Friday, August 13, 2010

potatoes and poetry

I said good-bye to my grandson in French, and then in Spanish just for fun. Aren't other languages intriguing? I wish I had a second one. When people try to express themselves in another tongue, there is an expression that, "something is lost in the translation," but I think sometimes the opposite is true.
Potato, becomes pomme de terre in French, apple of the earth. Now that's poetry in any language.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

signs of life

My Amaryllis bulb awoke one pale August morning. While dusting and puttering, I discovered a sliver of green emerging from the papery brown bulb. Nestled in its pot, it has been dry and dormant, forgotten in a shadowy corner near the fireplace. At the first signs of life, move to a sunny location, and begin to water regularly, a book instructed. Advice to live by.

What inner sense of timing urged that bulb to stir, and stretch toward the light? Amaryllis usually bloom in the dark, chill days of winter. I've always thought of them as flowers of Christmas. A gift. And this one is no different. It has reminded me that dormancy is part of a natural cycle, and that there is hope and growth and beauty in stretching toward the Light.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

the joy of their love

I knew I was in trouble when I began to cry, reading the letter from the Governor General.

My parents celebrated their 65th anniversary today. Paper bells and streamers festooned the living room. Gladioli stood in stately splendor beside a black and white photo of my father in his army uniform, my mother all in lace, their arms linked, their faces bright with joy.

We had planned a simple celebration. We would begin by reading congratulations from the Queen, and work our way down through the ranks, to our local MLA. I hadn't opened the large, important looking envelopes until that afternoon. I expected to quickly read the formal greetings as a way of bestowing the appropriate respect and honor due such longevity in married life. I hadn't counted on the power of words.
Official letters, from strangers, spoke as from my heart. Admiration, respect, hope. And my heart broke in recognition of their frailty and the knowledge that such times of celebration will come to an end. Grief doesn't know its place. It arrives before its due. They still link arms, and their faces still brighten with the joy of their love. That is what we celebrate with them today. The rest can wait.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

philosophy 101

Most children are students of philosophy. My little grandson earnestly asked, "What is life?" "We told him to ask Grandma," our daughter laughingly added, by way of explanation. "Well, first you're born," I began. "He wants to know where you are before you're born," my son-in-law warned.
"What does God do for work?" the same little boy had asked on an earlier occasion. Philosophy 101 nothing! This is Doctoral thesis and dissertation material.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

a red red robin came

A robin plunged its beak into our lawn and gripped a worm. Back it leaned, stretching and pulling and stretching and pulling the longest worm I have ever seen. Rearing backwards, it flapped both wings. as the worm suddenly lost its hold. There it lay, snakelike on the grass. The robin darted in and out, taking furtive stabs. It was obviously intimidated by the sheer size of its catch. The bird eventually managed to gather up the worm in its beak a coil at a time and then unbelievably, the entire worm disappeared and the robin rose, rather heavier it seemed, and flapped over the fence.

flood, the sequel

A quavering scream hung in the air. I had no trouble recognizing the voice, because it was my own.

We have been in a state of limbo following an overnight water leak in our kitchen. The trauma has left my husband a little gun shy when it comes to water pipes and hoses. He has been nervously monitoring the dishwasher, and turning water off over night, until renovations replace the existing system. This past Saturday marked the infamous two week anniversary. Then, as is so often the case with letting down one's guard, disaster struck. The dishwasher inexplicably blew a water line. The result was quick and catastrophic. Hot water gushed across the kitchen floor, swirling up to the edge of the hardwood floor. It found in a moment, every route to the lower floor, and poured through a light fixture into my parent's kitchen, and formed drip lines in an adjoining hall and room.
Once the screaming died down, I was giddy with relief.
-We were home and awake when it happened.
-Our new kitchen cupboards haven't been installed yet so we only redamaged the old.
-We knew where to rent a fan in a hurry.
-My husband has become my hero.

