Saturday, January 31, 2015

Road Trip

I was just about to step out Everett's door on my way to work last Friday morning, when my "texting machine" beeped.

"Are you home this weekend?"


"I'm leaving by noon. See you tonight!"

It was my old KATIMAVIK pal SHELLY, who lives north of Edmonton, giving me a weekend to look forward to.

The next morning as we sipped our coffee and nibbled on toast, she said, "Should we?"

Indeed we should, so after a quick phone call to make sure our other Katimavik "sista" Cathy near Oakburn was home and up for company, we hit the road. It was a snowy day and the pavement had crusty ice on it, but that didn't stop us. It takes more than that to keep gals from the prairie provinces at home.

Four hours after leaving my driveway, we pulled into Cathy's place, where we spent the next two days yakking, drinking wine, eating like queens, being serenaded by talented people who can play guitars, mandolins and clarinets, and feeling spoiled rotten.

Cathy and her husband Roger have four kids, and it happens that the two boys were there, which was a real pleasure since we hadn't seen any of them for about 12 years. They've changed a bit! The boys, that is.

Michaud, Joel, Cathy

Michaud and Roger made crepes one morning for breakfast.

Now Shelly, she likes to keep busy, so was pleased when she figured out a sewing project she could work on.

Cathy and Shelly at the sewing machine in an upstairs bedroom.
On Sunday afternoon we took a drive to the one-horse town where Cathy and Roger have purchased on old church that is no longer in service.

They were good sports and made prayer hands for me.
Unfortunately, my photos of the interior turned out blurry — I was probably shivering, as they don't keep the building heated —but Shelly and I were wowed by its beauty.

And then Monday morning came. It was a glorious sunny day and we hated to leave, as Cathy is family to us after our Katimavik experience so many years ago — 1978-79 — but it was great to be together again. Maybe we won't wait 12 years to repeat the performance.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Scott hates magpies.
But I can't.

Oh, I don't like their noise. We have a half-dozen of them in the yard over winter, and they nest in our spruce trees and make a hell of a racket when they are young.

They steal the old dog Jenna's food if she doesn't eat it all immediately, and they hang on the suet feeders I put out for the smaller birds, and devour it. They are often seen beneath the niger seed feeders, searching the ground for anything the smaller birds might have dropped, because their own larger beaks can't get the seed out of the feeders hung on tree branches.

Scott looks out the window, sees them there and curses them. He threatens to get a gun and ping them off.

But I think: magpies have to eat in winter too.

From the library I've ordered a book called Bird Brains, by Candace Savage.

The RM grader (I assume) creates these ridges in the field along the grid road, to catch drifting snow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Personal Religion

The Dalai Lama's religion, he says, is "kindness."

That's a good religion to have.

Mine is "fairness," though I do believe "It's better to be kind than to be right."
Easier said than done, but worth remembering.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Teeny Tiny Tracks

Here's a public alert for all you whole-wheat bread bakers out there:

You can add eight cups of liquid ingredients instead of 10, and your bread will still turn out fine!

Apparently I am not as good at multi-tasking as I thought. Tsk. Wondered why the dough was so stiff, but didn't twig into the reason till it was rising already. That's when I noticed the two cups of liquid still in the measuring cup on the window sill, where I had set it to settle "all the better to eyeball the water level" while doing something else. And forgetting all about it.

Just one more example of why I never leave the room when there is a tap running.

Note added next morning: Normally to toast my bread, you have to put it down twice if you want it nicely browned. Not when you've shorted the liquid, though! One time does the trick.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lazy Sunday Morning

Email to Dad:

Kind of an interesting article.

• <><> • <><> •

Never did get outside yesterday! but by cracky, I got all those goddamn dishes done. 

• <><> • <><> •

From my handwritten journal 
Sunday May 22 2005

Mom didn't eat today. She couldn't lift a glass of water to her lips. She told Reta (When? Not sure, but Reta told me today) she dreamed that her friend Mary Jo was going through the clothes in Mom's closet and Mom told her not to worry, that her three girls could wear her tops and that Karen had the same size bum as her and would be able to wear her pants.

I told Reta that's funny, Mom always said Karen and Joan have no bums and I am the one with a big bum like hers. 

• <><> • <><> •

Another page in the same journal:

Monday, January 12, 2015

Depression. An Allergic Reaction to Life?

