Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Something in the Air?

bee on cosmos

There must have been: something in the air, I mean. Dale had a rather bad day, as did one or two of his commenters and moi aussi (me too). I might contend that numerous little things conspired to put me in this gloomy mood, but the truth is that I was probably in that state anyway, and all of these little irritants (that I can't begin to enumerate) simply served to reinforce my dour disposition.

It didn't help, when, somewhat distractedly, I managed to jar the passenger mirror against the garage door as I was driving Harriet the Chariot into the tiny edifice that we call a garage. I exited my conveyance yelling my fool head off muttering numerous expletive deleteds to examine the damage and was somewhat mollified to note that the clever engineers had designed the mirror to give and not break when that happens — thank you Honda. I was able to easily snap the mirror back into place, which is rather splendid because I simply don't normally accomplish such mechanical tasks with anything resembling facility.

But wait! there's more.

I decided to invite the kids over for supper. I had been in the mood to cook my quite wonderful macaroni. It's a scrumptious dish that I have made many times; it's my standby really. But what an uphill battle that became. I would stare at this heretofore familiar recipe through dim, uncomprehending eyes. If I had been walking, I could liken the struggle to wading through a bog where I kept losing my boots in the muck which sucked at my legs with every step.

But wait ... !

There comes a point in the process where I remove the simmering milk (with flour etc) from the heat and add cheese and cottage cheese. Said cheese melts smoothly into the milk to make a most wondrous sauce. It always works ... but not yesterday. As I stirred the cheese in, I began to notice that it wasn't melting. That's right: it was curdling! I tried putting it back on the heat and prolonging the stirring. To no avail!

I have no idea what went wrong, except that there are days like that.

Perhaps it's just the end of January in Canada. I've enjoyed the winter, such as it is, so far, but, yesterday, I began to feel as though enough was enough. Unfortunately, we still have another month and a half to go — to say nothing of the several April storms which always eventuate.

I feel as though, I'd either like winter to be over or for it to get real. And since it won't be over anytime soon, I'd like it to snow and not rain afterward. I'd like to get to the country, reacquaint myself with my snowshoes, and get some good, old fashioned, dadblasted exercise in some dadblasted cold yet sunny weather. That's what I'd like.

So, what's that picture doing up top, you ask? You do ask, do you not? Well, I was making my way through some August photos last night (uh huh, I am quite behind with my photo album), and pictures from my garden looked so postively wonderful to me that I thought you might also appreciate a reminder. I don't know if it helped to drool over such pictures, but I do feel better in my spirit today.

I don't know what the heck was in the air yesterday ... and I'm not sure that I want to.


Monday, January 30, 2006

A Silly Post

The Boy recently copied a movie DVD for us, but we couldn't watch it on our tv because the format wasn't compatible. However, it would play on my laptop. So, that's what we did last night: went to bed early and watched the movie. My laptop has a 17" screen and a very crisp display, so it wasn't a strain at all.

Cuppa found it pretty darn amusing that I wanted to take and post a picture of us watching a movie in bed, but she's a pretty good sport and acquiesced with the proviso that she could vet the picture before it went up for all of the world to see. She did, and here it is. I don't really know why I'm posting it: just because it's January and I'm getting silly, I guess.

I'm glad that this one was free; I wouldn't have been pleased to shell out theatre prices for it.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

No Citrus Groves Yet

Considering the previous post, this seems timely.

Temperatures in southern Ontario approached ten degrees celsius again today. Canadians can get a little goofy when things like this happen, and we actually saw a few kids out in shirtsleeves when we went for a afternoon stroll. While we are tempted to think that this might be a result of global warming, it's really just a freaky winter as a result of the polar vortex spending all of its time in Russia. It seems that this brings them something approaching unprecedented cold and us an unusually mild winter as these excerpts from this article in The Globe and Mail point out.

Laymen may be tempted to attribute the phenomenon to global warming, but if climate change was as rapid as all that, Canadians would be planting citrus groves in five years and living in deserts within a few generations. "This may be a dry run, a dress rehearsal, of what winters might be like in the future," Mr. Phillips said. "But we can't say that this is the beginning of the permanent change."

... the climatologist blames "a total absence of cold air" for the relative warmth. His explanation may seem a no-brainer, but the details are elaborate.

... Usually, the vortex lingers somewhere for a while and then moves around of its own accord, its shifts causing other fluctuations of warm and cold air masses. Yet this year, "day after day, week after week, month after month now, this cold pole is just not coming over to this part of the world," Mr. Phillips said.

The vortex's failure to move has allowed warmer air to come into Canada -- and stay.

Meanwhile, here's sundown through our bedroom window on this fine day.


A Reference to Global Warming

Recently, someone emailed be a copy of a newspaper article about James Lovelock who has written a new, soon to be published book, The Revenge of Gaia. I don't think that too many people other than the Washington Administration doubt the reality of global warming, so I thought that some of you might like to read an excerpt from the article that apparently appeared in The Independent. It doesn't look good, folks.

