Friday, 17 June 2011

Luck and Wisdom

Yesterday it was pure luck that I showed a visitor the baby robins that are nesting on the ladder.  One had fallen out of the nest onto the aluminum step.  The mother bird was in a nearby tree scolding as we used burdock leaves to hide our scent as we replaced him in the nest.  I try to stay away from the nest as much as possible so it really was fortuitous that I saw the problem before it became impossible to solve.  God, baby birds are ugly at this stage ... all beak with almost naked bodies.  The few straggly down hairs just make them look less warm blooded.  Only a mother bird could find them beautiful, I think.  I don't like watching hearts beat under such a fragile covering.

It was also pure luck that allowed us to discover the tick on Kenya before the necessary 2-3 days had elapsed which could have allowed the tick to pass on Lyme disease.  The vet dealt with it by saturating it with tick and flea poison, allowing a few minutes for it to die and then using tweezers to remove the entire tick intact.  He didn't charge me, likely because Kenya's meds this year did nothing for ticks.  Instead he told me to bring back the remaining meds and exchange them for meds that would work well.  I say it was luck because long haired dogs are harder to examine and this tick was near her mouth where the hair is short.  When I returned to pick up the Advantix, I learned that we have a real tick infestation up here in these hills.  I had to wait to get the medication because so many dogs had been brought in with ticks in the past two or three days.  The vet told me he'd had to remove one from his wife's leg the day before!  That tick had been sent to a lab for testing for Lyme disease.

I had my chimney swept for the first time ... and it wasn't even dirty!

Another friend is visiting this weekend  ... we haven't gotten together for ages ... and I am looking forward to spending time with her.  I hadn't seen nearly enough of Tamarack either and it was good to at least go shopping at Ikea with her and Carlos on Tuesday.

And that brings me full circle from luck to wisdom.  I am reading The Wisdom of Tuscany just now.  Nothing is new really, but he reminds me of the wisdom of living in a close community ... the kind that is easy to find in Tuscany's towns, at least in those that have not be changed by the influx of tourists with too much money. 

I think one of the reasons I love the lake even though I don't always agree with everyone's thinking, is that it is, for all its faults, my community.  A Harvard medical school study has documented the influence of people on happiness. Happy people and happy relationships help us be happier.  A live-in partner can increase our happiness by 8%; siblings who live close by by 14%; neighbours by 34%.  The only relationship that made a bigger difference was having a good friend living nearby.

He spends a good bit of time musing about our very strange propensity for living in cities or soulless suburbs where our only connection with our neighbours is that we all park our cars on the same street ... especially since people dream of quite different things than the anonymity of these places.  Most Americans wish for lives where they are known, where they make a difference, where their children can grow up safe and cared about by a whole community ... for small town lives ... but the small towns continue to disappear and be replaced by bedroom communities and sprawling urban centres.

I remember talking to an Ethiopian taxi driver in Ottawa who was returning to Ethiopia as soon as his youngest now a teenager had completed his education ... why? ... so that he could go home to life in a community where he mattered ... where people would check on him ... bring him coffee and news ... a place where  he was known.  And then he told me of someone living in a Canadian highrise who was dead for a few days before anyone noticed.  He did not want that to happen to him.

Wakefield is not an African village, nor a Tuscan small town with a piazza, but it is the closest thing to them I've found so far ...   I feel lucky to have laid down some roots here all those years ago.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Fecundity of June

Summer is really here ... written over two days ...

Yesterday I went out for my first kayak ride to the end of the lake and back with Kenya following at her lovely steady dog paddling pace.  Then we swam and I threw sticks for her to fetch.

A large (maybe 16 inches across) turtle with wise old eyes is busy laying her eggs near my garden box.  It took me ages to convince Kenya to leave her in peace so that she could complete her task.  Kenya didn't seem to want to hurt her at all ... just curious and giving the barks she gives when she invites another animal to play with her.  However; having gone through labour several times myself, I felt the turtle probably preferred peace and quiet.

I went to get the aluminum ladder so that I could get up to a top shelf to find my solar lights for the garden and instead discovered a robin had created a nest on the top step against the house wall ... four perfect blue eggs in the nest and a mama bird who flies away every time I come around the corner.  We may have to do without our garden lights this year.  (By Friday one had hatched.)

Even butterflies seem to have exploded everywhere just recently.  Clouds of fake monarchs coloured yellow instead of orange greet me every time I open the door.

Life is good (and very fecund) just now.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Lost Writer Returns

Over a month and I have either found no time or content to blog.  Apologies once again.  I wonder if anyone is still reading! Thank you if you haven't given up on me.

Since I last posted I have been teaching quite a bit, but now I have a break until July. We visited my youngest and his partner one weekend and had a good time.  Kenya has been for her annual check-up and is in good form. I spent a few days in Peterborough visiting a dear friend ... and got my first ever speeding ticket.  Not the best way to remember the visit which was a lovely break from life.  We went shopping for clothes and art supplies, got a painting of mine framed, ate a great deal of yummy food, drove around enjoying the countryside, and we laughed and talked as if almost a year had not passed since we were last together. A nice visit.

