Monday, 28 April 2008

Just walkin' in the rain ... in all my GT finery ...

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Patch Adams

I think we all need to get a little "excessive happiness" in our lives. This is my favourite Robin Williams movie, I think. He is funny but not frenetic, and very very human.

Speaking of doctors: Kenya went in for all her shots today and met three golden retrievers and Wilbur's dad at the clinic. It was a good day, and she was a very good dog. She is almost all ready to be a nomad for the summer.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Kenya and Oma: Vagabonds for the Summer

I have begun to plan our summer as nomads.

I think we will spend the first week of July near Montreal with Maureen and Jeff, and then spend three days traveling to Nova Scotia, stopping in Riviere du Loup and Moncton at pet friendly hotels.

Then a month with Kerry, Maurice and Sam ... half of which will also be with the rest of the family. Kerry and I will see Ami McKay's play at the Two Planks Theatre near Wolfville.

Then I will head back by the same route, stopping along the way as before, and end up for a few days with Rob and Scott in Lanark.

Then on to Orangeville to see Deb, Rob and the kids for about a week.

And then to Haliburton to spend time with Linda, Bob and Atticus.

A quick stop in Peterborough to see Claire after all these years.

And back to Wakefield.

By then it will be the end of August ... and I will either move back home to the hermitage or stay at Tanya's on the lake or with Marta in Ottawa or Tammy and Carlos in Hull. In any event my home will be my own in mid-September.

I am feeling a little uneasy about it all ... it is a long time to be away and I will need to make my plans carefully ... but I am also looking forward to the adventure of being on the road with Kenya for two months or so.

Couldn't ask for a more compatible companion than Kenya. She has shared both my homelessness and my hermitage in the past two years.

Invitation

Hi All!

If you are in the neighbourhood and free on Saturday afternoon, (May 3, 2008) you are invited to the Hermitage Work Party. Bring work gloves and solid shoes.

By then Tom should be finished cleaning away the debris from the cottage and I can begin to see what needs to be done to get the place in shape.

I am hoping that we can seed the topsoil areas with clover and fence them in with chicken wire to protect them from dogs, and cart things up to the road for garbage pick-up. But that may not be all possible ... I have to talk to Eric Legros about whether I can seed the areas I hope to. He will have to bring in the fill for the garden area/old cottage foundation, and may need some places left unseeded. At any rate I think we can seed the area around the second holding tank and the septic field ... and bring stuff up the hill for garbage pick-up.

I hope the weather will co-operate ... but even if it doesn't, the food will be here for the eating! Right now they are predicting light rain for Saturday ... but that is a week away.

I have a beef tenderloin in the freezer that I will either cook whole on the barbecue or cut into steaks to barbecue ... and I will stir fry asparagus, make a potato salad and buy one of my favourite Costco salads. I will also make bread and fill it with a hot dip for an appetizer. Not sure what will turn up for dessert, but there will be beer and wine to quench the thirst of all the workers.

I hope you will come to share the afternoon and evening ... and each other.

Henry's Journal Day 12

Hi Marta,

Another nice day.

The most exciting thing we did was to go for a walk to Remi's house. We all went into the creek and I got about two dozen prickly branches in my undercoat. Sarah and Oma got them out and they gave me a cookie.

Later a white dog came to visit us. Oma gave his mom her roller blades and safety gear. The white dog was really timid even though Kenya and I were nice to her.

Oh! Tom and his helper came over to clean up more mess from the cottage. We went swimming while they were here.

And Rowboat Flo came over and petted me while she drank Earl Grey tea.

Later Kenya and I played in the dirt after swimming. Oma may have to give us another bath in our new tub. It has lots of rubber duckies all over it. They don't look much like the real ducks in the lake but they are cute.

Last night I was much better about going in to get cleaned up than Kenya was. Oma had to put her collar on her and go in with her ... barefoot.

The man next door spent most of the morning cruising around the lake in his rowboat with an electric motor attached. He was hoping to catch fish. Kenya told him he shouldn't be on her lake ... but she stopped when Oma said he could be there.

It will soon be time for you to come home. I will be happy to see you. I love you.

Henry

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Russell Crowe

What's impressive about Russell Crowe. is that he can play two absolutely disparate characters like a schizophrenic genius in A Beautiful Mind and a family man fighting for survival as a boxer in Cinderella Man with equal credibility and integrity.

He seems to find the heart and the strength within his characters ... and that is what shines through.

