Monday, March 29, 2010


Neil Diamond is sadly singing and it's raining cats and dogs and I'm feeling very mortal tonight. Sometimes the unknown and the known converge in a heartstopping way. My Mom's always been a sweet, bright little sprite. And as age evaporates the unessentials, the substance remains. Still sweet. Oh Mom, how will I live through seeing you lose your memory.
My Mom is a very well read woman and has managed my father's diet and doctor's visits for years. He would joke that she's managed more than that, and she probably has. Every relationship that spans the decades as theirs has, is a balance of care and control. Dad has come to rely on her vigilance and as her hold on the reins loosens, the team is thrown into moments of confusion. It shows we never are free from learning and adjusting to life as long as we live on this earth. One day at a time.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

dog days

A woman at the beach, surrounded by, and stepping over six little dogs on six little leashes reminded me of May day celebrations and the ribbon weaving children. She prompted a stranger to remark that eleven dog leashes had been found in a local eagle's nest. The eagle didn't have a leash fetish. Rather, the leashes were a sinister sort of "take-out trash" like pizza boxes in the recycle bin, the variety or flavour of the day clearly stamped on metal tags; Fifi, Peaches, Chester, oh my. Dogs had apparently been snatched up or snacked up, from as close as ten feet from the unsuspecting owner. Those of us who comb the beach with our head down would do well to glance up at the rustle of wings.

Trespassers Will

We celebrated our anniversary by fleeing the country. We drove off into the setting sun last Wednesday and arrived in another world. A short ferry hop, and we were at Discovery Bay. Isn't that a profound name for a holiday destination? We "discovered" a rather unfriendly, No Trespassing sign on the beach in the morning that curtailed explorations to the right so we turned to the left and averted our gaze from similar signs posted at the cliff edge. We picked our way along the shore toward a tantalizing spit in the distance. Why do things in the distance always look so inviting. Wobbling and teetering over the barnacle covered rocks, it occurred to me that my knees aren't what they used to be. Perhaps, garden clogs weren't the best choice of footwear, but clutching each other, we stumbled on. What a fitting metaphor for married life. Turquoise and lavender beach glass glinted among the crushed shells. The rocks grew smaller and smother and sandblasted fragments of driftwood lay in an undulating line at the high tide mark. At last we reached the pebbled spit with waves seeming to break on it from two sides. The bottom dropped away steeply and in my minds eye, I could see a killer whale sliding up the smooth pebbled slope and onto that spit to snatch an unsuspecting seal or........ "Try not to look like a seal, " I warned my husband, who was wearing a soft brown polar fleece jacket. Have you ever felt like you were being watched? We became aware of four, no, five seals bobbing in the surf, their large sober eyes fixed upon us. I waved but no one responded. I wish I could say the trek back was easier, buoyed as we were with full lungs of salty air, but we still hobbled over the slippery black rocks, and I may have asked plaintively, why fallen trees blocked the only easy routes and forced us to make countless detours. Metaphors came to mind again, and we boosted and tugged each other up the last rocky bit of cliff triumphant and pink cheeked. I'm thankful for the fine companion I've shared the last thirty-two years with. The wind has gusted at times, we've stumbled and grumbled, but we've kept on clutching each others arm and we've revelled at the view.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

pied beauty

Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins

GLORY be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him

Saturday, March 13, 2010

spring calls, or croaks

We've had t-shirt days already, and the daffodils are blooming in the freeway medians. The pointed green nose of spring bulbs are cracking the damp surface of the garden and leaves have appeared like time-lapse magic on the hydrangeas. I've heard talk of the arrival of Spring but something hasn't happened yet, something that marks the arrival of every Spring. It's a sound that announces the end of Winter like a sweet clear,( although tiny) trumpet call. Frogs. The Bible talks about "the voice of the turtle being heard in the land," but I listen for the voice of frogs on the night air and then I know that Spring is here. Frogs and the passing seasons are one in my memory. I realize as I'm writing this that my mind is literally hopping with frog stories. The most recent took place a few months ago. One evening last fall, as our visitors were leaving, my husband stepped out the front door to continue his good-bye conversation. As he stepped out, a frog stepped in. Now I was part way up the stairs with my little grandson and caught the movement with the corner of my eye. I thought..... dry leaf, but then my eyes focused and my brain registered the image and my mouth opened simultaneously. "Frog," I squeaked. At that precise moment, my husband turned to step back into the house and I could see his great foot descending, down, down towards the little frog. I could see that the point of contact would not be good news and I felt powerless to change the inevitable tragedy and I did the only thing I could do. Scream. Frogs don't react to screams, and actually neither does my husband. His foot continued to the floor, but the little frog felt the slippered foot grazing his back and leapt for his life. Literally. He somehow managed to flip over, revealing his yellow underside as he shot back out the door. My grandson's eyes were as big as the October moon and he loves to hear me retell the story. He always supplies the part where I ask him what Grandma said when Grandpa nearly stood on the frog. Such laughter and commotion. Poor little frog. He just experienced the commotion part. I'm sure his mother had suggested hibernating to him and he was stalling just like a toddler that doesn't want to go to bed yet. Well, he's hibernating now, and one of these clear, fresh evenings I may hear him lift up his voice, grateful for the arrival of another Spring. And I'll be grateful too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CBC and other dangers

