me all the time.

For instance, the other day my fire just wouldn't light. I am too rushed at times. He showed me what his father had shown him and what his father had shown get two splits. You place them in the sign of the cross over the struggling fire. And bingo! the fire starts up in a beautiful blaze.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Blog Jam

I was up the earliest in the house this morning. I had to go to my office up the road. I took this shot of the bay with its ice fog while still dancing around in my peejays. The warm air and the cold air duking it out. The bay, in all its manifestations, never ceases to enthrall me.

I cruised blogs, sprinkled comments here and there. Most of my favourites never cease to engage me, they get my mind rolling in different directions.

I can't link to all of my reads of today. I'll link to my thoughts instead. I had a cautionary story from one not to rant so much as my elder years pile up on top of me. As I started a bit of a rant in my office today I was reminded of that, I watched the glaze build-up in the eyes of my listeners who were, well, trapped. Captive. I'm their boss. I deserve respect, blah-blah-blah. I remembered the post, put on my brakes and talked resurfacing local roads instead. Phew. Yes, the ranting days are over. Time to do. Time to listen. Hang up the blowing off steam shoes.

Another had a post about motherhood. Surely, there is no monolithic motherhood format, is there? It is what it is in all its complexities. The title of mother does not encompass a one size fits all, surely? I would never think I was very good at it. I did my best. Still do. Like my mother did. And some would say a fulfilled mother, intellectually, emotionally, creatively, is the best kind of mother and a power of example to her daughters and sons. And yes, some of us are thrust into the role before our time. Access to birth-control was non-existent in my girlhood. The whole slut/virgin thing reigned supreme courtesy of a blinkered government with religion as the puppet master. You were supposed to keep your legs crossed until rescued from this appalling spinster state by the White Knight. And many mothers have no choice in working and putting food and clothes on the wee ones' backs, untraceable dad having scarpered four years ago with the babysitter.

A few of my blogmates have broken hearts this season. I grieve for them but know that it is only through my pain I learned the most. About me. And so will they.

I try not to write from privilege. I try and understand and learn and listen. And recognise my own failings and sometimes follow the wisdom of others. I don't always succeed.

I am grateful Daughter and Grandgirl are here with me. Sharing the joys of each others' company, having a good old belly-laugh with each other. Planning a slow-moving holiday season, savouring each precious moment.

I feel very, very fortunate.

But I know that far too many in the world can't say that.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Clementine Bread

One of the great bonuses of a sort of semi-retired life (at least retired from the stuff that never quite fulfilled me) is baking and cooking. There never was time for it before. I've always cooked and baked of course, but never got time to experiment, take the time to create. I dig into the memory box and mentally go back to my granny's kitchen and watch her gather her bits and pieces about and throw it all into the bastable oven and hang it over the turf fire. This is how I remembered her bastable cake/bread recipe.

I infinitely adapt it as the mood and supplies take me. Just like her. Today I had an overload of clementines. Those luscious little balls of sunshine. So I made a zest of 3 of the skins to the music of Frankie Gavin and kinda pulped their insides. Added 3 more clementines for good measure, these I sectioned and halved. For more colour I threw in cranberries. And bingo!

I bet you never saw the marriage of those two words, clementines and bread, before now did you?

And you were asking about Frankie? I just love the fresh twists he puts on Beatles, Mozart, etc. Here's a sample, try not to dance.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


'Tis early for the snow. Very early. Normally we get it around February as we are so sheltered on this part of the Avalon Peninsula where I live.

I had to cancel a lot of plans for yesterday as I made the decision not to head into St. John's where I had a few commitments. I cancelled them and just hunkered down at home. Blizzards on the highway at night with flying trucks and wayward moose are not conducive to peace of mind. Not at all. I speak as one who has huddled in terror at the side of the un-safety-railed road as passing trucks threw snow on me in such quantities that the wipers could not perform.

The sun is brilliant right now. I took a picture this morning of it cracking the hill behind my house. It was minus 10 Centigrade and I was wondering why I was so cold. The fingers had it. My fingers tell me the temperature. Always.

Yesterday morning I spent in my brand new office up the road. Filing cabinets and bookshelves and guest chairs and everything. I never thought to be in such a place.

My present life continues to astonish me.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The calendar ticks over.

In her sister's arms.

Today, on her birthday, every year, I write about her - my estranged child.

What more is there to add? Nothing has changed. The pain can bite me out of nowhere some days. Catching sight of someone who looks like her, hearing one of her songs on the radio, remembering her acerbic wit, astonishing intelligence and outrageous humour.

