Thursday, February 25, 2010

Emil at the Lodge

Looking out the café window at suppertime.

On Sunday we finally got to Kelvington to see Grandma, after stopping for a fast-food meal at the service station at the highway. I gave Grandma all my excuses for it being so long since we'd been there: stormy weather snowing us into the yard; Emil's cold lasting too long; this, that and the other. Her response: "Oh, is that it?"

After two hours it was time for her to get ready for bed so she walked us to the door. Emil had worn winter boots instead of running shoes, and sat on a piano bench inside the front door to pull them on. Grandma sat in a chair against the wall, alongside two other residents who watched Emil's progress with some interest. He had a lot of trouble, but did not want me to help, so Everett and I waited patiently. And waited.
He struggled to hold his foot up so he could get hold of the boot; oh it was painful to watch, believe me.
"Good thing there's no fire," I said. "Are you sure I can't help you?"
"No, I can do it myself."
We waited. He kept trying. No luck.
Finally I suggested that the liner in the boot was twisted or squashed and maybe I should have a look. Emil thought he needed to sit on a lower chair, then he'd be better able to manage. He moved over beside Grandma and carried on, but took off the boot and let me straighten the liner first.
The lady and gentleman watching had been making comments to each other: "His foot is turned the wrong way" and "I used to slide a plastic bag over my foot."
Finally the lady told Emil, "Put a plastic bag on your foot and it will slide right into your shoe."
Emil got excited. "Actually," he said, "it's a boot, not a shoe!"
She looked perplexed. I explained that Emil thinks very literally, and always corrects me when I say, for example, "It's nine o'clock" if it's actually five to nine. Or if I tell him to go get in the car, when what we drive is a van. Close isn't good enough. He can never let it slide, even if he's understood what I meant.
They got quite a kick out of that.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Little Ol' Laddie-Hoo

Everett sits behind me on the couch. He says “You would look funny on video.” I have just put on a CD and am dancing and singing in front of the picture window, looking out at the bright snow covering the lawn.
As long as I’m still dancing and singing, I figure I must be doing all right.
Everett’s bedroom is at the bottom of the stairs and he closes the door when he plays videogames. I can’t as loudly call down as I can yodel “Little ol’ laddie-hoo” and this has begun to drive Everett batty.
I live in fear of becoming youtube fodder. Heh!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Family Newsletter

Joni van Gogh, a.k.a. Joni Mitchell, self-portrait

Things are peaceful around our house and the boys have been home all week, with classes shut down while the teachers busy themselves elsewhere.

Everett baked cookies one afternoon; I made eight loaves of bread yesterday, and Everett mixed up bagels, which I boiled before putting in the oven.

In family news:

Karen dropped off some food for Buckminster Duckster III one afternoon and stayed for a couple cups of green tea. They enjoyed their week in Mexico. I asked if they'd go to the same place again and she thought not; it was uncrowded and quiet and perfect for a laidback holiday, but if you want to explore and do things you have to travel out from the little village where they stayed. Next time they'd opt for a more touristy location.

An uncrowded beach! That is right up my alley. There aren't enough of those.

What else:

Emil got a hold of Neil, so he drove out yesterday, stayed for a couple cups of tea, and left with a bag of Everett's cookies. Woulda had fresh hot bread if his departure had been delayed by a half-hour. He and Rose have been putting new flooring in their house and since he'd been sawing on the main floor, she was busy cleaning. We know what that's like. Neil's legs still get really sore after very little exertion, since he had a stroke several years ago. Someone told him that can go away, but it can take seven years. He's got his fingers crossed.

News of Uncle Bruce is that he's pretty tired, not going much further than to the shed for a cigarette ... and at the same time, that he and Shirley went to Denare Beach recently to babysit Karla's kids. That long drive (six or seven hours from here) and a couple active grandchildren require some energy, so maybe he's feeling better these days.

I haven't been to see Grandma for a month and although there is usually some reason -- road or weather is bad, something else is on, I'm lazy, Scott and I plan to go and then he doesn't show up till I no longer feel like going, Emil wants to go but has a cold and has been sneezing and sniffling all over the house, so on, so forth. There is always something. I am determined to get there this weekend. Maybe she forgets you were there five minutes after you leave, but she is always happy to see you and it's not only for her that I go, anyway; it's for me. And the boys. We will not have Grandma here forever.