His concerns have increased steadily since then, as evidence of a warming climate has mounted. For example, he shared the alarm of many scientists at the news last September that the ice covering the Arctic Ocean is now melting so fast that in 2005 it reached a historic low point.

Two years ago he sparked a major controversy with an article in The Independent calling on environmentalists to drop their long-standing opposition to nuclear power, which does not produce the greenhouses gases of conventional power stations.

Global warming was proceeding so fast that only a major expansion of nuclear power could bring it under control, he said. Most of the Green movement roundly rejected his call, and does so still.

Now his concerns have reached a peak - and have a new emphasis. Rather than calling for further ways of countering climate change, he is calling on governments in Britain and elsewhere to begin large-scale preparations for surviving what he now sees as inevitable - in his own phrase today, "a hell of a climate", likely to be in Europe up to 8C hotter than it is today.

In his book's concluding chapter, he writes: "What should a sensible European government be doing now? I think we have little option but to prepare for the worst, and assume that we have passed the threshold."

And in today's Independent he writes: "We will do our best to survive, but sadly I cannot see the United States or the emerging economies of China and India cutting back in time, and they are the main source of [CO2] emissions. The worst will happen ..."

This shields us from some of the sun's radiation in a phenomenon which is known as "global dimming" and is thought to be holding the global temperature down by several degrees. But with a severe industrial downturn, the aerosol could fall out of the atmosphere in a very short time, and the global temperature could take a sudden enormous leap upwards.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

A January Treat

It was a cold and windy day here in Mills, but we ended up having a most delightful lunch At The Dam Cookery. Yuppers, that's what they call this restaurant because it is the site of an old dam way back in the 1800s until I don't know when. Apparently, it became an auto shop of some sort until 2001 when it was turned into a very nice little eatery. You can see some of the interior in the first photo below, complete with fabulous wooden beams.

As I said, it was rather delightful. They even had linen tablecloths, and we don't see that much anymore, not in the run of the mill establishments that we frequent anyway. And, as you can see from the other two photos, it was a gorgeous day, just as long as you weren't outside because it was très froid as they say in Canada's other official language, or very cold as they say in this official language — although you can hear stronger language when it's this cold. (Long sentence, eh?)

at the dam inside
at the dam northwest
at the dam northeast

But, while the weather outside was frightful, inside it was so delightful (la la la). We sat by the window, and the other two photos show our view. My view was the first photo (with the red brick house and the hundred pigeons on the roof and in the dormers — they do show up if you click) while Cuppa beheld the church in the last photo.

Back to photo 2: beside the red brick building is a smaller building which is called The Leather Works, (click to see sign) for rather obvious reasons I assume. It is a pub which has an outdoor patio in warm weather. We plan to stop in there in the appropriate season and, hopefully, take some pictures looking back thisaway.

While we were enjoying ourselves so much, we reflected on the number of restaurants in this little town. Although many are small by city standards, we feel as though we have more choice than in our former and appreciably larger city — about eight times larger. We don't have the chains like Swiss Chalet, East Side, or Boston Pizza, but we do have wonderful and unique little independent places like this one: At The Dam.

Not that we mind winter in this house, but we do find that little outings like this one do help to buoy one's spirit as the light struggles to return to us.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm Just Asking ...

... should Ontario Want In?

Bear with me please. Although I am not a terribly political animal, as a citizen, I do attempt to stay aware and more or less in touch with goings on. And so, I make another feeble attempt to post about politics. But this is more of an exploratory and questioning post rather than a highly opinionated one. I'm not trying to offend anyone, but I have my questions.

We have heard quite a lot this election that "The West wants in." Now that an Albertan has won and is about to become prime minister, I have heard it expressed that "The West is in" — from his own lips, I believe.

The majority of Canadians who drop by Raindrops for the occasional visit seem to be Westerners; some are Albertans. For whatever reason, they outnumber Ontario visitors, and there is nobody east of Ontario who visits. And so, I have questions for you about that particular phrase, not necessarily pointed questions that I can articulate well but rather a general puzzlement about it all.

Does "getting in" have to do with electing a Westerner or Albertan? If so, how am I, an Ontarion, supposed to feel? The last PM from this province was ... hmm ... Lester B Pearson if I recall correctly. Is that a long time ago or what? Since then, two Westerners, Joe Clark and Kim Campbell, have assumed the PM's mantle — yes, I know that both runs were very extremely brief but nevertheless ... And now, another Westerner, assumes the leader's reigns. But nobody from Ontario. Frankly, I don't give a *&^% fig, but it gives me pause.

Then, I consider the so-called fiscal imbalance. If any province pays more than Ontario's fair share to keep the good, old confederation rolling, it's news to me. But I don't hear many complaints. Sure, we feel that the scales have tilted rather much and should be adjusted, but we don't moan prodigiously over it like they seem to in the province to the east, for example: a province that I have always understood receives more than it contributes. But perhaps I am wrong.