How can you give up hope? asked a friend the other night. It's easier not to hope, I respond, if I have no hope of a reconciliation then I can't be disappointed, right?

Sometimes love is just not enough.
Or the right kind.
Or unwanted.

Saturday, December 07, 2013


As we come up to Winter Solstice , I am struck by the fact that for the first December in eons I'm not complaining about the short days. I'm working my life around them, early to bed, early to rise. Masses of Vitamin D.

I was in the midst of my jog-walk today,(picture above taken from my android)and thinking I'd never felt more alive. Normally, in December I'm a bit of a horrible wretch, longing for Spring, renewal, colours. But not these days. I'm feeling very present, enjoying the chill in the air, my woolly cap on my newly shorn head, my thinsulate glovvies on my fingers, my layers of many colours underneath the running jacket. Elder dog seems to be in the same mode as me. Bounding joyfully along the side of the road in front. As you can see.

My December motto: Grab each day as it arrives and French kiss it to the ground.


Friday, December 06, 2013

Problems and Solutions

I've recently been thrust into a position of enormous trust which was an intrinsic component to my decision in having some recent downtime on the blog.

I've been writing for years and years (and years) on the disturbing trends in increased corporatism, rampant climate change, the ongoing inequality of women and social classes, not to mention ethnic groups, the shrinking fixed incomes of private sector single retirees, the hellish marriage of church and state, oh, bloody hell yawn, I could bore for Canada on such matters. And beyond.

So where to begin. I mean the whining has to stop, the blood pressure has to be lowered. So then what?

Well, it begins where I live. I can only change me. And then it was down to a nutshell. Do I continue to piss into the wind or do I turn around and become part of the solution. Maybe a solution that is just felt in me and the small territory around me. Maybe sprinkle a little more awareness with a spice of:
"Will you look at that erosion on our seashore in front of our noses there".
"How about old Albert, is he getting extended home care, we don't want him leaving his house, he loves his bit of garden so."
"What do you think, we have that old trail winding up to the most gorgeous bird-rimmed fish-filled lake, maybe we can get together and clear off the bits of brush on the sides of it and put picnic benches by the lake and Joe over there would write the story of it. What a tourist attraction for our small outport and for us!"

So, yeah.

I'm becoming part of the solution. It's not the years in my life, it's the life in those years.

Wish me well.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

How were you born?

It got me thinking. What she said.

I'd asked her why she couldn't be all by herself in her home. She's a long term widow of perhaps 20 years. Nudging her way to 90. But very active. She has 8 children, all grown and gone. All university graduates. All devoted to her. She still misses her husband.

The odd thing is: She can't be alone at night. So if one of her daughters can't make her way out of town for the night she has different villagers stay with her.

"My goodness," I say to her, we are very free with each other in questions now. We like each other.

"Surely you must have stayed alone at least one night in your life?"

"Ah no, no," she responds, shaking her lovely head. She has one of those heads like on an old Roman coin. Regal.

"No, I never did. Not once. You see, my darling, I was born lonely."

Born lonely.

So, like I said, it got me thinking.

I was born crowded. A first grandchild. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, relatives. I was held and carried so much I didn't walk for ages. No need.

Is that why I love being alone while others crave company?

Monday, December 02, 2013


Back to the blogworld after quite a sabbatical for this screen sucker. I temporarily suspended most of my cyber activities and it wasn't the delirium tremens experience I had anticipated. I missed reading others' blogs the most. I thought quitting Lexulous would be a cause of the shakes and the jitters but it wasn't at all. FaceBook posting I kept to a minimum and refused to open links from others. AND why does aforesaid FB involve so much WORK on my part?

I took the two steps back from this and came to the conclusion I only like it when the posts are personal: don't send me recipes you haven't made and photographed, don't send me links without a comment as to how it has affected you, don't post d├ęcor pics unless it's your own house you're talking about or books you've read or movies you've seen. But most of all don't post pics and movies of animals and babies and weddings unless they, erm, are those that are part of YOUR family. I mean why should I care about strangers' dogs and babies? Why should you?

I'm not saying I'm immaculate in that area either. There was a time when Lolzcatz or whatevers had me frothing and posting. But not anymore.

Point is: Distance is required to have a good look at ourselves and our activities, cyber and otherwise.

I wrote, I read. I walked. I spent time with Daughter who is now (I'm still trying to process this delightful life's surprise) actually living here. We went to a concert on Saturday afternoon and then she said: "I know you want to see "Philomena", Mum - let's pack the day up tight - do dinner and then see it!"

And we did. And it was all good. Very good.

And "Philomena"? - run to this movie. It is brilliant.

Here's my review of Philomena