Joni Mitchell sings and plays River, one of her most beautiful songs, in her younger days:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Packing Up the Treasures

Grandma Johnson's china cabinet gets emptied out.

Scott had an offer of help to move heavy objects this week, so it was time to get prepared. I took Emil and Everett with me to the old house yesterday afternoon; they packed up treasures of their own, while I carefully wrapped up old dishes that once belonged to my grandmothers, my great-grandmother, my great-aunts and my great-great aunt.

There are a few other items that didn't require padding: two antique flashlights, one that Grandpa Benson (his birthday today) gave me; a tiny carved set of three wooden cooking utensils that were made by my great-great-great grandfather for my great-grandmother; a brass and enamel bell.

I also made a pile of things to drop off at the recycling centre in hopes that someone else can use them: glass teacups that came from a garage sale with a punch bowl we never used; most of the Christmas mugs (keeping only my one favourite); flower vases that don't get used because I have too many. Now I just need to unpack the boxes so I can get back over there, pack the giveaways into them and haul them to town.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lucille Clifton

What? Doesn't everybody stand on the toilet lid and look out the window while brushing their teeth?

And yes, this pig has wings. Which is why it's one of my favourites: it reminds me that there is always hope that the impossible is possible.

Lucille Clifton has died. Here's one of her poems:

There is a girl inside
There is a girl inside.
She is randy as a wolf.
She will not walk away and leave these bones
to an old woman.
She is a green tree in a forest of kindling.
She is a green girl in a used poet.
She has waited patient as a nun
for the second coming,
when she can break through gray hairs
into blossom
and her lovers will harvest
honey and thyme
and the woods will be wild
with the damn wonder of it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Wadena Community Hall last night after a delicious catered supper. If only I could eat more!

Yesterday there were bluegrass and old-time music workshops for musicians in the afternoon, followed by supper and an evening of entertainment. It wasn't intended to be a dance but there were dedicated "stubblejumpers" who got up onto the wooden floor at every opportunity. We love our waltzes and polkas around here.

I realized that bluegrass, in particular when there are vocals and not just instruments, makes me happy. They can even be singing about that poor Jewish carpenter twisted and suffocating on a cross, and no matter: I will be smiling. The singer's wiry voice reminds me of Uncle Bob and his old-time guitar in the kitchen after family suppers, and my feet are tapping and swinging. Happy.

Finally caught up on Doc Maclean’s blog. His Century Tour webpage takes readers on a pictorial tour of Canada — lots of great road shots, human scenery and stage venues with heart. We travel along with Doc and Big Dave as they come across outstanding B&Bs, tasty meals, the Remembrance Day ceremony in Port Hardy, a gravesite with a unique marker (a bicycle with antler handlebars), bits of local history; it's a parade of delighted movement across the land. The tour ended in December and Doc isn’t blogging anymore, darn it. Looks like I’ll have to wait for the next tour.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been on a “road trip” and I’ve had no desire to take another one recently, but Doc’s blog sparks a tiny urge … (hey Shelly, how ‘bout it? My old road-trip pal). It makes me remember how wonderful it always was to meet people, who seem invariably good. Doc may have also inspired me to try my hand at the old washboard that came down from the Johnson side. Between that, Mom’s accordion, Everett’s piano, Emil’s harmonica and my acoustic bass, I could be a full band – if only I could play and sing at the same time. If only I could play, period!

For Valentine's Day, here is a passage from the bible, I Corinthians 13, that Joni Mitchell has put to music:


Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Luxury of a Saturday

Everett likes to listen to CBC Radio on the weekends. He likes the science show Quirks & Quarks, the comic The Debaters and Wiretap, and Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café. To keep busy while he listens, he takes over the kitchen. Today he’s making cookies and I can hear him chuckling; last night we had pizza for supper, using the crusts he prepared and froze a couple weeks ago.

