Sunday, May 31, 2015

What the Dying May Be Trying to Tell Us About Where They're Going

Read this excerpt from the book:

What the Dying May be Trying to Tell Us

Its author, Patricia Pearson, will be interviewed on 'Tapestry' today on CBC Radio.

Listen to the full episode online HERE.

"According to Patricia Pearson, about fifty percent of the bereaved sense the presence of the dead. Her book is called, Opening Heaven's Door: What The Dying May Be Trying to Tell Us About Where They're Going."


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Another Kathy

Wise words from my "internet" friend of 15 years, Kathy:

Life can be really fucking mean so you just better have a good time while you can.

I'm reminded that we all share the human experience of, among other things, losing loved ones.

I see that her hubby has good taste in television. He too is a fan of Doc Martin, a comedic series set in Cornwall. It's one of few programs that Scott and I both watch, and I'm pretty sure Mom would've liked it.

Kathy ... she makes me laugh.

It's their 28th anniversary and Nugget has just shaken her hand. HA!! The foolishness of men; but it's making me grin all over.

Kathy's also recently celebrated five years free of breast cancer.

When I see Kathy's blog rise to the top of the list (Arts & Letters in the column on the left), I immediately go read. Kathy is not to be missed!

Here's her most recent entry: CLICK HERE.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Last Minute Check

This was the scene last Friday afternoon at the news office as some of my co-workers and I looked through the pages one last time before sending them off to press. Gotta make sure all the booked ads are there, and try to catch any unnoticed misspellings or errors.

Left to right: Rita, who does our paginating; me, editor-type; Bev, receptionist.

And here we go again! I'm off out the door shortly.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

You'd Think I Was a Busy Person

How I managed to squeeze five hours of actual work into yesterday, with all the running around I did, I don't know. As a matter of fact, I am going to recheck my addition, as it hardly seems possible.

My trusty hairdresser is taking a month holiday starting next week, which meant getting my do done before she leaves. (Have a wonderful holiday, Sandy!) After that, a trip to the doctor's office was on the agenda. I felt a woodtick under the upper ridge of my right ear on Monday morning — felt it when it bit in. Gross little bastards! The ear has been swollen, red and itchy, so I thought antibiotics might be in order.

This is the waiting room, which never seems to be busy. I wonder why they added onto the clinic recently.
Instead the doctor prescribed an antihistamine and a cortisone (?) cream.
"Come back in a few days if it gets worse," he said.
"Okay," said I. "This means I can still have my beer and wine."
"Yes," he replied, winking, "Medicine is an art, you know, not a science."

So it was off to the drugstore, and making a few quick stops in other places while waiting for my prescriptions. I picked up a foot-high stack of library books, got a refund for a flower arrangement purchased for a funeral but accidentally undelivered, purchased some gauch, stopped at the post office, and perused store shelves for a new notebook, as the current one is nearly full. Then back to work and settling in for mere moments when I received a text from Charlene:

"Just a reminder: 4 o'clock appointment."
And out the door I went for another hour.

This might be the first time I've had my bi-weekly, now monthly, shiatsu treatment without any tender spots in my lower back and the soles of my feet. Could it be that after three months of daily hatha yoga, things are happening that ought to be? My nose still won't touch  my knee, though it will get there eventually. As we get older the muscles and tendons take longer to come around, or something like that. (Thank you, Charlene; truer words may never have been spoken.)

When I got back to work, there was a text from Karen. She'd been in town for a funeral (which I didn't know anything about or would have gone) and wondered if I had time to meet for coffee or supper. I would roll naked over pointy pebbles to spend five minutes with either of my sisters, but yesterday I just couldn't manage it. There was work to do and if my employer had a mean bone in her body, which she doesn't, she'd have been bending her eyebrows in my direction. I texted Karen back that unless she could meet me in an aisle of the grocery store in about half an hour (we were getting company overnight and needed a few things before the store closed at six), I couldn't make it.

"That's good," she returned my text, "because I'm already on my way home."

A mere half-hour at my desk and I was off to the store. When that last errand was done and the bag of groceries was tucked into the office fridge, I sat down at my desk with a sigh of relief. Everyone but Alison and I had gone home for the day. The phone wasn't ringing; it was nice and quiet. I read through an opinion piece, picked out some photos, scoured an article about a local event, and Alison and I looked over the page layout and made some changes, fitting stickers denoting articles and ads onto the blank sheets, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Then Scott called on my cellphone.

"What are you doing?"
"Working. What are you doing?"
"Doc's arrived. We're just having a beer. Do you have a plan for supper?"
"Bringing pizza fixins home."
"Anything you want me to do?"
"Chop up onions and peppers."
"Okay, see you in a bit."

That was at seven o'clock. I figured I'd better be a good host and so called it a day and got on the road home.

Two beer and two slices of pizza later, and after a couple hours of gabbing at the kitchen table, I got my pyjamas on, did my yoga, and said goodnight.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Now and Ten Years Ago

When Mom was in her last days, I remember it seeming unreal that the rest of us would go on without her. We would, of course, but I couldn't imagine my own life without her in it, or our family life without her. I couldn't imagine what it would be like in a year, let alone ten. But here we are. Ten years. Wow.

I thought it would get to be less painful, but it hasn't, actually. Well, it's different. Not so intense, but much deeper, like a very old regret that no longer affects today but rattles the foundation a little when recalled. Tears can still come quite quickly at times though, surprising me, as if sorrow is barely under the surface. But it's not as if I walk around grieving, or even think of Mom every day.

I'm still pissed off at life for letting us down, disappointing us so hugely. Never mind that it's irrational; it's how I feel. We can talk about Mom and remember her and have our laughs and fond memories, and that's all good. I like that and like being with other people who knew her and/or loved her. Losing her made me appreciate Dad and my sisters and brothers more than ever, and know — in my bones, now, and not just in my head — that someday we'll part, too, wrenched away from each other.