Henry's Journal Day 11

Dear Marta,

I am really sorry I haven't kept my journal up to date, but we've been busy ever since the snow melted. We get a bucket bath every time we come in now, and Oma lights the fire so that we can get warm and dry afterwards. She is going to buy a wading pool for us today so that we can wash our own feet on the way into the porch.

We swim every day (well, you know, Kenya swims and I wade) and then we dig in the fresh black earth. Kenya made a really deep hole in the patch of clover Oma planted last year. Oma just sighed.

The black ash that we used to walk through is moved now and covered with sand so it is a little easier to go in the water without getting really dirty.

We still walk Remi every day and we have taught him to walk nicely on the leash without wanting to wrestle all the time.

Yesterday he caused a bit of a commotion by refusing to give Oma the woodpecker he was clenching between his teeth. She did that really stern thing she does and told Kenya and me to go in the house till she got Remi sorted out. We watched through the patio door while she made him drop it. Well I think maybe he just got tired of her holding his collar really tight and yelling at him so he finally dropped it of his own accord. Anyway she was pleased and let him inside with us and gave us all cookies. We told Remi quietly that he might as well just do as he is told right away; he'd get the cookie faster; but he's still a puppy.

At least this time he didn't growl or try to bite the human trying to take away his wild game. He is quite nasty with the beaver carcass apparently. Oma never lets him near it, but last night he dragged it onto the lawn and growled again at Sarah.

Not much new happens here every day. We play and run and walk and sleep and eat, same as always. And we get lots of cuddles from Oma and from Rowboat Flo when we see her. She likes me best. Yesterday I got pats from two other ladies on the lake. I think they like me because I go and stand close to them really quietly and lean into their hands. Oma says I am a real suck, but she says it with a smile and a hug.

I hope you are having fun. Say hi to everyone for me and give them one of my tailwags.

Love,

Henry.

... ready for anything now ...

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Friday, 25 April 2008

a voice from the past ...



Everlyne just got in touch after a long silence.

It was Everlyne who was the biggest help to me as I attempted to help desperate high school students get their high school education. She combined a big heart, a wise head and great practicality, and, as a result, performed what seemed to me to be miracles.

She was diagnosed as HIV+ while pregnant with her second child and dismissed by the Canadian NGO she had worked for since graduation from college. The reason given: excessive absenteeism. Most people I know, who were connected with this NGO when I was, were, like me, horrified that a Canadian organization which espoused the right beliefs about living positively, would do this to a longtime employee.

The last time I saw Everlyne, the organization was harassing her and making her life hell. She and many other good people were frightened for their jobs. While I was visiting Kenya two years ago, Jeff, an older man looking after two orphaned baby grand daughters, was fired in his last year before retirement. Two other old friends of mine, Virginia and Julius, were fearful that they would be next. The new administration seemed to fear the employees who had been around since the inception of the NGO.


When I saw the heading of the email, I was afraid that something terrible had occurred, but ... Everlyne had good news!

Here is what she wrote:

Dear Bar, Greetings from Kakamega. I am fine together with the children. I wish to let you know that I got a job with an NGO dealing with street children. They do support them those who are at the age of going to school to pursue education. You had a dream and may be if you team up with this group you can realize yur dream. The main donors are from Uk and we have a lady who is in charge of fund raising who is very sharp and smart. Please let me know if you get this mail so that I can give yu more information about the organization. Thanks Ever

NB I met Jeff yesterday. He told me the little girls have gone to school now.



People who don't know Africans often think that the odds facing them are too great for any successful outcomes , but the one great truth I learned in Africa is that the people are indomitable. There is hope for the continent.


Imagine! She remembered my dream ... when I had almost forgotten it. I will definitely follow this up.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Overwhelmed ...

I am not sure how best to cope with the black soil, the open water and two large hairy dogs that love both. I have been vaccuuming every day ... sand and hair ... but this is worse. The dogs have to be bathed before you can let them in the house now. They dry and then the black dirt is everywhere. Today I cordoned off the stairs so that they cannot get up to the pine floors which all have to be washed this morning, and have banished them from the bedroom with its cream coloured carpet.

Maybe I will have to confine them to the porch till I have a chance to give them sponge baths.

The long term solution is to plant the clover so that they walk on grass rather than topsoil. And the other, shorter term, solution is to get the cottage debris including black ash cleaned up. Then I can take the dogs down to the lake on wooden steps, patio brick and decking before letting them in to dry them.

I can't seed until Tom and his guys clear the area. The side yard is covered in tin and other crap they have strewn there, and they need to get wheelbarrows up the hill.

Once I can seed I will have to keep Kenya off the newly sown area. One dog's access is more easily controlled.

