Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mom and Joanne

When I discovered Wendy Klein's art, I bought some of her greeting cards. This one I got for Mom to give to her friend Joanne.

I remember Mom seeing the card, saying "That's me and Joanne!" and being so delighted at the thought of sending it to her. Mom was blond; Joanne was brunette. The two of them were always worried about their weight, always dieting. But they also enjoyed each other's company and spent a lot of time together over the years, as did our families as us kids were growing up. Mom and Joanne both grew up and then lived in or near the same small village and, after Mom and Dad moved away, kept in close touch by phone and mail. When Mom got sick, Joanne was a constant support from a distance. Mom once said, "She must spend all her time thinking of nice things to do for me!" since there was always something arriving in the mail to give Mom a little lift.

I didn't remember this part, or maybe didn't know — that Mom had written in all these quotes about friendship — but one of Joanne's daughters posted the card (inside and out) on Facebook as a reminder of the special friendship between our mothers.

Joanne was also very good to me after Mom died. She phoned me often, just as Mom would have done. We talked about similar things as Mom and I would have done. She missed Mom, as I did, and shared memories of her and their times together. It was very sweet to get to know her so much better than I ever had, and to know that she was going that extra mile out of her love for Mom. I can imagine Joanne saying to Mom, "If there's anything at all that I can do for you ... " and Mom replying "After I'm gone, think of my children . . . . " Because Joanne certainly did.

Now that Joanne, too, has passed away, all of us (her children and Mom's) like to think of the two of them together again, sharing a joke and having many good laughs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wild Spring

A glorious spring day it was, and my coworkers and I spent it indoors. Alas! But it fair flew by, busy as we were preparing articles for next week's newspaper, planning where everything will go, how to make it fit, and so on. It's a time-consuming affair.

I could easily have worked a couple more hours, but after eight of them I closed up shop and headed home, where I threw together a pizza (damn, that bread dough makes tasty crispy crust! better than any store-bought or restaurant pizza I can remember having) and then headed for the gravel road with my hound doggies. There was just time for a half-hour walk while the pizza baked and a beer cooled in the freezer.

I had hoped to get some more of the flower bed cleared off tonight, but it was not to be. By the time I washed a few dishes, read my mail, and ate — that's till right now — I am tired and it's getting dark and I'm going to get my pyjamas on, do some yoga, read some of the book that just arrived in the mail, and hit the hay. It's been a full day.

I think Scott's gone to the other place to check on cattle. So far they've had a set of twin calves and, just today, a "nice bull calf." I'll ask him for photos; he gets excited about calves, every spring. Since he and his brother instigated fall breeding, calves on this farm are born in spring and summer instead of in the cold winter months. One noticeable difference is that there is rarely any problem with the calving; it seems to happen easily and naturally, with no human help required. And there is no more need to go out in the wee hours of the morning, freezing your ass off, to make sure all is well. It just is.

Actually, I've the urge to crack open a second beer and go listen to the frogs and birds. It's wild out there.

The Lonely Chicken

The lone prairie chicken takes one slow step at a time through our yard. I took this photo through the living room window; he must have caught some movement behind the glass and was being extra careful.

He thumps his chest into the night, trying to attract a new mate. It didn't work last year; he was still thumping in the fall. How is that even possible? Where are all the gals?

We hope he has better luck this year.

He lost his entire family to a snowplow the winter before this last one. 
Meanwhile he is a welcome resident in our yard.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Evening Chorus

The frogs are supervocal these days.
Last night I had to take loaves of bread to the deep freeze in the quonset, so I set my camera up on the deck railing to record the singing and croaking.
Turn up your computer's volume if you want to get a realistic idea of the sound all around our house.

WWW: Does this old girldog not look like she could be Ansa's cousin?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Blue Trunk

Scott spent almost three hours mowing our lawn on Friday afternoon, and it rained Saturday so everything is greening up nicely.

That's here.

This weekend in Saskatoon, where we went on newspaper-related business (workshops and an awards banquet), there was heavy snowfall and on Sunday morning the streets were a real mess.

We were bringing Scott's mom home from City Hospital yesterday after a knee replacement, so stopped at a nearby pharmacy to pick up her prescription for painkillers. Scott soaked his socks and shoes in the parking lot, and I, warm and dry in the half-ton, admired this old trunk that someone is using for garbage (I assume) in their backyard parking space. I was also shocked that anyone would put it outside to be ruined by weather.