Wed, May 11, 2005
She couldn't stay awake well enough to get a muffin from the plate in her lap to her mouth. Dad fed it to her by spoon. Anemic; blood transfusion tomorrow morning. Then an x-ray of the bum left shoulder.
She did manage to drink an entire glass of Ensure.
Poor sleepy thing. I kneel by her chair, caress her feet and calves. She says a few drowsy words, makes sense but so, so tired.
Scott gone back to Saskatchewan today. Lonely bed.

Sunday, May 14, 2005
Mom hasn't picked up as much as in the past after transfusions.

Monday, May 16, 2005
Went to Mom's around 10:30. She was unable to pee when she sat on the commode, or the toilet either; she hasn't since last night, and wanted the palliative care nurses called to put in a catheter. Reta is a nurse but Mom didn't want her to do it.
"I wonder how much longer I have," she said to me while this was happening. She looks pretty good, colourwise. Aunt Reta says the methodone for pain can be shutting things down.
I spent most of my time there cutting and preparing fabric squares for the quilted tablecloth Mom wants to make for Mary Jo. Came home after picking up the boys, and went straight to bed. After one hour, woke myself up crying about Mom. After another hour, woke myself up again, also crying about Mom in a dream.
Joanne Bohl phoned last night to say she and Gerald plan to come around the 13th if Mom is well enough to know them, by then. I can't imagine she'll go downhill that fast — but of course I can't, and she might. Dr. Davidson told Dad again that with the amount and size of Mom's tumour, he doesn't understand why she's still with us. And that things could go wrong very quickly. If she stops eating and drinking, Dad said, it could be two or three days only.
Mom goes to hospital for a bone scan Wednesday morning, and a shot of radiation late that afternoon. Did I mention her shoulder is fractured and there's cancer there?
Poor girl, if it isn't one thing it's another.

Mom can't do much of anything now and Reta has been taking care of her. Dad too. I go over every day and talk to Mom, help with what I can.
Biscuits! I should bake some fresh biscuits over there. Mom might like that.

Wednesday, May 19, 2005
-flowershop for two bouquets for Mom from Aunt Gladys; lily, and gerbera daisies
-home to work
-sing with ugly sisses
-off to Mom and Dad's

mom's not good
mom's not good
mom's not good

i haven't cried this way in a long time
forgot what it feels like

Saturday night, May 21, 2005
Neil and Rose had arrived. Dad was out with Karen, looking at cars, so I visited with them and Reta. Mom had been awake when they got there but hadn't stayed up long. I went and checked on her several times and spoke to her but other an an eye flutter, no response.
Dad had steaks out for supper so I came home and fed my boys. Neil and Rose called around seven when they were ready to be picked up and brought over here.
I went in to see Mom and as I looked at her — tucked her sheet up around her chin, untangled her hand from the bedrail and a bag-string threaded through her fingers, stroked her face — for the first time I thought her dying is not a long way off. It is here, or soon.

I knelt by the bed and held her hand between my two, trying not to cry. They were waiting for me in the living room so I didn't want to start. It took me a while. Dad came in to see. "Nothing?" he said, looking at me. "No." He shook his head and walked out. I composed myself with great difficulty.
I knew there is no way I can leave next Saturday for a week. No.
Unless — unless I see her awake tomorrow and she is somehow different. Reta thinks by the middle of the week we'll know whether it's the radiation that's doing this, or something else — the slide. But radiation didn't do this before. She could always wake up and respond when I spoke to her.
So — it was a knowing.

Sunday, May 22, 2005
Mom is weaker today.
Reta says she may only live a couple more days.
Grandma was phoned, and Uncle Bruce, to prepare them.
Cameron was phoned and told not to wait till Saturday as planned. He and Gord decided to drive out together tomorrow instead.
Scott and Dick are organizing themselves to come right away. Scott likely would have started off tonight but is waiting to hear from Dick in the morning whether he can come now or will have to come in a couple days.
If Neil and Rose weren't in the bed in the room directly below, I'd be sobbing noisily. It is a struggle to be quiet. I wonder if I am feeling sorry for myself. I hate myself if that's what this is. I am carefully wiping my eyes with a warm wet cloth in hopes that if I don't fall asleep with them soaked in salty tears, perhaps they won't swell shut on me again.
Uncle Neil told me he cries a lot too. Rose, who has lost two brothers and her dad, says it is harder to lose a sibling than a parent. I can't imagine anything, any death, being more painful than my darling mom's — even if someone who's been there says so. Except maybe deaths of children. But then, I can't imagine losing my kids, or my sisters, or Scott. I can imagine, but not with the emotional punch. Not the same as the real thing.
I left the bottle of rose oil by Mom's bed; it's supposed to help make dying easier. When we're alone I dab it under her nose, on her sheet, on her pillow.
Her system is shutting down, they think. Rose says this is what her dad looked like just days before he passed away peacefully. Reta thinks the end will be very soon.
Mom didn't eat today. She couldn't lift a water glass 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.
Oh, what is going through Mom's mind as she lies there? Was it just this morning that Reta got her onto the bedside commode and Mom managed the move and the sitting there quite easily?
And yet all I see is Mom hardly able to open her eyes, and barely able to get a word out. I understand her meaning sometimes — barely perceptible — she's thirsty, her lips are dry, the noise of people talking in the rest of the house is not bothering her at all — not really in words but somehow I understand.
She drank only a little bit of water today. She couldn't wake up enoguh to take her pills. She stayed in bed. She ate nothing. She got her liquid methadone in.
Thank God for Reta. Without her, Mom would be in hospice or hospital. Home is so much better, and Reta sees no reason why we can't keep her there until the end.
It is hard to have faith that Mom is going to a better place, that she'll never really leave us, that we'll all survive our broken hearts.
I keep seeing her smiling, healthy face in my mind though, very clearly. I hope I can always see it.
Karen is quitting her job tomorrow so she can help with Mom.
For a service here in Kelowna — "for Mary Jo" — Dad said Mom wanted it — I suggested we have the barbershop quartette sing, and we serve ice cream. Isn't that so Mom? Add to that: it should be a quilting bee — and we'll have covered all the bases.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Reta's 63rd birthday
Was there today when Mom awoke and was "restless" — what Dad and Reta called restless. I call it pain and panic. Reta gave her a shot that would put her back to sleep, but it wasn't immediate. Pretty distressed; she was, and so were we.
Dad had told me earlier that Mom was awake in the morning, experiencing the same thing. She'd said, "Get the doctor to give me something."
Dad said, "You mean you just want it to be over?"
She said vehemently, "Yes!"
After seeing her awake this afternoon, I know we have to keep her asleep if we can, otherwise she may suffer and we can't permit that to happen.
Reta had waited four hours between doses, but from now on will dose her every 2-3 hours so it doesn't happen again.
What could I do? Lay my hand on her forehead, her neck, her cheek, and speak soothingly until the shot came. Try to stay calm, to calm her.
After the shot, rub lotion into her feet. It seemed to help her settle down.