Something else while I puzzle over these things: I am trying to think if we would expect the whole country to instantly hop on board if we divided the Liberal party, for example, into two schisms and managed to have the splinter group take over the original faction after ten years of bitter wrangling. I can't credit that I would feel miffed that those from other regions weren't clambering on board with great gusto.

The comment section is open for those who would like to contribute civilly towards my education in these matters. Thanks.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Conservative Opportunity

We Canadians had our election yesterday, and I can't help but feel as though the country voted as some sort of organic entity. In my mind, if there's any such thing as a Canadian consensus, it's that it's time for a change in government but that we're also pretty wary of this Conservative party and its leader.

And so, we have got our change and also given Mr Harper and the Conservatives a chance to prove themselves. But we have withheld our permission for them to get all carried away with radical ideology and handle too flippantly the reigns of power.

I didn't vote for him, but my riding did. We live in rural and Conservative riding just outside of the capital. Heck, we're almost Conservative enough to blend in with the Albertans. (Please don't throw flames; I like you very much. I have even been known to wear cowboy boots if you'll recall.)

Why are many Ontarions so hesitant to give the Conservatives a mandate? It's partly because of our former premier, Mike Harris, who was a very belligerent and upsetting figure. He thrived on sowing discord and division, and many of us can neither forgive nor forget that. Somewhat naively, I voted for him the first time around, but I haven't voted Conservative since then.

So, Mr Harper, we have given you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have the best interests of everyone at heart. You have the chance to prove that you are fiscally responsible and not recklessly headstrong like Mr Harris who went as far as to borrow money to cut taxes, or that you are not as hapless as the country's last Conservative prime minister, Mr Mulroney, who could do absolutely nothing to stop running a huge deficit in each and every year of his two terms in power. You have the chance to prove that you can be pragmatically-driven and not solely ideologically-driven.

We want to trust you and to like you. We're like that in Canada. Although I have my misgivings, I sincerely hope that you do well, that you put our fears to rest, and that you prove to be an open-handed, open-hearted, and open-minded leader.


Monday, January 23, 2006

I'm Not Depressed

Are You?

I guess you already knew that this day has been dubbed the most Depressing Day of the Year. So calculates Cliff Arnall of University of Cardiff as reported here and in many other places. Arnall has factored a number of things including weather, debt, time since Christmas, and so on. It seems that his formula really works out to January 24, but he shifted from the calculated day to the closest Monday, which makes a lot of sense.

I don't know about you, but I have been rather enjoying myself today. While I hold that moods are primarily generated from within, today's weather didn't hurt my spirits one tiny, little bit. The snow that fell on the weekend remained fresh and clean; the sun shone beautifully; and, the above freezing temperatures were balmy ... balmy enough for barmy Canadians anyhow.

Not only that, but Cuppa keeps a few lights on timers, partly for security reasons. We couldn't help but notice today that when they switched on, it was still light and bright out. Yes, we're a month past the shortest day and our daylight hours are nicely gaining momentum now.

Regardless of today's weather or the increasing hours of light, January is a long and hard month for many. We all need to treat ourselves a little: to get out of the house when we can. We need to go for a walk and/or for a drive, go to a concert and/or to a movie, read a good book and/or take a hot bath and/or any number of things. Most of us can do a little better at counting our many blessings rather than grumbling over our few tribulations. We have the ability to choose to anticipate the advancing warmth rather than regret a few days of snow or rain or cloud or cold. It's mostly about choice which both influences and is influenced by our actions.

... besides, it's only five months until June 23 which Cliff Arnall calculates to be the happiest day of the year.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dear Doctor

Dear Doctor

I really thought that I would be spared from having to write this whinging little note, but, alas, I have not been spared, and, now, neither have you.

You see, after several weeks of fitful sleeps, I was able to enjoy three decent nights in a row. Instead of tossing and turning and getting a mere four or five hours of adequate rest, for three nights I enjoyed the best part of seven or eight hours of blessed sleep. My, what a treat that was.

Then came last night. I can't fathom any reason for it being different. I wasn't on a caffeine overload; I wasn't particularly worried about anything. They say that it's good to read at bedtime, so I did: until two o'clock when I finished the book. "So, AC let's retire to sweet dreams now."

Sadly, it was not to be. I listened to soothing music only to find it more irritating than anything. I lay there, trying to be calm, but I felt alert, almost wired. Sometime after three o'clock, I gave up and got back up and puttered away at this and that. On most really bad nights, I find that tiredness finally engulfs me at around four o'clock, but not last night. Oh no! I was up until after five o'clock.

Although I can't put my finger on any specific cause last night, I do experience strange corporeal conditions that are not conducive to long, peaceful sleeps. A major impediment is heat and sweat. Sometime in the past number of years, my body has decided that it should become a heat pump at night: to the extent that my beloved one sleeps about as far away from me as possible. I don't always sweat, but neither is it entirely uncommon for me to have to get up and change my drenched apparel.