I should go over to the other house and start the boys’ laundry. They need their clothes clean and ready for school – wait! They have no school next week! Hey! I don’t have to go anywhere.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday All Day

Get out of my sun, woman

Early this morning Buckminster Duckster III had to go outside to do his business and I was awakened by him (somehow; don't ask me) and stumbled to the door to let him out. But not before he danced around in circles and knocked two of my pictures to the floor (they were still leaning against the wall in the hallway) in the dark, so today I moved them to Grandma Johnson's gateleg table in my office. They can lean safely against the wall there.

Ducky threatened to take Scott's hand off this morning when he approached the bed, where me and my little friend were still snoozing. Most peculiar, as the little beast likes Scott well enough. Guess he was just letting the big fella know that Ms Wonderful shouldn't be disturbed during her beauty rest.

Me and my pal Cathy (if I had curly hair and we both put on a few pounds):

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wee Hours Brekky

A doting Uncle Scott with one of his great-nieces.

He gets all googly the moment there is a baby in the vicinity and it's one of my favourite things about him. He is also affectionate toward dogs and cats and never gets snarky when without consultation or warning I bring a new pet home either to visit or to stay. Another of my favourite things about him.

It's 2:30 a.m. and I'm at the computer, munching, because I had to get up and eat. Otherwise I'd have lain awake another god-knows-how-many hours. Peanut butter toast and a side of cottage cheese; let's call it a very early breakfast. A midnight snack would be more along the lines of tortilla chips, in this house.

Here's what I know about my sleepless nights, which there have been few of since my late teens when I was fool enough to drink coffee in the evenings: around 3 a.m. I get hungry; at 5 a.m. I get cold. No matter where I am or what I'm doing.

Now Playing (quietly, of course): Randy Bachman's latest, a — wait for it! -- jazz album:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Melody Gardot

My newest CD arrived in the mail today.

Another gorgeous blue sky day, about 15C-below, snow bright white, light wind ...

This is just for my sister Joan, who says on her website, Sweetlight Photography, that the one kind of music she thinks she doesn't like is jazz. So check this out, Joanie. You like Norah Jones, don't you? Isn't she considered a jazz singer?

Anyhoo, there's jazz I don't like -- it's instrumental -- maybe it's fusion -- I don't know what the hell it is but there is definitely some that grates on my nerves within moments of hearing it. Vocal jazz is a whole other ball game though and I luvluvluv Gardot's stuff.

Okay, here's Melody Gardot:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Three Hens Escape Oblivion

Three Hens Escape Oblivion, 2005

The "house concert" we attended on Tuesday night in Wadena was a small affair with some very big talent. After helping ourselves to the smorgasbord of Chinese food, chicken and burgers, an audience of some 30 of us trekked upstairs to watch Joel Fafard perform.

Fafard is an acoustic guitar player who kept toes a-tappin' throughout his two sets. I picked up two of his CDs: the one whose cover you see above, and his new one, which has been tucked away as a gift for some lucky person on my good side.

Be sure to click on the youtube video and listen to him play a tune, after following the link in the first paragraph.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lucky Ducky

Somebody likes everything about me, even my dirty laundry.

Karen called the other day. They'd been back from Mexico since Monday and have been catching up on sleep and, in her case, struggling with a migraine.

Would I like to keep Ducky for another month? Hell yeah.

Her female Yorkie should be going into heat and Karen would like her to have every opportunity to mate with the male Yorkie they've got. (I know, three housedogs! What do they need Ducky for?) When Ducky's around, things might go less well.

Did you know that spayed males can still get it on? I didn't. I thought male dogs were all finished with that business once they couldn't breed anymore. But not our Ducky. He's still a sex machine.

So Lucky Ducky (or Sucky Ducky, as Scott calls him) is here for a while longer. He's graduated from the tote-bag in the closet where my laundry was collected, to the basket I finally brought over from the other house. Strange as that is, because he's got the run of the house -- we let him on the furniture, on the beds -- even under the covers, god help us. Why he prefers the laundry ... well, who knows how dogs think.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Funeral

Bev and her big red snapper

When Bev's father died last week, she came out to spend the week with her mom and the rest of her family and to help arrange his funeral. When Scott and I arrived at her mom's for a visit, Bev and her brother were behind the back fence, clearing snow away to expand the parking area.