Friday, August 6, 2010

it's about time

Last weekend, in an attempt to still the clamour in our minds, we composed a LIST. Out of town family would soon descend upon us to celebrate my parents anniversary.To our dismay, we discovered that we would need to tick off a minimum of six items each day for six days. We jogged on the spot mentally, and sprinted off. We were able to take in stride a few late additions to the LIST, hurtling successfully over them. Tick, tick, tick, tick, half a tick, and then came Wednesday. We had penciled in Ikea in the morning, leaving after the morning rush hour. We parked close to the door and hastened in. We climbed the escalator two steps at a time. We took all the shortcuts to the kitchen area. We honed in on an available computer and logged in to our preplanned kitchen. Ahhh, now we were ready to order. It was just after 11. So far so good. But, staff were busy with others. A wait seemed inevitable. We huddled over the keyboard and moved cupboards around. The air conditioner's frosty breath swirled around our stools. I began to shiver. A bathmat from a display made a shawl of sorts and I clutched it tightly around my shoulders. Time trickled by. A line of stone faced shoppers grew. Twelve o'clock came and went. One o'clock as well. Waiting can be mind numbing, but my mind wasn't the only thing in danger. The host of the kitchen area suddenly appeared at my side with a fluffy red afghan from a display to replace the bathmat. Warm at last. Where's a hot flash when you really need it? Eventually, we were the next in line and our order was checked and tweaked and printed out. Now we were off to pay. We checked our watches. Finally, after two, but nearly finished! "It will take about 45 minutes to fill your order," we were advised. Lunch seemed wise. The pick up area was swamped. Our order was eventually wheeled out on six carts. Packing wasn't straightforward. Strategy was involved, and sweat. At least we were finally warm. We pulled away just after 5. Six hours at Ikea. We had entered a black hole in time. So much for the list.
The wonderful compensation was... time. Time to reevaluate our kitchen plan. Time to peer in cupboards and spin lazy susans. Time to tweak our order and get what we really want and need.
Tomorrow is day six. We've run the race, at a pace I wouldn't want to have to keep up but I'm feeling thankful. The LIST is almost finished. Less than six items remain. What a time we've had.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

mopping up

A week and a half ago, our kitchen succumbed to a watery grave. When my husband awoke and went to brew our morning tea, he found water bubbling up around the cabinet bases. "We have a problem," he called out. The problem had seeped to all four edges of the kitchen, and was threatening the hardwood floors beyond. My husband dove into the cupboards and turned off the water.
The fridge was hastily emptied into coolers and shifted onto the sun deck. The stove and dishwasher followed. And then, the pantry, oh the pantry. Winners of a timed shopping spree couldn't have bagged with more passion. The floor in an adjoining room was soon covered.
We fell upon the computer and desk, and bore it off disembodied and sadly, disconnected. Then up came the flooring, one layer, two layers, three layers, four. Wet, wet, wet, and wet. Fans and mopping filled the afternoon.
My father's birthday supper was transferred to a restaurant down the street.
That evening we went to clean our church. When we opened the front door, a roar as from a jet engine assailed our ears. Running towards the sound, I leapt down the stairs. Pausing only a moment to gain a bearing on the noise, I dashed into the ladies washroom. Water, water everywhere. "We have a problem," I called out. My husband dove under a toilet and turned off the water. We knew where to find the mop.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

safe and sound

Traffic on Sunday evenings tends to pick up, as cars bulging with camping supplies drain back into the lower mainland.
We do our camping in Spring and Fall, pre and post mosquito. Granted, we have had to break ice in our wash basin with a fist in the morning, but the bone deep heat from the fire, is truly welcome in the chill and damp.
We return like migrating ducks to the same lake each year. Over time, bug kill has removed tree after tree, until at last, it feels like we are camping on the face of the moon.
Tenting suits our budget, but two years ago we decided to live it up, and rented a mini-van with stow away seats so that we could sleep off the ground, safe and sound. It seemed like such an inspired idea at the time.
I'm not afraid of the dark. I've always felt a certain safety as blackness descends like a curtain. The old, "if I can't see it, it can't see me" myth seems a comfort.
Our first night there, I was the last to make that lonely wander to the outhouse.
Getting ready for bed can feel like standing at the bottom of a steep hill, and I realized how tired I was.
The temperature was quickly dropping and the air becoming damp. I had no desire to sit pondering life in a drafty outhouse, and was just reaching for the latch to exit when I heard it.
A sniff.
And then another sniff.
I called my husband's name and heard a twig snap as though something had sprung away in surprise.
I called his name again.
I shouted.
Bears and cougars have been seen in that area.
I drew in a deep breath and screamed.
Now, I felt truly frightened. If he couldn't hear me from his soundproof bunker, I was completely on my own. Surely he'll wonder what's taking so long and come for me, I thought, but the minutes ticked slowly by.
A chill settled over me and a great weariness. Just getting away for a few days can leave me feeling like I've been shot out of a cannon, but this was a different kind of tiredness. Everything that seemed wrong in my life, in my marriage, in my soul, threatened to overwhelm me and I began to cry softly.
Another sniff and a rustle from outside were my only company.
I heard the van door slide open and my husband called out. "Are you alright?" "No!!!" I shouted back. The van door slammed shut. "Finally," I thought bitterly, but no husband materialized outside the door to escort me to safety.
He did of course, eventually come to the rescue, but I was no grateful damsel in distress. I made several vows to myself between teeth clenched to stop the shivering, that involved camping, mini-vans, and husbands, but by morning I had started to defrost.
So much for safe and sound.
That van wasn't safe, and sound was the reason.