To some extent, I have thought that my diet might contribute to this boiler phenomenon. There have been times when I have thought that I could attribute my troubles to too much sugar and refined carbs. While I believe that there is something to my theory, there are certainly times when I boil despite eating relatively well and times when I don't boil even though I have indulged too much.

Then there's my cold shoulder: my own literal cold shoulder, not the figurative one sometimes presented to me by others. Oh, it doesn't feel cold to the touch, but it feels cold inside my skin ... or brain. I have some deterioration in my upper back, and it has been suggested that this cold sensation stems from that: some sort of nerve response, like the tingling in my legs and feet from lower back degeneration, I suppose.

This cold shoulder sensation doesn't always bother me a lot, but it almost always bothers me some, and it tends to be most noticeable when I am really suffering from one my aforementioned heat attacks. I guess my general heat tends to emphasize the local coldness. I don't know.

Of course, my numerous trips to the loo don't help. On a typical night, I'll be up three to five times. On a good night I may get up every three hours; on a bad night, when I am already restless, I'll be on the prowl much sooner. Fortunately, when I am sleeping relatively well, although I don't suppose that I ever sleep really, really well these days, I can get up and down and fall right back to sleep. But, of course, on nights when I am a bit off to begin with, these nocturnal ramblings don't help one iota.

I've tried sleeping pills. For years I took a sleeping pill on most nights when I had to get up and work the next day. I seemed to need to do this, for I could be almost mind-numbingly tired and still lie awake at night. I guess it's because I'm a night owl by disposition; I'm much more a night person than a morning person although some people dispute the notion that I am much of a person at any time.

So, I took Flurazepam (Dalmane?) for many years. In the past year, however, I have noticed that these little fellas seem to affect my disposition the next day. Because they seem to render me somewhat grumpy and/or depressed, I now desist from using them.

Because I am retired and can set my own pace, I generally get by despite my nighttime woes. There are times, however, when it becomes important to enjoy a decent night. Let's say that there's something going on the next day, or we're visiting, and I am cooped up sleepless in a strange bed. In those circumstances it's really not fun to lie awake for much of the night and then be drained on the following day. Sometimes, I just want to break the cycle for a few days and get to bed earlier and get up earlier as well. What I am saying is that a magic pill would certainly help.

I know that the litany of complaints makes me seem like a fragile old codger, but my body seems to hold up reasonably well during the day. I don't much notice heat attacks, cold shoulders, frequent potty trips, or dry feet. Although I'll never run a marathon, I am reasonably active both mentally and physically.

There's nothing much you can do. I know that, but it's been good to get it off my chest. Like I, you are baffled by my heat pump syndrome, and there's nothing you can do to regenerate my spine. As for the potty trips, perhaps the cure, should there be one, would be worse than the condition? But perhaps there's a sleeping pill that I could take every now and then when I really feel the need: one that would help me to drift off without rendering me miserable to be around the next day?



Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Weird Weather

After living in what we jokingly refer to the Banana Belt for over thirty years, we were rather looking forward to living in a place with real winters. While the ground has been snow-covered for about a month, with some temporary cover before that, it's not been particularly wintry here. In fact, over the past few weeks, freezing rain has occurred more frequently that anything else, and I don't think anybody finds freezing rain pleasant.

The nickname, Banana Belt, is just a local joke, of course. It's still Canada there in southwestern Ontario, and they still have winters, but in some years, like this one, it's neither terribly cold nor terribly snowy. In fact, just last week, Saint Paul sent me a picture of them cycling in January. That's right, it was 10°C/50°F there; the trails were dry; and, they were able to go on quite a long trek.

It was just one week ago, today, that freezing rain caused us to postpone our trip to the cottage. After looking at the forecast, we decided to put off the trip until today. Guess what? Yup, we've had more freezing rain.

Last night, I was faced with a major scraping job when we left line dancing. Fortunately, we were only minutes from home, and the roads also turned out to be in fair shape. With the temperatures presently above freezing, it's now mutated into plain rain, but you and I know what the roads could be like when the temperatures drop again.

At the moment, we're contemplating simply putting our winter vacation on hold for the time being, for whatever snow lies on the ground up there will also be thin and crusty and not conducive to getting out and tramping about. Perhaps we'll have some proper winter weather in another week or so, and we can rev our plans back up then. If not, we'll shift mental gears and settle in here, and I shall be quite content with my lot in life.

Meanwhile, we thought we'd go out for lunch as a form of compensation for this newest postponement, so Cuppa called the restaurant, only to be warned that they had just opened for the day. It had taken the manager three hours to get in; the cook hadn't yet showed up; the parking lot was covered in treacherous ice; and, it would really be best if we put it off for another day.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Poignant Posts 5

What can I say? I bore easily: meaning that I am not going to persist with Poignant Posts, at least not on a regular basis. I pretty well stick to my regular links, so, to a large extent, the same writers would keep being recycled.