Damn ... too many possible pitfalls ... nothing is simple ... I miss the cleanliness of winter.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

A Beautiful Mind

What a wonderful film! Hard to watch, but the most convincing portrayal of the realness of schizophrenia imaginable. And, as always, I cried at the end.

Summer on the Lake

It's finally here!

Once it started it galloped in.

The loons have returned ... and are swimming around the last few tiny ice floes left on the lake.

A skinned beaver carcass hauled by a rope out to the road has become a feast for flies.

I've turned off the heating cable to the lake and the hot water tank that feeds the in-floor heating.

My house is full of sand and dog hair.

Out my west windows the woods are completely snow-free.

All of the debris Tom still has to take away from the cottage demolition is showing now.

A somnolent fat frog dozes in the sun puddles on the road.

Birdsong before 6 a.m. wakes me before the sun has a chance to.

Tom, Clare and David, the flower gardeners on the lake, are outside planting and weeding.

Flo is waiting till she has broken up enough snow to start her vegetable plot.

My black earth needs attention, but I still have snow on the area over the septic field.

I should be able to rake the clover patch today. Lise and the Ryan's have done their lawns.

I am going to take my car to the car wash where I can vaccuum it today.

I have a tan starting on all my exposed areas ... and for two days I have been wearing shorts.

I barbecued last night.

Anyone who reads this and lives anywhere else is likely thinking "Ho Hum ... boring ... we've had summer for days or weeks now" but here at the lake it is still a novelty. Yesterday the lake was dotted with ice floes. This morning almost all have disappeared or melted to fragments of themselves.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Henry's Journal Day 7

Just an ordinary extraordinarily lovely day ...

Hi Marta,

All three of us dogs walked together today. Oma told us to keep together with her when we went around the skinned beaver carcass on the road ... and we did ... even Remi ... who growled at Sarah last night and refused to leave the beaver. Did you know that their tails are webbed and not at all like most animals' tails?

The lake is filled with small ice floes.

Oma barbecued steak tonight ... and I didn't steal it ...

She ate it with mashed potatoes done with butter fried garlic and sauteed asparagus ... it smelled yummy.

We had our usual stuff. Mine had the pill for the treat. Kenya got yogurt on hers. I'd really like to share Oma's meal!

No other news ... a couple of walks and lots of brushing.

Lots of tailwags and love,
Henry

What the snow left behind ...

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The lake cracked up and I missed it ...

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Before writing the memoirs ...

Cocoa, Humility and 6 Words:

Last night I couldn't sleep. It was 2 a.m. I made cocoa. I dipped a homemade bun into it and drank it at my computer ... and then lay awake with a belly ache a while longer. When I finally fell asleep I dreamed till morning.

It was a humiliating dream. I was to ride in a dressage contest with children. They all knew what they were doing. I couldn't even find my pony. And what was I supposed to wear? And where were we to perform? And what were the parameters of the display? I caught glimpses of children performing intricate, well choreographed sequences, and felt despair. Even when I was riding every day, I never got that far in dressage. I decided to perform the sequence for the first dressage test I ever rode. Fortunately I woke up before I had to actually perform.

This morning Kerry asked me to write my life in 6 words. That is less than a word per decade. It is very easy to slip into the old habit of dwelling on the ugly childhood, the years before 11 especially. But if I were to use a word per decade or thereabouts, I would have only one word for that first 11 years. How to encapsulate all of that in one word? I will work on this and give you my life in 6 words later.

I will have to fit it in around the daily chores of vaccuuming up sand, scooping poop, walking dogs, and combing fur. And today I have to wash and vaccuum the car as well.

6 Word Memoirs

I wrote four ... all true ... all different ...

1. I wish I had retired earlier.

2. Unmothered, she loved animals, teaching, travel.

3. Too little energy to accomplish more.

4. Regrets? Wrong priorities. Too late now.


How would you summarize your life in 6 words?

Monday, 21 April 2008

Henry's Journal Day 6

Hi Marta,

I am really glad you wrote. I was worried about you.

Not much new here.

Rowboat Flo went with us to walk Wilbur today. She walked me because she likes me best. Oma walked Wilbur.

Then we went to Giant Tiger. When we got home I relaxed while Oma and Kenya went to walk Remi.

BUT ... the best part of the day was that we all went to Remi's house for supper. While Sarah and Oma ate chili with Oma's homemade dinner rolls, Remi, Kenya and I raced around and played in the stream and the topsoil. By the time they finished eating Remi and I were as black as Kenya from the shoulders down.