Why, I believe this blue matches my eyes! Hee!
If you're ever looking for a place to have a banquet, don't overlook the Sheraton Cavalier in downtown Saskatoon. Someone around there really knows how to cook. Fabulous. I was sorely disappointed to be a person with a relatively small appetite.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Wrong End of the Stick

A typical example of miscommunication that often gets us into trouble:

I'm leaning on the kitchen counter to chat with Scott one evening after he's come home late from work. It'll soon be dark and he's rustling up some supper or filling a plate, and he says:

“I guess Mom’s on her way.”
An unoccupied farmyard a couple miles from our place.

It’s an unusual time for her to visit. I say, preparing to plug the kettle in:
“Oh! Any particular reason she’s coming over?”

Scott, sounding exasperated:
“She’s not coming here!”

“Didn't you just say — ?”

“She’s on her way to Saskatoon!”

She had to be in the city for a knee replacement the next morning. I knew this, of course, but hadn't been thinking about it at that moment. I figured she was coming here for a cup of tea.
We need to speak more clearly and listen more closely.
How easy it is to misunderstand each other. No one is to blame, yet mishearing is the cause of frequent irritation in our house.

Fortunately this misfire was noticed right when it happened and not a day later, when we'd be unable to pinpoint exactly how things got so mixed up and then one of us might accuse the other of "never listening when I talk." 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Those Good Ol' Days

Mistakenly I assume that those of you reading this have also seen anything I post on Facebook, so I don't often post the same photos here that I've posted there. At the risk of boring any of you who do connect with me on FB — and because it's 2 a.m. and I'm sitting up eating toast with peanut butter (you know how that goes: you finally realize, after lying awake for hours, that you aren't going to sleep unless you get out of that nice warm bed and eat something) and want something to do with my hands while I chew, here's a picture I snapped one afternoon while walking around the yard on a day too windy to venture beyond the bush and buildings.

There is something about these old unused vehicles that makes me want to go sit in them. I don't do it; they're probably occupied by rodents now. But I think the urge comes from sitting in the farmyard in my friend Kim's parents' vehicles, smoking Number 7 cigarettes stolen from her mother and listening to AM radio when we were stuck-home teenagers, before we got our driver's licences. Oh those good ol' days! I don't want them back, but I love remembering how they felt.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Something I Found

On my Tuesday walk, I spotted this perfectly round rock laying at the edge of the ditch next to a stubblefield. Thought I'd better carry it home, rather than leaving it there to be turned under when the cultivator goes through, or to disappear when the grass and weeds grow tall again.

Wonder what it could be. 

If it could be an artifact, I need to report it somewhere. 
If it's an artillery ball, wouldn't it be darker? 
It's quite heavy. 

I'll post it on FB and Twitter, see if anyone has ideas. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Fields are Drying

It's well past time to get back into my walking routine.

That tripe they feed you about all it taking to form a lifelong routine is to do it daily for three weeks? Bullshit. I kept pretty well to my walking routine for two years! But . . . have been slacking since beginning to work at the news office a year-and-a-half ago.

Even with good company, which I had for the first while (poor Alison, freezing out there without ski pants — no wonder your feet were flying!), there is little pleasure to be had in walking around town. I've been spoiled by a grid road, no neighbours, and negligible traffic; by sightings of deer, fox, coyote, raccoon, badger, hawks, eagles, herons, and so forth; by wildflowers blooming in the ditches.

Even so, I've been lazy for the past year and it's time to smarten up. So I went walking — briskly — 45 minutes — on Monday and Tuesday.

It was cold; I wore leggings under my jeans, a warm spring jacket, a wool scarf, a knitted headband, a felty hat, and gloves. Oh sure, in typical Saskatchewan style everything periodically had to be unzipped, zipped up again, loosened, tightened, removed, put back on — all depending upon which way the wind was blowing.

This is one of the family fields, draining into the ditch by the road. 
For part of my walk, a small flock of skinny robins flitted along in the trees beside me. It's not difficult to imagine they are having trouble finding food, although several black ants have appeared on the kitchen counter in the past couple days and Scott says that means the ground is thawing. One of our news correspondents remarked that a warm rain is needed to bring the earthworms out. I hope it's soon; I'm worried about those robins.

On Tuesday morning, residents of a town not far away awoke to an inch of snow on the ground.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Dirty Laundry

Every Tuesday or thereabouts, I lug a basket or two of laundry up and down the basement stairs.
The stairs are dangerous ones, with angled edges, covered with shiny, slippery paint, and a handrail that ends a yard above the bottom step.
It's a dark, dank place to do laundry. In the cement next to the washing machine there is a hole in the cement, where Scott has placed a sump pump. Once he found a pair of my panties had fallen in.