Having said that, I haven't yet mentioned Lynn at State Street who can be a very cerebral blogger. To say the least, Lynn is not a great fan of the present administration, and he writes some of his reflections in Questions of character and political philosophy and Iran: the Conservatives' Recalcitrant Child. He also writes a more personal, non-political essay in A Slight Recollection of Poverty.

I think you'll enjoy Actual Unretouched Photo's entry: All Whine. No Cheese and Just Another Day's, Saturday Soapbox, and although I've previously mentioned Heather at Fumbling for Words, please read her Polarization essay of January 12. There's something going on with her blog, and I can't seem to link to Polarization directly, so please scroll to January 12. It's worth it; this piece is going to be published in the Globe and Mail which dubs itself as Canada's National newspaper. Quite a feather in the cap. Way to go Heather!


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dancing in My Trusty Smalltown Boots

Back in November, in Not Exactly Lord of the Dance, I reported on some of my travails at attempting to learn a few line dancing routines. Since then, I have persisted and learned most of the routines that they do ... well, that they do routinely.

While I get up there and dance, however awkwardly, with the rest of them, there is a sense in which nothing has changed. I still learn differently than everybody else. While absolutely everybody else, and her sister, can pick up the routines on the fly, I get totally befuddled. I have to bring it home, drill the first set of steps, then drill the second and so on.

It's harder for me to pick it up and much easier for me to lose it too. In the simplest dances which I have done many times, I'll, every now and then, forget how a certain step sequence goes, and I'll lose all sense of rhythm and flow. Not that I have much to begin with, mind you.

But it's fun anyway, and it has all led here to this picture and the rest of the story.

The pair on the left fits best and has flames coming off the heels. Pretty funny, eh?

Yes, I am in the process of obtaining cowboy boots. And they're not that easy to obtain in these parts. I am a running shoe type of guy, in part because I have bad feet and need to wear orthotics, but now I have an excuse to buy myself a pair of cowboy boots. How much fun is that for an old city slicker who was weaned on Roy Rogers, and The Lone Ranger, and Wild Bill Hiccock, and Hopalong Cassidy? (Okay, weaned is strong as we didn't have a television until I was about ten, but you get the idea.)

That leads me to the final part of this ramble. It has to do with the nature of small towns.

I found the boots in the picture above in a local but dusty, dilapidated and decrepit little store. When I couldn't make up my mind about which size fit best, they urged me to take them both home and give them a whirl. "Bring them back when you're done: no hurry." They wrote my name and phone number in a little spiral notebook. They didn't ask to see ID, didn't ask for a credit card number. None of that. "Well, you're not going to skip town for a pair of boots. Are you?"

Of course, I'm not.

How refreshing to be trusted like that!

I think there are lessons for me in this. What about you?


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Plans on Ice

ice on grass

Suitcases, bags and boxes lie packed at the front door, but we remain in the house.

Yes, we are all ready to go to the cottage for another winter getaway, but the weather is not being cooperative. Yet again, for about the third time in a week, we awoke to reports of freezing rain and hazardous driving. Due to mild temperatures, the roads are probably clearing as I write this, but we have decided to remain here for the time being.

You see, the forecast for the next five days to a week calls for at least some more of the same. To a large extent, we go to the cottage in winter to enjoy winter, to get out and snowshoe and feed the chickadees, not to be forced to remain weather-bound indoors. If we are to be weather-bound, we might as well enjoy the comfort of home, and postpone our trip until more appropriate circumstances prevail.

However, I have two more photos of our last trip to the country. I have already posted a number of photos of the wintry and icy landscape, but here are two more of ice on vegetation. The first, above, is simply of ice on the grass in a ditch at a roadside stop that we made. The second, below, shows ice on the branches of an coniferous tree at the cottage. They're texture photos more than anything, but I don't mind them so very much.

icy pine branch


In No Time At All

I had an emotional argument with a lady hag tonight. For once I won. Of course, the hag doesn't know that because it just took place in my head. It was an argument that I've had before — many times. I'm actually getting better at it. I should be, for it's based on an incident or two that occurred a long while ago: thirty-six years ago to be pretty darn exact. For whatever reason, the music that is on shuffle mode in my brain still comes to rest on this incident every now and then, all these years later.

When my brain's playlist happens to arrest on that spot, I am transported right back to that episode, just as if I were there again. My emotions are strong, and my argument is intense. Then, I blink, realize where I am, shake my head, and try to go about my current business. It's this sort of thing that causes me to posit that time doesn't really exist. I have been told that physicists disagree with me, but it's my privilege to believe whatever I wish to believe.