Oma said, "Sorry to eat and run but I want to get these dogs into the lake before I take them in the house." So we walked home and Oma took us down to the lake. She threw a stick for Kenya and I waded around up to my belly while Kenya swam. Then we came out and Oma dried us and gave us our supper.

It was a good day.

I love you.

Tail wags,

Henry.

No Puppy on Thursday!

I was so relieved when Rob called to tell me their plans had changed and that I would not have Scudder, aged 3 months, to babysit for a day or a day and a half this week. The $25 would have been earned at great expense! Scudder has to be let outside every two hours still. He is a real puppy. Whew!

I also ended my walk times with Wilbur because it just was not worth it to drive in to Wakefield (15 minutes), walk him with Henry or Kenya (1/2 hour), and drive home (15 minutes) ... for $10. The cost of gas was making the rate about $7 an hour!

I am getting smarter about which jobs are worth doing.

But I was kind of looking forward to a day with Scudder ... and I will miss Wilbur who has turned into a very nice boy.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

25 in the Shade

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First Party of the Summer

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1 Year Old

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Boring

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Puppy Party

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Poets who write prose ...

Poets who write prose ...

They used to say writing was either poetic or prosaic, prose being the rough-edged, uncouth cousin of elegant poetry. Today, more and more poets are writing prose, and the lines between prose and poetry have blurred.

You can gulp down prosaic writing in lumps of undigested words, but this kind of prose makes you want to savour it rather than skimming it. Poets like Helen Humphreys (Wild Dogs) are writing fiction, but even more poets have turned to travel writing and other forms of literary non- fiction.

The first piece I read which fit into this category was Touch the Dragon by Karen Connelly. She experienced Thailand as a seventeen year old on a one year exchange, and kept a journal. The travel memoir based on these first raw impresssions of a very young girl, her senses unblunted by experience, was not written till a few years later when she was a published poet. Read it. You won't be sorry. I have to go looking for a copy; I lent mine to a Thai student I was tutoring.

Dinner with Persephone by Patricia Storace is another account by a poet of a year spent abroad.. It begins with the line "I lived in Athens, at the intersection of a prostitute and a saint." I doubt if I will finish this book quickly; I expect I shall relish every word.

That means I won't get to read The Gargoyle's Left Ear by Susan McMaster very soon. A bookstore in Ottawa has it on order for me. McMaster read from her book on CBC the other day and I knew immediately that I must get hold of a copy. She too is a poet. She founded Branching Out, a feminist magazine all of us lefties read in the seventies. She was twenty-two, and it was a wonderful magazine, filled with thoughtful writing about politics and elegant prose and poetry written by intelligent Canadian women. The Gargoyle's Left Ear is a writer's memoir set in Ottawa.

This is the kind of book I cannot borrow from a friend or the library. I must have my own copy. I want to return to these books over and over again at will. I want to high;ight passages and scribble in their margins. They are the books that nourish me as I consume them and which become part of who I am.

Henry's Journal Day 5

Hi Marta,

Life just keeps ambling along. Yesterday Oma worked outside and then sat on the steps and brushed us.

Last night we watched Imagining Argentina, but I couldn't see you no matter how hard I looked. I sure hope you didn't disappear.

This morning we woke up to the honking of Canada Geese landing on the lake.

Sorry this is so short but weekends are pretty quiet here and we do a lot more sleeping.

Love and tail wags,

Henry.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Sanity and Balance

I have let Wilbur's parents know that I can no longer walk him. My whole life really did go to the dogs when I tried to deal with Remi walking, Henry boarding, poop scooping, vaccuuming floors, brushing coats, and mopping up wet dogginess. I had no time for anything else. And Wilbur, lovely as he is, required an extra hour of my day on top of everything else.

Spring on balance is lovely ... but ... not perfect ...

On the one hand ...

The solar lights are being powered again and the sun is now shining in my den window in the afternoon and in through the dining room window in the morning creating explosions of blue, yellow and red as the prism breaks apart the sun's rays.

The stream chatters all the time now, and at night, especially last night under an almost full moon, its voice brings me peace.

the warmth ... oh the warmth ... of sun on my face

I can put the clothesline back up as soon as the side yard clears a bit more and I can get a ladder up against the tree.

The birds are mating and cheering spring on everywhere.

I gave them Henry's and Kenya's undercoat fluff for nesting.



But on the other hand ...

There is sand everywhere indoors, brought in by puppy paws that hold it tight even when I dry their feet.

There are smelly things for dogs to discover now that the snow is melting and the lake has again become a playground.

The old cottage's remains are again exposed to view and look even worse than they did when the demolition first occurred.