Have you ever noticed how the music on the radio in your car reflects your life at that moment? I've dashed out of work and into the car for The Commute. and heard Willie Nelson nasally intoning, "...on the road again...." And, I've pulled up to an unfamiliar intersection and frantically glanced left and right while listening to "which way you going, Billie..." And I remember during a bleak and bitter time hearing "Lost" on the radio as I drove and finding tears flowing down my cheeks because someone had written my souls lament, and set it to music.
Have you ever listened to the radio in your car, and thought of it as the sound track for your life as a movie? I have, and I've noticed that sometimes I'm in a Romance, often a Comedy, but once, probably because I sometimes listen to classical music, a Horror show. No kidding, I actually scared myself and had to change stations. CBC can sound dark and dangerous. Music may soothe the savage beast but we civilized folks aren't interested in that. We're trying to stay awake on the long commute home.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

what's yours is mine

What's yours is mine and what's mine is yours does seem to apply when it comes to my parents dog. This was a mixed blessing last summer, or "the summer of the great flea plague," as it has come to be called. Still, having a dog about the place does have it's rewards......... a strange teenager with one leg over our fence was startled and left stammering when our usually placid, aging dog leapt to her feet with a roar. And, being a dog of few words, she has managed to cow the neighboring dogs into blissfully quiet submission with a few well timed insults. My parents take a walk every day, weather and arthritis permitting and the dog seems to enjoy the routine. She is a senior citizen too, and they make such a lovely trio as they move slowly up the street and back. Dog's really are ambassadors of friendship and my parents have met and chatted with many neighbors because of Taffy. One man in particular seemed quite taken with her. He has an apple tree and my parents have stopped to chat, and admire the fruit as the season unfolds. He always greeted Taffy with effusive praise and affection. Just because dogs can't speak doesn't mean they can't listen and understand. One morning, as usual, the walk led to the foot of the apple tree. Pleasantries were exchanged and then, "Taffy, my love," he cooed, "I could keep you, yes I could." A look of horror passed briefly over her face and she pressed against my Mother's legs. The next day, she seemed anxious as they approached the house with the apple tree and refused to cross the street to walk past it. "Now what could be wrong with the dog?" my Mother wondered. We finally put two and two together, much more slowly than Taffy's arithmetic I can tell you. Although it was probably subtracting, or more accurately, dividing that had her worried.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Amaryllis Report

During the winter months, my phone conversations with my parents inevitably included the "Amaryllis Report." Church news, road conditions and sewing projects paled in comparison to the ever changing, triumph of the amaryllis thicket in the window. It had no doubt started innocently enough with one bulb and when its exotic beauty created such pleasure another was gifted and another and another, year upon year until there bloomed a blaze of crimson and scarlet. I'm not sure when Amaryllis first reached for the pale winter light in my parents front room window, but I saw an old photo of my sister as an infant, gazing raptly at what was obviously a fine specimen, even in black and white. When my parents moved to the coast five years ago, I filled the back seat of my car with Amaryllis bulbs of various ages and pot sizes. My mother had been ready to leave them behind but they seemed such a part of their winter conversations that they felt like old friends. I bought a bulb for myself this year on sale, long after the recommended planting time and potted it up.
It showed its gratitude rather dazzlingly with ten huge blossoms. I found myself proudly reporting this to my sister on the phone, and thinking of adding another..........I read that the bulb can last for forty years. Hmmmmmmm. The old question of Nature versus nurture comes to mind. In this case it's a draw. In my family, we nurture nature, and we love reporting it to whoever will listen. And I just hope I outlive the flowers.