I dream of a finished laundry room, with bright walls and a linoleum floor; a laundry room so delightful I will leave the ironing board set up and find something to press so I have a reason to spend time there. Even better would be if the washer and dryer were on the main floor and there were no more stairs to navigate with a bulky load in my arms.

I think the Brits are onto something, the way they keep their laundry machines in their kitchens.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

These Shoes

Even though you can’t control how you feel, you can manage how you react to those feelings. Instead of trying to ignore them or stuff them deeper inside, force them to identify themselves and let them know that you’re in charge.

Daphne Gray-Grant's writing tip, above, also applies to life itself. 
I had to go write it down.
I write down a lot of things I already know, because I need reminders. 

Then there are reminders I perhaps don't need.

These runners, kept at the bottom of the basement steps so that I won't track any alkaline dust around the floor when I return upstairs, remind me of a death that still pains me. I feel it every time I slip these shoes on; there is that moment of remembering.

I had gone to Shelly's to be with her for a week or two after Dale's passing, and one day her daughters invited us for a river-floating afternoon. I needed throw-away shoes to wear in the water and mud, and purchased these for $15.

We gals had a lovely day on the Pembina River. That, I like to be reminded of. Dale, I also like to remember. What happened to Dale, what Dale did — no.

Maybe it is time to get rid of these shoes.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Not Music to My Ears

I've turned the TV on to a Toronto (due to the time difference) radio channel so I can listen to the program Q on CBC with its new host while I measure and mix this week's batch of bread, which is earmarked for Everett's deep freeze.

They've just played a long performance by the Nunavut woman who won the Polaris Prize this year for her throat-singing. Compelling (one word for it) as it may be, I don't consider it music (others may; whale song is considered music, of its kind). The throat-singing I heard this morning sounded more like what comes out of our bedroom on a good night when there are no kids in the house.

Nothing convinces me that rap "music" is music, either, since I discern only rhythm and no melody.

Musically uneducated it may make me, but I stick to my own definitions, even as the rest of the world passes me by and rap is now mainstream (really?) and Inuit throat "singing" wins the country's most valuable prize for music. To me, these are emperors who are wearing no clothes. I don't consider Leonard Cohen's "sung" poems to be music, either.

As it is, now when rap comes on the radio, I turn it off. I do the same to advertising and to sports reports. They only irritate me.

Maybe someone can help me see/hear/experience this in some other way?

For instance — this kinda relates — someone else's perspective changes everything:

I use a machine to knead my bread.
Something happened to the bottom of it so that it rocks itself out of position, across the floor, knocking on the kitchen cabinets. My effort to put a stop to that has been to set the pot on a pair of oven mitts on the floor. That helped, but didn't solve the problem. The pot still moved.
So this morning I asked Scott for ideas.
"Set it on a rubber mat," he said, just like that. "Like a bath mat."
We don't own such a thing, but there is my yoga mat.
Worked like a charm. Now why didn't I think of it!

After dropping Emil off at Aylesbury House after supper last night, I stopped in at Everett's to drop off some mail. He was grating cheese onto his meal of pasta so I didn't stay long (nor was I invited to!) but as I turned to leave, he said, "Oh! I got something for you."
What could it be? What could it be? I wondered as he strolled over to his back porch. He came back carrying a large wooden birdfeeder.
"Bought it at a garage sale. Thought you'd use it."
And he is right.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Froggies a'courtin' — singin and croakin

If they call my spouse "the love of her life" in my obituary, I'll be gritting my teeth somewhere.

It's not because he didn't woo the socks right off me and can't still do it any time he chooses (well okay — not any time, but just about), or because we won't be there for each other, or because I don't love him dearly. Blah blah blah.

But that's my business. Even after I'm dead.

If I wrote my own obituary, I'd like it to say simply "This was not my idea."

It was seen chiseled into a tombstone in a book about gravesites.

Not that I don't enjoy reading obituaries. Any old obit will do, too.

Okay now; given the title of this entry, I must include something about frogs.
How about: A pair of geese are sniffing out froggy things in my back yard.
(Is that too much of a stretch?)

The frogs have started up and are getting louder and louder.  Their season ritual is stunning music. It makes me want to quaff libations and prance in the clearings! It makes me grateful to be greeting another spring.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Imperfections of the Female Body

At every stage of my life since becoming a young woman, there has been something wrong with my body.