On The Current this morning there was discussion of a new idea about what causes depression. You can listen to the podcast and read an article by clicking HERE.

"Hamlet is one of literature's iconic depressives."

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Old becomes New

In Newsweek, there is an article about wall panels painted by Duncan Grant; they were recently found behind wallpaper in a building in London.

The article provides considerably more information about people he was associated with and their influence on the world at the time, and the world today.

Here's the article; click here: BURIED BLOOMSBURY BOUNTY

F#!K Poachers and the Horse They Rode in On

This is the stop sign at the highway north of Kuroki.

We all abhor poachers.

Sometimes people — we don't call them hunters; hunters behave responsibly (if eating animals is responsible, and that's a whole other subject) shoot large quantities of migrating geese and leave them in a pile, rotting in a field. We never seem to catch these guys, which is too bad. They are the kind of people who deserve 1000 lashes in public; not people like the guy in Saudi Arabia who's being whipped because the government doesn't like what he published on his website/blog.

Okay; not really. But the consequences should be severe.

I was probably on my way to Margo. There are various routes to see the "rellies."

It was fall, I think. Or could it have been spring? Looks like stubble so let's say fall.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Onceler

It's my regular Thursday overnight in town with The Once-ler.

My baby

The Once-ler
We shall be chatting our heads off, probably snacking, and watching Doctor Who.
See you back here on the weekend. Have a good couple of days.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sensitive Stew

And then my ex gave me this book for Christmas. It's a collection of interviews with Joni Mitchell, and she says “Sensitivity is a good thing in that you notice a lot of details, especially in nature. One of the bad things about it is that you tend to tread [in place] because sensitivity lacks clarity. You’ll get a problem you don’t know the answer to and you’ll go over and over it, spin your wheels, tread it to death. However, by treading over and over and over, there is a deepening process so in that way you do come to, hopefully, occasionally, some hidden truths, because … sensitivity is the setting sun, it’s the gateway to the look-within place, it’s the deepening place. It’s what depression is for. It’s to drive you in to face yourself and correct yourself… if you take a medicine and you don’t get to the ‘why,’ you’re gonna remain an asshole on drugs. You’re never gonna get to the bottom or the turning point or the revelation… You can’t be deep without sensitivity… even though I’m ultra-sensitive, it doesn’t mean that I’m just always wounded and bleeding but that I’m perceiving things that other people might not.”

So that’s a slightly different perspective. The going over and over it, spinning your wheels, treading it to death … while one way to think of it is that you are deepening the ruts of habit — getting nowhere except entrenching them so that you get more of the same in your life — another possibility is that it’s how you eventually come to an understanding, a revelation, a turning point.

I often understand, yet there is no turning point.

You can listen to some of the interviews online! I never knew that. They were broadcast on CBC in 1973 and 1979:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Unknown, Unremembered

After driving Emil down to Lake Manitou to attend Camp Easter Seal one summer, I browsed through an antiques store in the resort village of Manitou Beach. For a few cents I purchased a small rectangular wooden picture frame that I was sure I could find a use for.

Behind its glass were these two photos:

The young man on the top right seems to be the young boy on the lower left, a little older. You think?

I have removed them from the frame and turned the cardboard backing around; it reveals a poem called The Daisies Won't Tell, and I've posted a photo of it, in the frame, on this blog before. It hangs in the bathroom now.

But I can't throw these photographs away.
Sure, their relatives couldn't — for whatever reason — keep them. Maybe everyone in the family already had a copy. Maybe they didn't have time to go through everything when their grandmother passed away, and just had to box up her house and let them go. There are many possibilities. It seems a shame, as one would think photos like these would be precious to their family members. But life gets in the way of sentimental attachments to material things, doesn't it.

Still, this is how bad it is:
Not only can I not part with photos of my own ancestors; now I can't part with photos of someone else's!

In my family collection there are photos containing people I can't identify. These most surely have a relation to my family, to my ancestors and extended family, but no one now knows who they were or what the relation was.

These, one might think, would be photos I would not need to keep for posterity.
And yet ... I am quite fond of some of them and of the people in them.
Is that weird? Well then, it's weird.
And weirder yet is that I have started to create casual identities for these people, as if eventually they will tell me who they are (were). It's kind of fun.