I threw off my blanket and went to sit beside Dad, and put my arms around him. He said he wanted to keep her asleep; we'd all had a few good moments with her yesterday. She'd asked us girls to sing our songs for Cameron, so we did in spite of his protests sing "Cheek to Cheek" a capella for her and, though it was impossible not to break into tears here and there, we got through it — and that would be enough for us.
I said yes; now we have to think of her and not of ourselves. You are absolutely right to keep her asleep.
Later when both Dad and Cameron sat at her bedside holding her hand and crying, I put my arms around each of them and told Mom not to worry, I would take care of them. This was two different times. How I managed not to cry myself I don't understand. I have shed so many tears (fewer since Scott arrived Monday around midnight; he must be a calming influence) and I know many more are coming.
I want to just stay there now and help look after her. If she is still alive in the morning I'm going to ask Dad if I can. Reta and Dad are doing a great job but I want to be there for Mom. Just be there even if I don't know what to do. My presence has helped her before — many times in the past year — and maybe it can help again.
Dad thinks tonight might be her last night and wanted all us kids to go over for a while with her after supper just in case. I asked Emil whether he'd like to come and see Grandma one more time before she died, and he said he would. Everett, who was with Gord at his rental suite, thought not but "Tell Grandma I love her and give her a kiss for me." Gord figured it was important enough to insist he go, and he took him over, and in.

She is breathing slowly but deeply. Her pulse is strong, Reta said. But her hands and feet, though warm, are becoming a bit mottled. She hasn't eaten for days and has drank only a glass of water or so.
The expression on her face and in her eyes has completely changed. Her eye colour is different but also somewhat vacant. She responds sometimes but is not always understandable.
I think we will be relieved for her sake when she goes, now. Poor thing.
Karen sponged Mom's face with a cloth yesterday to keep her awake until Joan could get there so we could sing "Happy Birthday" to her with Mom, or around Mom's bed.

Saturday, May 28, 2005
Mom died at 12:23 p.m. May 27, with Dad on one side of her, holding her hand, and me on the other with my hand on her neck, her brow, her face. Reta was there, and Karen, Joan and Cameron came in almost immediately. It was a relief for all as Mom's breathing had been laboured for a day or two. After a couple short periods of distress on Tues. or Wed. it was obvious she needed to be kept sedated in order to feel no pain, so we gave her shots every two hours till the end. Joan and I stayed overnight on Thursday and took turns giving Mom her meds so Reta and Dad could sleep. I am so glad I was there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Where We Belong

One might think, from reading my journal, that I’m self-involved and lead an insular existence, unaware of and unconcerned by the struggles others face.

I watch the national news on tv sometimes though, though rarely, because there are too many commercials. I hear the news on the radio at least once most days, and read the news stories online that catch my attention. I’d never go without a local newspaper. I like to listen to As It Happens on weeknights on CBC radio, where a co-host calls around the world and talks to people involved in events that are occurring right now. I have a clue what’s going on. I’m interested and I care.

Another woman has been killed by a man she knew, a former lover who terrorized her when she chose not to be with him anymore. There is nothing new in that scenario; it keeps on happening. It makes me want to scream. Why can we not stop this?

A man with cancer, who took it on with as much humour as he could muster, has died. Everywhere you turn, cancer is killing someone. If it hasn’t taken someone you love yet, just wait. It will. Maybe you.

And bullying, not only by children but by adults too, and not just in other places but right here at home in our workplaces. Extreme poverty. Addictions. And pollution. Environmental disaster. Rape. Genocide. War. Injustice. You look around and wonder what is wrong with people. Why do these things keep happening? And what is my part? Is there something I can do to change any of it?

Some people will write pieces clarifying the state of affairs; once in a blue moon they even offer solutions rather than just pointing out the stupidity of others. Some will involve themselves in politics or activism, intending to make an impact somehow rather than accept the status quo or do nothing. Many donate cash, which they spent their time earning, to worthy causes. Huge numbers of people step out in their own communities and volunteer, doing what they can to improve situations locally, regionally, nationally, internationally. All are ways of feeling less powerless, less helpless against what feel like overwhelming odds; they are doing something.

We do what we can, where we can, how we can. Not everyone has the same energy; not everyone can focus on the same problems; everyone has their own path to navigate, and every right to stay on it. People are fighting their own battles every day, unseen, often misunderstood; most of us pass quietly through this world, leaving very little mark except upon those we have loved. And that, too, is okay. Private victories are just as essential as public scores. We can’t all be Nelson Mandela or Abraham Lincoln, nor are we meant to be.

I don’t write about world events and current affairs. Not only do I have no realistic solutions; I don’t even have bandaids or healing balms. I listen and observe; sometimes I understand; sometimes I weep, witnessing what is going on in the world, what is happening to people and animals and landscapes and oceans and the air we breathe.