I am expecting a number of visitors in the next while ... old friends mainly ... but also the chimney sweep.  I haven't had the chimney cleaned since I moved in.  I haven't met him but I doubt if he will arrive wearing a top hat above a thin pinched little face smeared with soot.

I also want to get down to Los Angeles to visit my son so will check out airfares and possible dates soon.

The back hoe folks were here yesterday digging out a shallow foundation for a new shed which will be hobbity and will disappear into the hill.  The roof will be flat and will be a living roof where I will plant plants that are not too particular about sunlight and will drape down over the exposed sides of the building.  Peter will start pouring cement for the pad fairly soon and then begin the construction.  I will be delighted to have a place to store stuff.  I am tired of using my screened-in porch as a junk pile.  But I think this shed will be nice enough to be used as a bunkie if I wanted to do that some summer.  Imagine sleeping in a snug cave on a hot summer night.

The birds around my feeder have been absolutely beautiful this year ... way more colourful than the winter visitors.  The lake, however, seems to have lost its pair of geese with their four goslings and the two pairs of ducks that were here in May ... I don't even want to hazard a guess about their fate ... but the lake seem very sterile this year without them.  The pair of loons are still here but remarkably quiet.  Perhaps they think they will be the next to disappear.

And now I am off to deliver a CD of a Stuart McLean story to one of my students, and to finish getting my garden in.

Enjoy the summery weather.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

4 years

I have a feeling the next four years will be a good time to be rich.  Four years of a Harper majority.  Four years of a stranglehold on truth and transparency.  Four years of bigger prisons, more fighter jets and spiraling costs to fund them.  Four years in which the poor will get even poorer and the rich even richer.  I just read this morning that the gap between rich and poor has never been greater.  What will it look like in Canada by 2015?

On the positive side, Jack Layton's voice will be heard more clearly now that he is the leader of the opposition.

I hope that the Liberal party will re-invent itself ... perhaps as a coalition with the NDP ... the only reason Harper and his Tories get anywhere is because of vote splitting.  I am not in favour of a two party system ... but a multi-party system only works when there is proportional representation ... and that is not likely to come about under a Harper majority government.

I will be just about 75 years old when I next vote in a federal election.  I sure hope that Canada and I survive till then ... and that all the people who did not support Harper this election have figured out how best to defeat the man.

I wish I believed in miracles ... and that I could hope that Harper would acquire some humility and  the ability to govern graciously rather than with an iron hand.  I wish he would become a better prime minister, one I could respect.  But miracles are not too common these days, so my only realistic hope is that the other parties will figure out how to stop him from gaining another majority in four years ... or that they teach Canadians how important it is to choose proportional representation and demand it; that it become one of the major planks in an opposition platform; that whoever wins the next election will be forced to put real democracy to a referendum.

My riding (Pontiac) ousted its Tory minister, Laurence Cannon, by the way, and we have a New Democrat in his place.  It happened because of a grassroots swell of concern that translated into intelligent voting.  I was a little worried because people were being advised to vote strategically but it was a toss-up whether to vote NDP, Liberal or Bloc.  The Bloc had stood second last time.  Liberal, Cindy Duncan MacMillan,  is a respected farmer in the area and concerned about community issues.  Mathieu Ravignat was new to electoral politics but the NDP was gaining strength in Quebec..  What to do?  What to do?  Eventually I voted with my heart and voted for the NDP ... and was lucky that so many others made the same choice for either heartfelt or strategic reasons..

In non-electoral news, life continues to be good.  Kenya and Remi are having a ball together, romping and wrestling for hours every day.  I am getting used to my new car but am horrified by its gas mileage.  And I still fear backing up.  And there are all still all those buttons I am afraid to push.  My buddy and I are splitting our lives between two places and learning to adjust to the vagaries implicit in a new relationship.  Laughter helps smooth out rough edges.  The dogs are delighted he is part of my life because they have an extra pair of hands to pat them.  I started teaching Andre this week and the first session went well.  Today I will be working with Azra and Pauline ... just three lessons left.  I will miss them, but I will also be glad to be back to one session per week.

So ... I think I will simply bury my head in dogs, paint pots, teaching, and clouds for the next four years, and forget politics until 2015. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Adjustment Time

Nothing is easy these days.  I feel as if my whole world has been turned upside down.  A good friend suggested I start walking on my hands ... but since that is not likely to happen, I guess I will just have to adjust bit by bit.

My new vehicle scares me ... steep learning curve  My new camera needs to be studied.  My new computer screen doesn't look the way it used to.  I have a couple of new teaching gigs starting next week so I have to prepare in a vacuum.   And there is someone new in my life ... and that requires an adjustment.  All of this is good ... but I am feeling a little overwhelmed just now.

So ... if you don't hear from me except sporadically ... it's just the adjustment phase ... I am climbing several steep learning curves just now ... eventually I will feel comfortable in my new skin.

On a very practical level, I pick up Remi on Thursday and he joins the family for about 10 days.

A good friend is going to be performing here in Wakefield the end of the month ... and the Ottawa Area Guild of Potters are having their annual show this weekend as well ... and it is my baby's fortieth birthday so I will be touching base with him as well.  So April is going out in a burst of flame.  maybe it will melt the last of the snow here.