At age 12, it was my thighs. They were too fat! Please don’t make me wear that figure-skating tutu on the carnival ice! Then it was my ass; it stuck out too far. Then it was the hair on my arms; there was altogether too much of it, so off it came. I only took that fool step once before giving it up completely. I’m quite fond of the hair on my arms now, thank you very much.

On and on throughout the years, these little dissatisfied focuses on different areas of my body continued. The pores in the skin of my nose were too large. My boobs weren’t the shape they should be. My belly was round instead of flat. I had too much wiggle in my walk, or not enough. I had some crooked teeth.

Such neurotic little obsessions pop up to this day. The only difference is that by now, in my mid-fifties, I have learned that if I don’t dwell on them, my preoccupation with them will pass before I do something stupid (like the arm hair incident; it was perfectly normal arm hair, I tell you, and didn't deserve to be vanquished). I have turkey neck and a flat face? Big deal. My cleavage is wrinkly? Oh well. My eyelids droop? I have craterous crowsfeet? Vertical lines above my lip? A visible moustache? 

So what. Tomorrow, with any luck, I won’t even notice.

Three burr oaks; three perfect sisters. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Haunting of L

There is a TV program called Mystery Ink, where the host interviews mystery writers. From time to time I watch it, although the shows are often quite old reruns. That doesn’t matter; I am still introduced to books and authors new to me.

Lately an interview with Lyn Hamilton made me order a half-dozen of her “archeological” mysteries from the library. It wasn’t till I looked her up on the internet that I learned she has been dead quite a while. I’ve read two of her books now, and have two more waiting on the nightstand. I scan quickly through the historical backstory she includes throughout each novel, the story of the archeological treasures that are the reason people are murdered. Hamilton has done her research, but it is catching the killer that interests me.

Another book whose plot grabbed my attention is The Haunting of L, by Howard Norman. “What a lovely man,” I thought, as he chatted with the host. "His thoughtfulness; his way of seeing." I had ordered one of his books before — a memoir — but in spite of its dramatic content (a friend had killed herself and her child while staying in the home of Norman and his wife), it had not held me. I left it unfinished. Still, on the strength of this interview, I asked at the library for this other one.

The Haunting of L is a fiction revolving around the practice of “spirit photography,” which was apparently popular in the late 1800s. The image of a dead friend or relative or lover was inserted into a photograph of living people, and claimed to be a real presence. Often this was a comfort to the living, and so it became a way for charlatans to make money.

The opening line:

“In the four-poster bed, my employer’s wife, Kala Murie, lying beside me, the world seemed in perfect order.” The employee is a photographer’s assistant, and Kala Murie always wears two pairs of socks to bed because she is cold from the knees down, although the rest of her body is so warm she often sleeps without any covering at all.

The assistant thinks in captions. He frames everything he sees in this way, so much that it is almost an obsessive habit. Part of my work at the newspaper is writing captions for photographs, and I note that the practice hasn’t filtered into my consciousness, like breathing, as it has for this character.

“I looked at Kala. She’d shawled the bed quilt around her shoulders.” I love it when authors describe things in ways I’ve never thought of. Sometimes so simply, yet so effective.

And that’s as far as I’ve gotten, this Saturday morning. I’ve got the next four days off; dishes to do, other than that no plans or obligations. I’ll bake bread on Monday, but otherwise something tells me this girl will be reading. And I mean to get my papers together to take to my favourite accountant. I’ve been meaning to do that for a month already.

Out on the step, the wind smells like spring.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Crack That Whip

Whoa! A week has gone by without my posting here? How on earth — ?
Apparently I've been super busy, or there is nothing to tell, or my life is far too exciting and dramatic to tell tales on myself!
Yeah, that's it. Pick one. Any one will do.
Last weekend, the snow was disappearing.
It's been snowing heavily all day and looks like winter out there, again.
And the day has flown by! I'm still not at the bottom of the stack of dishes.
But I did make two dozen cake doughnuts this afternoon. That's more important.
I have my priorities straight.

We have ordered new kitchen cupboards.
Now, if they don't sit out in a shed in the yard for the next two summers like our house siding has done, I will be a happy camper. We shall see.
I'm the kind of camper who doesn't actually care all that much about kitchen cupboards or house siding ... for a while. Eventually I start wondering if maybe I should do some pushing, some motivating, some something. Then I forget about that, too.
Pffft. I might have a whip, somewhere, but I've no idea how to crack it.