No matter what you do or how much you do it, there is always more to do. You could run yourself ragged, sacrifice your health, your family life, and your peace of mind in order to save the world or your little corner of it. Is that what you want to do? Then go for it. If it feels good and right to you, do it.

But don’t assume that people who aren’t doing what you do or what you think they should do are doing nothing or doing the wrong thing or don’t care about anyone but themselves or are unaware or apathetic. Tend your own fire, and know that they are tending theirs. That humble, quiet mother living unnoticed out in the boonies, keeping her children fed and loved? She may be raising a future game-changer, but her name will never be a household word. That farmer with no time to attend meetings and sit on committees? He’s helping put food on your table as well as his own, and it’s not just an eight-hour-a-day job to do it. Everyone is playing their part, even if it’s behind the scenes. Even if they only whistle a merry tune when they see you, don't be fooled. They are as smart as you and as strong as you; take off your judge's cloak, stop making assumptions, and realize that most of us are just as concerned as you are about this world and the people in it. Not everyone is looking for accolades or recognition or letters after their names, but that doesn't mean the homebodies, the sports fans, the fashionistas, the TV-watchers and the shoppers aren't every bit as effective wherever they choose to put their attention. It all counts.

These two snipes were running around my lawn this morning. That's something I never see! Hear the air winnowing through their wings all the time, yes; see one sitting on a chimney of the tractor shed, yes;  but zipping around on the grass in front of the house — never! Quite a treat. I snapped this photo through the window and they didn't stop moving for even a second, so it's a bit blurry. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Farmer Needs

Sunday, 2 p.m.

Just back from the field just down the road, where Scott is cultivating. The air is scorchingly dry.

I warmed up a couple cans of mushroom soup and made two bunwiches with last night’s leftover steak, thinking he’d come in for lunch since he was close by. By 1:30 I knew he’d be starving and thought I might as well take the sandwiches out, and a cold beer. I considered biking as it’s so close, but decided it’s too hot.

When I parked on the approach the tractor was a quarter-mile away, halfway across the field, but he spotted the car and came rumbling toward me right away. Hungry, I knew.

The car doors were open so a breeze could blow through, but he didn’t sit. He stood and gobbled down the food, then poured the beer down his throat.

“Thanks, that was nice,” he said, turning to go.

“Glad I could help,” I replied, watching his shirt flap in the wind as he struck out across the freshly turned chunks of black dirt.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kitchen Makeover

The top cupboards have been empty for a week or maybe two. Dishes for everyday use sit on the kitchen table. The rest are in boxes in the office or on the bed behind my desk.

That is all about to change.
After working in the field all day, Scott came home and started on the top cabinets.

They are "cheap" cupboards, he said.
"Hmph," said I, after saving for the past year to buy them. "They're better than what we had, and that's good enough for me."
The odd time I was called to fetch a bag of screws or a clamp. I was here in the office at 10 o'clock last night when I heard, "Aren't you even going to come and see how they look?"

This morning he is back out in the field.
The plan is to install the bottom cabinets when the arborite arrives.
I can hardly wait to not see all that crap inside the lower cabinets.

Today I'll be wiping down the shelves and putting the dishes away.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sun to Wind to Rain to Cloud

It's another beautiful day out there and I'm still in my pyjamas, sitting in the office! Must rise from this chair and get some blood flowing to my ass.
But first . . .   .

Thanks to Scott, I was awake around 8 because he brought coffee to the bedside table before leaving for the field. It's been a lovely few hours of reading and writing. Eating buttered toast, drinking chilled orange juice. Hauling my bedding plants out to the deck, hardening 'em up before they go into pots a few days from now.

Life is good. The only thing I lack is a friend to sip margaritas on the deck with. Considering that I have no tequila to make margaritas, perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

Northern shoveller female, left, and American coot (what we call a mudhen)
I do, however, have a magnum of cold apple cider that I bought when Cathy came out from the city in February. What am I waiting for? Someone to share it with, as that stuff packs a punch but once opened you want to consume it so it doesn't lose its fizz.

Yesterday, for the first time since I began working at the WADENA NEWS a year-and-a-half ago, we had the paper off to press and I was out of the office at 5 o'clock. It was a lovely warm day and so nice to get outside. I went straight to the liquor store to pick up beer for Scott, as I figured he'd be in the field all day and not have a chance to get to town. While I was there I might as well nab another bottle of wine; ended up with two more. I'm set for the next week or two when it comes to booze, for sure.

After stopping at the two garage sales in town and spending a whopping $3, I dropped off a $1 shirt at Everett's and came home, where I found Scott on his garden tractor mowing the lawn. He'd already been to town, wouldntchaknow, and had put beer into the fridge. I lugged my bedding plants to the step and took a cold beer out to him before starting on the dishes I hadn't done the night before.

By the time those were done and Scott was in the house, dreaming about supper and no doubt disappointed, I was ready to crack a beer for myself and sit down for a few minutes. We enjoyed the peacefulness of our living room until my beer mug was nearly empty, and then he leapt up.

"I'm going for a drive," he said. "You coming?"

You bet. I love going for a drive cross-country. I downed the last swallow of bitter and followed him out the door.

There had been a farmyard fire on Victoria Day when a lawnmower blade struck a rock, igniting a flame, and Scott wanted to know whose place it was at. (Sheila B., it's your old place! I think the barn burned down.)

From there we putzed along, noting farmhouses for sale and fields of burnt stubble, wondering why at this time with so many fire hazards out there and the restrictions the Province is advertising on the radio, farmers are still lighting those fires. It doesn't make sense.  Maybe they don't listen to the radio or watch the news? Or maybe everyone thinks it couldn't happen to them.

Finally I said, stomach rejoicing, "Let's go to the Hendon bar. I'll buy you a burger."