I have no clue who these people are, or where, but:

This I do know was at the nurses' residence at Mayo, Yukon, and was either a coworker of my great-great Aunt Alma's OR it is Aunt Alma herself as a very young woman. (Reta, could that be?)
Could these be some of Grandpa Benson's mother's siblings in the midwestern States?
Isn't this a fabulous photo? But who were these two?
On the back it says "Mary Ward on right." Who was Mary, and who is the other lady? Taken Feb '59.
The cardboard frame is embossed ECRossi, Regina, Sask; a photography business there?
And finally this young woman with her lilies on her parched land. 
I can't make myself throw these in the garbage. Someday someone might know something. In the meantime, I think: Back in those days, people weren't snapping pictures left and right. You were fortunate to get photos of your loved ones, and that's why you kept them. That's why they were in Aunt Alma's collection, and Grandma's, and Aunt Jean's. And so I keep them.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The More We Stay the Same

My journals are snapshots of my mood when I wrote, and they make a misleading permanent record. They were a natural method of self-expression at the time, and now they are … kind of embarrassing. Oh there are little gems: descriptions of people and bits of conversations, letters and photos tucked in, sweet or funny things my children said or did when they were small. There are many valuable reminders safe in those books.

Everett came out Xmas Eve and set up and decorated the tree. Today I tried to convince him to come out again and take it all apart. Had no luck though. I may have to try sweetening the pot somehow. He's got the week off work and the water pipes beneath his bathtub have frozen and won't drain. 

 Yet a lot of it is stuff I don’t want or need to remember now, and in a way would like to wash my hands of, destroy, let go— as opposed to lugging it around or leaving it behind. But before burning the books, I want to go through them for anything worth keeping; for instance, the letters, the memories of my children, the times spent with loved ones who are gone now. There is a lot there; it’s not all bitching and wondering why, that is for sure. 

But quite often, as I read here and there in the journals, I don’t much like the writer. I want her to grow up and get over herself. I want her to rise above many things and be wiser and stronger than she was. I see that 30 years ago I was upset by the same things that upset me now. I fear I have failed to change and grow; I am experiencing the same frustrations. I see this and am disappointed and concerned.

After a couple days of stewing on this, it occurred to me that perhaps this is not a personal failing after all. The popular psychology is that we repeat patterns in our relationships with family, friends, and people in general, and that if these patterns make us unhappy we have to strive to free ourselves from them, from their hold over our lives. We do this by becoming aware of the patterns and making consistent, longterm efforts to change them. I had been thinking that, since the same things upset me now that pissed me off 30 years ago, somehow I am at fault, that I must have been too weak or lazy or foolish to make essential changes.

 It took me a few days to realize it makes perfect sense that the bullshit that bugged me at 20 would still bug me at 55. If someone is rude, selfish, inconsiderate— for example –  well, why wouldn’t I be affected by my surroundings, just like any human being is? Why would I become less sensitive to injustice, cruelty, foolishness, betrayal and so on? We do not become less sensitive as we live longer; we become more sensitive, more aware.

And sure, we learn to handle things better. Just maybe not in our journals, where we don't practise kindness or even diplomacy. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Neil & Rose Stop In

Is it a natural thing to reach the age of 55 and start thinking about what’s going to happen to all your stuff after you die? Who will be stuck with disposing of it?

Lately I have these concerns about all the family photo albums that are in my care, and about all the old dishes and other heirloom-type things I have.

My uncle Neil suggests scanning all the photos and burning them to CD so everyone can have a copy. That’s a great idea; finding time to do it or working it into the routine is the challenge.

As for the old dishes and other things, I always think that the reason I am lucky enough to have them is that no one else particularly wanted them. Maybe that’s not true. Or maybe it was but things could change. People do value things differently as they mature, and maybe what they didn’t want 10 years ago, they’d like to have now. 

I hope that’s the case, so that there will always be someone to care for these things, know where or who they came from, and appreciate the treasure that they are.

Emil with my uncle and aunt, Neil and Rose, who stopped in one afternoon and had coffee with us. Emil insists we have not seen them since May 31, which seems ridiculous. They live less than a half-hour away. 
And he is correct, as a quick peek into the journal archive shows.
And yes indeedy, Emil knows his dates:
We stopped at KYLEMORE on our way to Margo.
And Rose is correct, too— "You got pictures, didn't you?"