Oh, I agree that there's a chronology of events: some things happened in the distant past, some things not quite so long ago, and some in the very recent past. I'll grant you that. But our minds are quite capable of hurtling through what we have come to call years with no trouble at all. And, to me, this makes the concept of time somewhat irrelevant, for in an instant I become a boy, a young man, or even the older me of my imagination. I am none of these things, but I am also all of them.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Gift of Today

There were a number of very nice and very empathetic comments to my last post in which I shared ... hmmm what exactly did you share AC? ... a few fleeting thoughts about death. No ... it wasn't so much about thoughts as about a feeling that has come over me by times lately. Regardless, it was good to hear from you, kind of a rallying of the blogging troops that I appreciated. (If you didn't already do so, do check out Turtle Guy's post called Who Dies? in which he links to a song by James Keelaghan called, strangely enough, Who Dies? The link to the recording is at the bottom of his post, right after the lyrics.)

Thirteen years ago, I received a call from my brother in law in Toronto. His five year old daughter had died suddenly. Cuppa posted much of the story in her Angels and Shining Stars post last month, so I won't repeat it here, but the death of a child gets a guy to thinking.

Several years ago, Cuppa had a cancer scare. I feared the worse: almost had the poor woman dead and buried. Happily, that's all it was — a scare. Someday it won't be, however. It gets a guy to thinking.

As I posted yesterday, I have been a part of three deathbed vigils. It gets a guy to thinking.

Whatever else I think, I have come to hold the opinion that our lives all feel about the same length, more or less at least. We all live one hundred percent of our lives. If I were to have died ten years ago, or if I were to die ten years from now, I don't think that my sense of duration upon this earth would be much different on my deathbed. Time is like that: a misty vapour that you can't quite grasp. That's why I can still feel like a young whippersnapper — at least until I look in the mirror or try to haul my stiff bones out of bed in the morning.

It does give me comfort to think that those who die young probably don't have a sense of having lived a shorter life. Oh, I'm sure that they have regrets about not living long enough to see children grow up, or grandchildren come into this world, or a million other things, but I don't think their sense of duration is really much different.

We have been given today. That's what life is really — today. I need to revel in today, to do something today that satisfies my inner self, something profitable for others, something good. If I always take care of today, my yesterdays will take care of themselves.


Monday, January 09, 2006

A Form of Grief

I can't help but think about death a lot lately. It's not just that Mabel passed away; it had already been on my mind, especially during my wakeful nights. I lie there, on my back, and I think that's how people die — on their backs, I mean. Not everybody, I'm sure, but I've been on three vigils in my life, watching helplessly as loved ones slip slowly away. And they all, all three of them, died on their backs.

They all were really gone before they breathed their last. They were certainly in a coma-like twilight zone. Of the three, my mother was the only one who had a brief moment of consciousness near the end. She opened her eyes, and it was clear that she perceived us even though she was unable to speak.

And I lie there in my wakefulness and wonder. I wonder if I will know that I am on my death bed. I can picture trying to smile reassuringly at my loved ones with my last bit of strength, trying to give them a final gift, the only one that I can possibly give. I think that maybe I'll find the strength to blink three times, and maybe they'll know that it means, "I love you." Sometimes, I even imagine that I might summon the wherewithal to give a final thumbs-up.

It doesn't make me happy to think on these things, but I do. How can I not think on this as I creep closer and closer to entering my seventh decade? I miss myself if that makes any sense. The little candle of life that is I will be forever extinguished, and that's got to be somewhat sad-making — a form of grief, I guess.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Walk The Line

The kids called us yesterday and asked if we would like to see Walk The Line with them. As a matter of fact we did want to see it, so we trundled off to our funny but lovable little theatre in the basement of what used to be a church. The little room was pretty darn full, making me glad for the old fella who keeps this delightful operation going.

For me, this was an incredibly enjoyable film. I thought that Joaquin Phoenix portrayed Johnny Cash really well, as did Reese Witherspoon playing June Carter. Not only did they act well, but they sang pretty well too, good enough to please me anyway.

To show you how much I liked it, immediately on getting back home, I fired up iTunes to look for the soundtrack. When I couldn't find it, I bought a best of type of collection. The Boy was impressed enough to insist on hunting down and purchasing the soundtrack today. The Boy is French and wasn't very familiar with Johnny Cash, but he was that impressed with what he saw and heard.

As with most of these films, it had to deal with Johnny's descent into booze and drugs, but it really was an upbeat film, and the music was a lot of fun.


Friday, January 06, 2006


Maybe you remember Doris? I posted a photo and poem of hers back in December: When I Was Small. She was my best friend's, Nelson's, younger sister when I was a boy in Montreal. Doris wasn't a lot younger: not too young to also be a friend, both then and now.

She wrote last night to inform me that her mother, Mabel, was deteriorating rapidly. Her older sister, Diane, was flying out to the west coast to be with her. Doris wrote again today to let me know that Diane had arrived in time to witness Mabel's final hours upon this earth but too late to hear her mother's voice one last time.

I thought very highly of Mabel when I was a boy: still do. She was always kind to me and everyone as far as I could tell. I marvelled at her tolerance with my buddy, Nelson, who could be a little vocal with her at times. I remember Mabel taking all of us kids and one of Doris's friends to an exhibition in Montreal, and, somewhere, I still, approximately forty-five years later, have a handcrafted, leather bookmark that I purchased for fifty cents that day.