It turns out the bar is for sale and its last day of operation will be May 30. Hate to see another small business go under, but it's the way of things with drinking establishments, especially in communities with a population of only dozens. It's not like rural dwellers can have a few drinks and then drive home, and even when you do have a designated driver, many people can't afford to socialize in bars too often when one drink costs five or six bucks.

We ordered our burgers and beer — Pilsner, once made in Saskatchewan and purchased by us last night only because the only beer made in this province now is Great Western and the bar doesn't stock it. Scott drank three-quarters of my beer after inhaling his own, and we both made pretty good dints in our plates of burgers and fries, and were home just before the stars began peeking out. Jupiter and Venus shone in the western sky next to the quarter-moon. The frogs sang. The sora called. I was sorry to come indoors and, now that I think of it, wonder why I did.


It was a beautiful day when I began this entry. But this is Saskatchewan, where the weather can change in an instant. I heard a sudden wind come up, and bolted out to the deck to move my bedding plants out of it. There were some hard raindrops, and then a big scary noisy wind, and now it's quiet again. Hm.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Other Words

Reading Priya Parmar's novel, I often set the book down and pick up my notebook to copy one of her sentences. She writes beautifully (though the quotes below are not examples of it) and captures many subtle understandings that I recognize but have never put into words.

Writing as Vanessa, about Roger Fry: “I do not mind the stamp of ignorance, as I know he could never feel contempt. It is not within his spectrum of emotions.”
Plainly put, but it hits home. Contempt is a common attitude, and people who are not that way about others are the kind I prefer to be with.  It's no wonder Fry was so well loved by his friends.

Stopping to copy out excerpts slows down my reading, but with some books I am doing it every five minutes. About the writing of E.M.Forster:

“Morgan’s ideal is to bring the muddle into the open. He does not try to solve the muddle, he just hopes not to hide it. What a small, important thing he is doing.”
Yes. To face truths, but also accept rather than try to change or control.

“Virginia was trapped in a cyclone of anger and resentment by then and too far gone to hear.”
Again, so simply yet well put! I have never thought of it just that way, but of course that’s exactly how it is sometimes. People get trapped in intense, swirling emotion  and can’t or don’t know how to get out during those moments.

“Surprising that sincere affection can exist where there is no trust.” Again, simple yet true. We may be very disappointed in people but still care very much about them.

“The small day-to-day details of a family continue even when the heart of a marriage has been broken.” Vanessa’s new husband had a crush on her sister and had an affair with an old love, and so his intimacy with Vanessa was damaged. They carried on for some time with the everyday things, though, in spite of her broken heart.

“I do not owe the world a happy marriage, a perfect family. That is not my job.” Again, a truth so plainly put. How often do we women feel we are failures when our relationships and families don't fit the ideal!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vanessa and Her Sister

I worked till 6:30 last night and got home shortly before 7. It was so gorgeous outside that I hauled in my packsack, my purse and a parcel  picked up earlier at the post office, and headed back out the door and down the road on foot. No jacket required! Just a little cotton blazer that I’d been wearing all day.

Scott was cultivating and as I walked back he stopped the tractor alongside the edge of the field and got off, so I went over to chat. He still wasn’t feeling too well so, though he had hoped to work a couple more hours and finish the field, he shut off the tractor and drove home on the quad. He was in the tub by the time I arrived with the dogs. When I went into the steamy room, I laughed: he was lying on his back and his face was black with dirt. I hadn’t noticed it when we stood talking outside. He wouldn’t let me take a picture, though I promised it would only be from the shoulders up.

A pair of blue-winged teal

I am reading a novel about Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia Woolf. It is based on reality. Vanessa has discovered that her new husband is having an affair (perhaps only of the mind, but a love affair, nevertheless) with her younger sister, and she is struggling to keep her balance and reform her social convictions. How will she live with this knowledge? How will she not let it ruin the life she has created? How will she safeguard her relationships with those she loves?

It has got me thinking about betrayal. There are so many kinds of it. The obvious ones, like cheating on a spouse or sleeping with your best friend’s wife; these are the ones that society points at with disdain as beneath the decent person who is above reproach.

But what about all the other betrayals, not always recognized for what they are and the damage they do? The ones people so often don’t take responsibility for: betrayals of trust and kindness and respect and fairness, made out of foolishness, carelessness, weakness, cruelty, revenge, immaturity, anger, impatience, misplaced intention, disloyalty, lack of discernment. These betrayals are frequent, and while less obviously humiliating and hurtful, their impact is every bit as powerful.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I never fail to be surprised by how long it takes to do things. There is so much more detail to deal with than I'm aware of! And it's not a matter of smashing things out quickly, but of taking them out carefully, step by step, and then doing repairs like plastering and waiting for plaster to dry and then painting and then waiting and then ... and so on.

Between all that, and the flu, and the fieldwork, we are living in an upside-down kitchen.

Scott removed the top shelves over the weekend; late yesterday afternoon I ran to town for a gallon of paint so he can do the touchups, and picked up a book to look at door and drawer handles.

Some of the old cupboards have gone into the basement for storage, and some have been carried out to the quonset, which Scott has full of tools and machinery and, of course, the biggest deep freeze I have ever seen, as there has to be a place for beef when the time comes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Up and at 'er

We see moose so often, now, that last week I thought twice about digging out the camera to get a picture of these two as we drove back from Kelvington.

Meh! Who cares ... just more moose.

That was last Wednesday. The leaves have since come out a lot more, in spite of the cold over the weekend.

I've spent two days of my four off lying abed — much of Saturday with migraine, yesterday with a flu. I never get the flu! Guess it was my turn. Looks like Scott has it today.

I have to be out the door in 25 minutes to make an appointment at 10:15, so should get dressed. But I am not one to hurry in the mornings. It's fortunate that I'm not a half-hour makeup, half-hour hair kinda gal (anymore; been there, done that). Now it's splash some water on the face, soak down the bedhead (maybe), shovel down a piece of toast or bowl of granola, brush my teeth, and be gone.