The funeral was held in the town hall yesterday afternoon, attended by some 200 people. Afterward we went over to the house to join the family for a few drinks and a delicious supper made by one of Bev's nephews. I did not even finish my third rye and coke but have a slight hangover today. What a lightweight, eh? Oh well, it was worth it. We sat at a long table in the basement and had many laughs and a few "history lessons" from some of the older crowd that joined us.

I found out that vodka didn't always agree with my youngest sister Joan, who was dropped off after school one day, along with her friend Stacy, by Bev's younger brother. The girls went straight upstairs, which Stacy's parents thought suspicious, so they followed shortly after to check things out and found the girls, each with her own pail, leaning over the side of a bed, puking.

Hi Charlotte! Yes, your dad was telling stories ....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bye Bye Boobies

This print has yet to be framed and hung.

A friend of mine is in surgery today, having a radical mastectomy. It was only a week ago that cancerous lumps were discovered in her breasts and lymph nodes, and her doctors are wasting no time letting the disease spread further than it already has.

They say that humour helps people beat cancer. If that's true, then Kathy will beat the shit out of it and live happily ever after. She's looking at this as the breast-reduction surgery she hasn't been able to afford till now but has always wanted. A quick way to lose a few extra pounds. Now that's what I call positive thinking; Kathy has found the silver lining in this very dark and heavy cloud.

She's got a tough row to hoe. Recovery from surgery, then radiation and chemo; there's nothing funny about any of that but if there is anyone who can make us laugh along with her, she is our girl.

My thoughts are with Kathy and her husband Rick today, and with their two boys; they must all be reeling from the shock of all this happening so fast, and the fear that comes with it even though the prognosis is good.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lagoon Lament

Where will all the pictures go?

Mon 10:38pm
Scott arrived around 9 this morning for coffee and I broke the news: the sewer had backed up last night while we were out. Was he thrilled? Oh, certainly. Did he curse and swear? Nope. Must be on best behaviour or something.
He must have been a very bad boy in another life, because he's getting no breaks in this one.
So I roused Emil out of bed (one last day home from school, to finish blowing his nose) and took him over to the old house, where water could be used. And while poor old Scott cancelled his plans to work in town and came over here instead to spend his day shovelling snow, augering a hole through the ice on the lagoon, and getting the drainage system working again, I took ye olde minivan to town for an oil change, visited my old friend Bev Semko at her mom's (her dad's funeral is Thursday), and then went and bought $265 worth of groceries and came home just in time to make a quick but delicious—if I say so myself—supper. If you like pasta, spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese, that is—Popeye Pasta is the name of the recipe I followed—as opposed to meat and potatoes. Scott goes into withdrawal if he doesn't eat potatoes at least once a day and sometimes more. So he's often in that condition, when I'm the cook.
After all that, he had the waterworks shipshape once more and Everett did dishes while I spent the entire evening here in my office, catching up on the four hours of work I missed today. That four hours flies by, though, when I get my teeth into something.
It's 20 below and snowing, and that's the scintillating news from Saskatchewan.


An entry on Alex Waterhouse-Hayward’s webpage, which I recommend to you, includes the following poem written by his estranged aunt, now in her nineties; a gorgeous photo of WH's aunt; his memory of her and their estrangement. Just click here. Be prepared to lose an hour poking around his webpage. I'm telling you.

Evening At Home
(with bitterness)

There you are
Sitting before me,
Relaxed…sprawling, almost,
Your newspaper making little
Hackneyed rustlings.
And I am here
In the red armchair,
Hands loose in my lap,
Doing nothing.

Not a word has joined us
For half an hour.
The silence is not expectant,
Not comfortable-
A dull, slate colored silence.

I ask myself, wonderingly:
“How can you miss someone
Who is right before you?”
Because I miss you,
I am unspeakably lonely
Even as I gaze upon you.
(You turn a page…there is a
You light another cigarette.
And I reach for a magazine
Three months old.)

Such As These – Dolores de Iruretagoyena de Humphrey, Mexico D.F. 1955