Mabel was a gifted woman who was brought up in ordinary circumstances. She was artistic and wrote poems. I remember her caring about the environment before it became fashionable. I would like to honour her by posting two of her poems. Doris re-typed, collated, and bound Mabel's poems not so very long ago and was kind enough to send me a copy. I dedicate this small memoriam to Diane, Nelson, and Doris.

This untitled haiku seems poignantly appropriate.

I looked hard at death

It looked kindly back at me

I no longer fear

Mabel also wrote about life and its conclusion in Life's Carousel not very long ago when she was well into in her eighties.

The horses prance

And the banners dance

And the hurdy-gurdy music plays

And the years go round

In amazing haste

In the endless rush of days


But the music will fade

And the horses halt

And my ride on the carousel will end

I'll marvel at how

The years have gone

And I'll step off where I stepped on

But the hurdy-gurdy

Will play again

Though different riders will sit astride

The colourful steeds

For the breathless ride

They, too, may wonder and question, "why?"

As they marvel at how the years flew by

Finally, I present you with an ink sketch that Mabel did when she was a young lady. I'm sure that this is her parting wish for the family that she has left behind for a little while.


With Mabel I echo the same wish for Diane, Nelson, Doris and all of you.

May your joys be as deep as the ocean

And your sorrows as light as the foam

Happy Sailing Mabel.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Poignant Posts 4

I think that it's time to for another breathless instalment of Poignant Posts. Here are a few that I've noted recently. I think I'll list them without further comment this time. As usual, in trying to keep the list down to a reasonable length, I've not included some fine posts.



My Near Catastrophe

Two posts ago, I mentioned that a near catastrophe awaited when we arrived home form the country several days ago. To begin the narrative, let me introduce you to two of my Christmas gifts. The first, to your left, is a Montreal Canadiens throw for the easy chair (for the lazy man) in my den.

The second, to your lower right, is a Montreal Canadiens fridge. That's in my den too. They were both, but especially the fridge, complete surprises, and I am not always easily surprised.


I was raised in Montreal, and, although I left the city forty years ago, I still tend to cheer for and identify with their teams. I say this despite the fact that I am no longer a big sports fan. Fan affiliations are odd. I have no reason to cheer for Montreal. I never want to return to the city; I identify more with Toronto than Montreal any more; and I live in Ottawa or near enough, and they have their own teams. Yet, the affiliation for the Canadiens, and the football Alouettes, runs true and deep.

While that explains the paraphernalia, you may be wondering what kind of spoiled old fart has a beer fridge in his upstairs den. Simple enough to explain really. When we moved into this house, our second fridge didn't fit in the basement; so, we stuffed it into our tiny garage. However, even on the warmest setting, we find that it freezes in winter, and exploding pop cans aren't much fun! That left us thinking that it was time to give away our garage fridge (hopefully to a needy family — it's in the works) and replace it with a small beer fridge. I don't really drink much beer, but I do drink much pop (soda to some of my southern neighbours), and it's nice to keep plenty of cans cold in the fridge without completely tying up the main fridge. Yes, it's a frivolous extra in the course of life, but what the heck!

In any event, while we had been mulling all this over, the family took the decision out of my hands by surprising me with this little treat at Christmas. The Boy set it up for me, and set the thermostat to the middle: halfway between the cold and warm extremes. On this middle setting, some ice crystals formed in the cans. So, I decided to lower the setting. Thus begins the near catastrophe, but I must first digress with a little more background

I have opined elsewhere, specifically in my entry entitled Saint Paul, I am mechanically challenged: to the point where it is possible that I suffer from a slight touch of dyslexia or some such, if a slight touch of dyslexia is even possible.

When I was pondering this recently, I remembered two things which may be further indications of such an impairment. One: way back in grade one (or the first grade for Americans), my mother recalls the day that I was kept back after school because I was writing my letters bass-ackwards. Two: I recalled the time that I was signed up for group violin lessons after school. After the first lesson, I went home and practised diligently, only to have the teacher (who wasn't very nice, really) think me some kind of idiot when I held the instrument bass-ackwards when it was my turn to demonstrate my technique in lesson two. What I mean is that my left fingering hand was gripping the instrument with the thumb and fingers reversed.

Back to the present and the fridge for more grist.

Here, to your left, you see the temperature dial. Shouldn't it be obvious that bluer and thicker equals colder? Well, it is to me ... now! But, when I adjusted the temperature before we left for the country last week, I did it wrong. However I came to think it then, I turned the dial colder, not warmer. That's right; I turned it toward the thicker and darker blue to the left rather than toward the warmer right as you see that I have now done in the photo.

To put it mildly, that wasn't a very good thing to do, for when we got home, the fridge door was open. You see, a pop can had exploded with enough force to open the fridge door.