After yesterday, I'm still not moving too fast, either. I can look forward to coming home and catching up on everything that didn't get done yesterday. Fingers crossed I'll have the energy and not end up back in bed.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Gardens to Come

Once the greenhouses are open, I can't stop myself.
Even though I know it's too soon.
Even though I've promised myself that I won't plant anything out before the second week of June, because of the way the weather's been in recent years. Even though I get sick and tired of moving the trays in and out of the porch at night, and trying to keep them out of the horrid wind, and of the soil in the small pots drying up so quickly.
I've already been to two different greenhouses and already spent $125 and here's what I have to show for it:
First tray gets its first direct sun out on the step.
Both trays come into the porch for the night. It still gets down to freezing out there.

These are not even all my favourites! They're just flowers that caught my eye.

And some green peppers and jalapenos and a few herbs. Someone has decided to prepare a proper garden space behind the house, and has been hauling soil from the field:

He is a fine vegetable gardener so I hope he goes for it. My first love is flowers and they will always be my priority (unless I'm starving), but I'll chop and freeze tomatoes and peppers and make all the salsa he can eat if he keeps a garden.

We did have a garden back there when we first moved. It was quite large and was all flowers, but the soil was shallow and there was a lot of clay. Eventually I moved everything to a new flower bed in the front yard, where I could admire it through the windows of the house.

In the back yard we had a new well dug, and a new septic tank installed. Last summer the ground was left to settle. This year it is being levelled for grass planting, and ... a new garden space with rich black soil.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

She's Walkin'

I wonder what kind of duck this is. Is it in my book Saskatchewan Birds?
Yep. It's a male bufflehead.

I don't have duck feet, wasn't wearing my rubber boots, and was almost a mile from home, so didn't go down the ditch after this beer can thrown out a window by a waste of skin.

On my walks these days I think of the people who aren't going to drive by me anymore. There are three.

One was a neighbour lady who always gave me a wink and a wave while taking her husband to the field or perhaps delivering him a lunch; she passed away at home, suddenly, just a couple weeks ago.

Another was an area bachelor who drove over this way to check his crops or get into his machinery; he'd occasionally stop for a short exchange of niceties about the weather and joked the first time, by way of introducing himself, "I'd give you a ride home but you probably know better than to ride with a stranger." He died within the past year or so.

And then there was Monte, a friend since our teens and a close neighbour and friend Scott grew up with. He worked on a farm close by, and would quite often stop to jaw and offer me a beer, even though he was on his way from one task to another. He died on my birthday last year; just dropped to the floor one morning and was gone. I get a little verklempt when I remember that we won't have any more of those dusty gravel road conversations.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wedding Gift

The other day I was washing dishes and setting them into scalding hot rinsewater in the second sink. I turned away to say something to Scott before he left the house, and heard a snap.

It was this heavy glass ashtray that Mom and Dad had been given as a wedding gift 57 years ago.

Oh no! What to do . . . should I try to repair it with Crazy Glue? Or should I set the two pieces out in the flowerbed as a shelter for a frog?

I think it's going out to the flowerbed. After all, as Mom told me once, "You can't keep everything forever."

And ain't that the truth. Not things, not relationships, not people, not places, not anything. We'll be forced to let go of them all eventually, so maybe a little advance practice in relatively painless ways isn't a bad thing.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Skies be Livin'

Saskatchewan licence plates do not lie.
In every direction for as far as the eye can see: snow geese, these days.
I keep my mouth closed while looking up. Taking no chances.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Rare Light

I don't muck about with the photographs I post here. No fancy stuff. No long exposures, no tripod, no adjustment of colour or hue, any of that. Hell, I'm lucky when I can hold the camera still enough that the picture isn't blurry; the most I ever do is crop them a little.

Anyway, on my way back from town on Sunday after taking Emil back to the group home, the evening light was literally an orangey pink. I snapped this when I got out of the car.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How do I pack thee?

A week ago, the lumber yard boys delivered our new kitchen cabinets. That's my son Everett on the ground.

I've been tasked with emptying the top shelves in the existing cabinets, as they will be replaced first. The arborite for the countertop hasn't arrived yet, so the bottom cabinets will wait anyway.

This is the side I haven't emptied yet. It takes more than five minutes! I think I've only got two cardboard boxes left to pack into, too, so that may delay me till I get some more empties.

Oh well. Scott's been in the field doing whatever it is he does out there on the tractor at this time of year (that and bottle-feeding a calf and milking its mother, as she's having udder troubles); he's also been in town working on someone else's house; our cupboards must wait for a rainy day, I'm told. So all in good time.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Assholes, We've Got 'Em Here Too

It's cold — seriously cold, snow-wouldn't-surprise-me cold — but the leaves are coming out anyway.
The frogs are singing again.
And the birdage!

On my walks, I notice the beer cans that drinking and driving assholes have tossed out their windows, and tell myself I must remember to carry a shopping bag next time, and gloves, to pick them up. Last weekend I filled a bag so full of cans and bottles that I had to drop it off at home halfway through my walk, because it was so heavy. I got them all. But this weekend there are a few more in the ditch; also some dork threw out a foot-long metal pipe, and a grocery bag of actual garbage. Today someone threw a litre pop bottle on the road. People are disgusting, particularly when they know better than to be pigs. Or no ... obviously they don't. Swine.

Better to dwell on the beauty:

Click to enlarge

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Survival Tips

That title is a bit extreme for what I'm about to tell you.
Just these two things that Bev passed along.

The first came from her former spousal equivalent, who worked for SaskPower.
When your electricity has flickered off and on three times, don't wait for it to flicker off and stay off. It's going to.
Prepare for a lengthy outage.

And two — this one came from her friend who is a florist —
Never mind those little powdery packs of plant food that come with your bouquet of cut flowers. They are good for nothing, Bev was told.
Instead, put the stems of your flowers into a vase of HOT water.