We could have faced a minor catastrophe of a burned out motor and/or water seeping through the upstairs floor. Fortunately, we had to face neither eventuality. We surmise that the explosion was relatively recent for, aside from pop stains in the fridge, no damage was done.

What's the point of this story? None really. It's just that how my brain works, or, more to the point, how my brain doesn't work, is something that I keep learning about myself.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Snack Food Meme

Norma, over at Collecting My Thoughts and five other blogs, believe it or not, has tagged me with this meme: "What snack items did your mother allow in your home and put out for you when you were growing up — either home made or store bought? And what item was absolutely not allowed?"

So, I'll give it a quick try now before the request fades from my memory, but I am afraid that Norma will be terribly disappointed with this result because there simply wasn't much in the way of snacks at our house, or so my memory tells me. For one thing, we were poor. While our fundamental needs for nourishment were always attended to, there weren't really funds for many frivolous extras. In addition, Maw was rather obsessed about keeping everyone thin. She must have been terribly disappointed with the disappearance of my thin self in adulthood. Not that I'm not disappointed with myself, mind you. For another thing, I didn't have a big appetite when I was young. Perhaps it was because of the very plain and often unappetizing fare that constituted our typical meal.

When I say that I didn't have a big appetite, that's correct, but, somewhere along the trail, I did get exposed to fries, chips, chocolate bars and their ilk, and I know that I always liked junk food like that: just never had it with great frequency. But those are really treats more than snacks, and I did get occasional treats. Otherwise, I didn't eat a lot on a regular, daily basis. I kept busy riding about on my bike and playing with friends as kids did back then. They coop themselves up in their houses now and watch TV or play Nintendo or whatnot, but life was different then. Actually, I feel a wee bit sorry for modern kids. Sadly, they are missing out; happily, they don't know it.

There's also my very poor memory to consider. I don't do well with blank slate questions. I require leading. Did you have salty snacks when you were a child? Not much, except that I sometimes managed to con Dad into buying me a bag of potato chips when he walked me home from Wolf Cubs. Did you have Twinkies and such? No, never heard of them at the time. What about fruits and veggies? I don't imagine that there was an abundance although these would have been provided at meals, but I never much fancied these healthy alternatives. Although I do somewhat better now, I never loved fruits and veggies as a kid.

I did drink a lot of milk as a kid. I imagine that was my main snack if that's what you'd call it. I also fancy that there might often be a piece of toast or two with my milk in the evening. I don't suppose that any snack food was absolutely verboten because whatever might fit in that category was never purchased and on hand in the first place.

Well, Norma, that's about it. Sorry that I can't do better, but it was fun trying to remember.

This meme can be passed on to people who are fifty years old or more. I don't really know who is and isn't, but I know that few are of such an age, and so I won't specifically tag anyone. I don't see why other mature adults couldn't try to flash back though.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

There from Here

We are back home for a week or so before heading back to the cottage for what will be also be a week or so — there goes most of January, folks. Wasn't that quick and painless? I have sort of caught up with blogs but must confess that much of my catching up involved some pretty quick skimming. It's not that I can't access your blogs from the cottage, but I can't always spend a lot of time tying up the phone line, especially when Cuppa and I are not there on our own.

In a day or two, I must tell you about what the near catastrophe that awaited us back here. Not to worry; I did say near, and they say (good old them) that a miss is as good as a mile.

Meanwhile, here are two more photos for your viewing pleasure. The first is a view from one of the cottage windows. Don't get too jealous because it's a small window that is usually fogged up with much condensation in winter. However, as I said before, the cottage was cold when we got there, and, when I took the pic, there wasn't yet enough warmth to cause condensation.

The second is pretty obvious: a branch and its bud, next spring's leaf, caught in winter's icy grip.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Frozen River and Pines

riverwood swimming hole

I am still in the mood to post pictures of our first day here at the place that we call Riverwood; it was the combination of snow, ice, and sun that seemed so wonderful. The top photo of the frozen river is where we swim in summer. We get in on this side of that little pine tree that you see on the right bank. The water is lower in summer, so it's a bit of a climb down and up for an aging bod. In spring, however, the river runs high, sometimes even over the bank. We have only been here in one spring, but, somewhere in the family archives, there is a picture of me touching the water while lying at the top of the river bank.

The photo below is at the back of the homestead area. There is a row of big old pines, and we keep a hammock back there in summer. Well, of course it would be summer — even Canadians aren't silly enough to lie out in winter. The red squirrels don't appreciate our presence much and sometimes throw pine nuts and twigs and things, but we simply chuckle with delight. Sometimes, we put a humming bird feeder back there, and the hummers will come by and and hover for a spell.

riverwood hammock row

When I trudged back to take this photo, however, it was an inquisitive chickadee who came by to investigate whether I might be carrying peanut butter. I wasn't at the time, but we later smeared some on the feeding tree out front, for who can resist a chickadee? As I sit near the window to type this, I can sometimes spot one or two flying in and out of the feeding tree. There is blue jay displaying some interest although I am sure that he would prefer peanuts in the shell.