Against my better judgment, but since I am not a florist so why would I know better? I did that with this bouquet purchased last weekend. (I imagined the flowers screaming in agony.)
Are they lasting longer? It's hard to say, isn't it, because there's no way of knowing how long they'd've lasted if I'd done it the other way.

When flowers come without the powder packs or if I've picked them from my own flowerbeds, I usually add a bit of honey or maple syrup or even molasses — whatever's on hand — to the lukewarm water.
Does it make any difference? You tell me.

I had a chuckle Friday morning when the provincial CBC radio morning show aired a piece about a claim made by a connect-with-an-extramarital-lover website. Apparently the site gets its highest number of new signups the day after Mother's Day. The spike in numbers is attributed to disgruntled women who haven't felt their maternal contributions to family life have been adequately appreciated by their husbands the day before and it has prompted them to start looking around for other relationship options.

Of course, as a guest on the show pointed out, it's unlikely that there was a perfectly happy marriage before Hubby forgot to bring home flowers on Mother's Day or take his wife out for supper or express his gratitude for her often thankless part in bearing and raising their children.

Still, smart husbands might take note that a little acknowledgment goes a long way with wives.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Tinge of Green

"It looks like a concretion." - Jim Merriman, University of Saskatchewan

That is what I learned about the round rock I found a few weeks ago: SEE IT HERE.

Mr Merriman advises looking it up on the internet, so that's what I did, and rather than reposting that info here, I'll leave you to research it yourself if you're interested enough.

Now I need your advice. Sometimes I want to listen to CBC radio programs while I walk. Mp3 player? iPod? What device is best? Scott's been trying to down/up (?) load music onto my iPhone, but gotten nowhere as far as I can tell, and I can't say as I care. I appreciate his efforts, but if I want music while I walk, I'd prefer the birds. Although I would like something in the kitchen to listen to while I go about my business there, as it makes a difference to whether it seems like drudgery or a pleasant pastime.

I'm more interested in loading podcasts onto the phone (or something) so I can hear programs I've missed but really enjoy, like The Age of Persuasion, for instance, or Writers and Company, or The Next Chapter, or Tapestry, or Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap, or C'est la Vie, or Apropos, or As It Happens, or The Story from Here. That's quite a few programs I don't have time to listen to every week!

From the road south of Golden Grain Farm

Emil is with me this weekend. It's noonish and he'd probably like to drive over to Margo to visit Uncle Neil. I'm feeling neck/headachey, it's ugly cold out (or was when I stepped outside to test the air a couple hours ago), and I just feel like going back to bed. I won't though; if I want the discomfort to go away without the use of prescription drugs, the worst thing to do is what I feel most like doing (lying down). The best thing to do is get moving. There are dishes to do, and cupboard shelves to pack up in preparation for new ones to be installed. Maybe I'll get busy at those things and make some granola so we have something to eat when there is no usable space for cooking, one of these days.

From the road north of Golden Grain Farm

Friday, May 8, 2015

A newsy letter/ chitchat/ nothing more

There were a few days in the past week when it wasn't too cold to be outside.
I think it was Sunday that Scott got busy pruning the caragana bushes and I finally got the main flower bed cleared of last year's dead stalks.

But now it's frigidly cold again. Friggin' freezing. Today when I left the office to get a cloth bag from the car to walk to the store for something to eat, by the time I crossed the street to get to the car I had decided to hell with this shit, I'm driving. Even if the store is only two blocks away.

This, from a person who tsk-tsks at the lazy fools who drive from one place to another in town when they don't have 20 bags of groceries to carry. Goes to show: being holier-than-thou, ever, is plain stupid. People have their reasons. I'll try to remember.

If it doesn't snow, I'll be surprised. Even the frogs are quiet. I bet they've dug themselves deep into the mud again.

After work I went to Everett's, as usual on Thursday nights in not-summer. He wasn't feeling well and, though he felt like sleeping, thought he'd best try eating something. It didn't help, so he went to bed and I came home. No Torchwood for us tonight. No Captain Jack! No Gwen with the lovely lilt! (And yes, Captain Jack is handsome enough, okay. But Paul Gross is still the best-looking man I have ever seen. Next to Scott, of course.)(And I say this -- not always aloud -- every time I see Paul Gross in Slings and Arrows on TV. I always think it.)(Last night I couldn't help myself and out it came, so I asked Scott, "Is there one woman you see in film or TV who stands head and shoulders above the rest, for you, beautywise?" and he said "Not just one." Maybe if I spent any time actually thinking about this, some other names would come up. But I don't. Just ... whenever I see Paul Gross, I'm gobsmacked by his good looks.)

Anyway, instead of watching Torchwood or Sherlock with my boy, I'm drinking red wine, eating toast with peanut butter, and listening to Beck (thanks to a link on the blog "Laundry Hurts My Feelings," a title that cracks me right up; best title ever). It is past 10 and I should go to bed, but I won't fall asleep before midnight anyway so what's the point.

Although I could continue reading Eugene Stickland's first novel, The Piano Teacher, which I'm keeping on my night table. What an excellent idea. À la prochain, mes amies!

As for the title I've given this entry, it's like I told Eugene once when he was asking for intellectual responses to books, "Don't look at me! No intellectual here ... I'm reading Wind in the Willows right now!"

He thought I was kidding. I wasn't.
What I am is smart enough to know I'm not as smart as I think I am.

No sooner did I mention the sora (writing yesterday's post, not this one, which I wrote last night), than I heard it this morning. Woo hoo!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Burning Stubble

It's a smell that I love: smoke.

Maybe from my months (years, altogether) of living with only wood for heat.

Here, some farmers burn stubble and the smoke carries long distances.

This burn was just a mile from our place and we took a drive to have a look. Sometimes these fires, even when watched closely, do get away on a person because of the ever-present wind.

Bits of black papery char were floating down into our yard from somewhere, possibly from this fire or even a burn further away.

We have yet to consider having a small bonfire in the front yard, what with the surface of the ground so dry and quick to kindle, and the wind being what it is. It's been too cold anyway; Bev and I sat in the sun the other afternoon but had to put jackets on.

I stand on the step after dark and listen to the birds and frogs and look at the stars, but not for long. Instead I open the bedroom window a crack while reading in the evening. The sora has not yet returned, and I'm waiting with some anxiety. What if it doesn't return? I'd miss it terribly.

It's rare to catch a glimpse of the sora, but I get to LISTEN TO IT before falling asleep each summer night.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Down the road I walked, oblivious to the moose's back end stuck out of the willows across the ditch on the righthand side ahead. When I finally noticed the dark rectangle on four poles, I grabbed at my camera (hanging off a belt loop) and wondered whether I might be wiser to turn around and retreat to safety.

However, I've never been chased by a moose. They always run from me. And it's not fall, not rutting season, so it's unlikely to be aggressive.

A photo of its back end wouldn't do, though, so I called it, wanting it to turn and look.
"Oh, Moose! Moose. Moose!"
It didn't seem to hear. So I whistled. Then it turned and looked for the longest time before abandoning its meal and stepping onto the road, where it looked at me some more.

And then little Ducky Doodle noticed the moose and gave chase, against my express command not to. Little bugger.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Rachel and Mike Make Another Video

I see from my blogroll that the Grid Pickers have a new video.

These two live less than an hour from here and perform in their area regularly, I think, but that doesn't mean I get to listen to them onstage too often. Fortunately they're doing a house concert closer to me sometime this summer. They're entertainers with a laidback presence, a sense of humour, impressive talent and, underneath it all, some serious observations of the state we're in.

Go to their webpage to hear more of their music: GRID PICKERS. Your toes will tap and you will sing along.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Neighbours' Driveways

There are two driveways I pass on my walks, and they tempt me.

The neighbours probably wouldn't mind if I strolled down them, long as they are; one leading to an uninhabited yard, the other to a yard where the owners aren't often home.

Still, I don't go. I'd ask permission first, and the owners would be put on the spot (what could they say but Yes, sure! Why not! even if they'd rather I didn't). So I walk on by.

You need to ask for what you want. Ask and ye shall receive; it's usually true. But people will often say yes or give you what you want when it's not really what they want, and, contrary to popular opinion, that's not their problem. It's mine, too; discomfort and/or resentment affect future relations, and I don't want to get my way at the expense of someone else.

The difficult part is being sensitive enough to be aware that asking for something, and the way we ask for it, and when, and where, may be putting someone on the spot, and figuring out how to ask (if at all)  in such a way that the person can say no without losing face/ appearing unkind/ungenerous, etc.

It is difficult to say no.

"Will you look after my child?"
"Can I bring my dog to your house?"
"Will you speak at my wedding? Parent's funeral?"
"Would you help me with ... ?"

I'd like to think it gets easier, the more often you say it. But it doesn't, really. And we, the askers, would do well to consider that before we make our requests, and come up with ways of asking that leave the person with a respectable and even comfortable out.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Penergetics Presentation

It isn't often that I make a Spanish omelette for breakfast anymore, but since Bev is here ... special guests call for special treatment! I should be careful there, because all my guests (though few) are special, but I don't always rouse myself to make a big breakfast. It's more likely that Starving Scott is at the stove before I've finished my first coffee, so it gets left up to him.

This morning, however, we've just finished a heavy-duty breakfast. I've cleared the table so Bev can set up to give a presentation to the two farmer boys, Scott and his brother Bruce there on the left.

She's a rep for a company (Penergetics) that sells an additive for soil, among other things. These two are organic farmers and fussy about anything that goes onto their fields and into their animals. They also don't make any quick decisions, so chances are this presentation will mostly be an opportunity to practise her presentation, as she is new with the company. She is a stellar salesperson, however, so it will be interesting to see whether they agree to try any of the products. They won't be an easy sell.

Mary K: these are the chairs I'd like to re-cover. The material is still really good but it's dark and I'd like something that comes off to be washed. You know those chair covers you see in the Sears catalogue, that have a kind of "tab" that goes over the arms? I'm wondering if something like that could be sewn with snaps to hold the arm covering and the body in place.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Saturday in May

A good night's sleep after a 12-hour day in the office.
A relaxed morning.
Sheets are in the dryer.
Roomba has run around the floor.
Dishes are done.
I've been for my walk.

Pleasantly surprised to reach the road and see that some leaves have popped out overnight. 
It's not that warm out, as a matter of fact the wind is still cool, but Jenna goes wading anyway.

More delights as snow geese pass overhead. 

See the baby brontosaurus across the pasture? I often wonder, seeing it, what it would be like to go for a walk in dinosaur days. You'd stick to the trees, wouldn't you!

Next! Off to town to pick up a bundle of fresh flowers and something to make for supper. Bev is coming over so I want to make something special. Heaven knows what; I'm hoping for inspiration from the store shelves.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Pretty Garbage

It takes me forever to get around to these things.
For instance, in the kitchen we've got a garbage can where the bag shows on the outside. It's ugly.
So I need to buy a new garbage can. Which means I have to go shopping.
I don't wanna!
OK, so then I could get by with some pretty garbage bags. That might do.
I search online for 15 minutes and give up.
No wonder it takes me so long to get things done. I lose interest.
Now surely there are pretty garbage bags out there somewhere. I just haven't found them yet.

Why don't I task my sister Karen with this kind of shopping? Just give her a list and let her go at it. She seems to enjoy shopping; she goes to the city to do it, anyway. Mind you, that doesn't mean she'd enjoy shopping for someone else.

By the way, my sisters and I are writing to each other at Sister Lines. Feel free to join us there.