Doggy doo is emerging everywhere, as well as garbage that was mercifully hidden under drifts of snow.

The dogs are losing their winter coats everywhere.

Gift for the Birds

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Friday, 18 April 2008

Henry's Journal Day 4

Hi Marta,

Oma looked absolutely shocked when I came in from playing in the lake with Kenya. She took a picture and she combed me for a very long time. Then she took pictures of the stuff she got out of my fur. She said I looked like a sheep that had gone swimming and then dragged myself through the bush, but she dried me and gave me a cookie for being good.





Later she and Kenya took Remi for a walk while I dried off. Then I got to go for a car ride and out for a walk with Wilbur. It was fun. Wilbur doesn't talk nearly as much as Kenya and Remi do. A couple of sniffs, a pee to let me know what he smells like, and then we were off and ignoring each other. Kenya likes to let me know from time to time that we are walking together, and Remi wants to tell me all the time. It's easier walking with Wilbur, but more interesting with the others.

Just before we got back to the house, Oma put everything down on the side of the road and climbed into the stream to pull weeds and leaves and sticks out of the screen so that the water could go through. It's a good thing Kenya wasn't with us. She'd have stolen every stick Oma pulled loose. I was a good dog.

After Oma got home from the Legion we watched a movie and took turns curling up beside Oma on the couch. Kenya shares the couch and Oma far better than she shares sticks. Oma tried to get some of the knots out of my fur. She says they are like felted wool.

We are going to bed in a few minutes.

Oma says that there are terrible fires near where you are, and that Buenos Aires is very smoky. Are you okay? Love you.

Henry Boomer

Henry's New Buddies

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Buddies

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Henry's Journal Day 3

Hi Marta,

A pretty tame day yesterday.

A lot of sleeping.

A BIG walk with Kenya and Remi. Remi was a twit and kept pulling. He cut Oma's finger on his leash and she became fierce and made him walk properly. Then when we got to Remi's house she spent a while in the bathroom before giving us all water and feeding Remi his lunch. We left and VERY QUIETLY walked home like good dogs.

We picked Rowboat Flo up on the way home. She took a shower at Oma's because she doesn't have running water yet. Then they drank wine and played a game called cribbage. She really likes me and gives me pats. I think she's pretty nice too.

After she left, Kenya and lay outside in the sunshine on the cool snow.

Oma has to brush me twice every day and says I am the hairiest dog she knows. She says my fluff makes her sneeze ‘cause it's as soft as lamb's wool. She always says it nicely and is really gentle so I think she really likes my hairiness.

I have noticed though that she never wears anything black any more. She looks better in jeans anyway, I think. She's not always picking at herself and she gives me more hugs.

I heard Rowboat Flo ask if they could wear jeans to the Legion's Friday night supper, and Oma said "Sure" ... so Flo made her promise to wear jeans too. Oma said she would if she could find a pair without a hole in the knee. I'll help her look.

Are you having fun?

Tailwags and a kiss,

Henry

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Signs of Spring

The signs are everywhere. The Mergansers and the Blue Heron have returned to the lake even though there is still almost no open water for fishing. There are large numbers of enormous crows in the woods near Mountain Road. Hawks glide and float above the mountain. The smaller birds are mating with little decorum.

A deer came down out of the woods when Kenya and I were walking past Rose Marie's house.

There isn't much snow left in the woods now.

The sound of water rushing down the mountain to the lake is one of the more vocal signs. Pike Lake Road responds to the water by crumbling away. I just learned that the municipality will not be building a by-pass. Too bad. It would have been nice to see the end of the logging trucks that have done so much damage to the road this year, and the beginning of a path by the lake that would be restricted to foot traffic.



So far things here are still grey and dun coloured, but there is the odd bit of green showing up where it is fed by the running water, and on the verges of Suncrest where I walk Wilbur, I saw flashes of bright yellow yesterday.






But the best signs of spring for me are elusive, intangible, ephemeral.

The butterflies romp in the air moving too quickly for me to catch them with the camera. Monarchs ... others sporting muddier oranges ... and larger ones with black wings fringed by white edges.

Remi does try to catch them. He bounces at the butterflies, leaps on their shadows, and runs after leaves scattering in the wind. Occasionally he catches a leaf and figures he has won the battle of the butterflies.

He loves the puddles, paddling through them, and peeing in them.

I love the energy I am seeing emerge a little more every day, and love that my own energy levels rise to meet it.

Remi's Spring Stream

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Wilbur-walking

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Henry's Journal Day 2

April 16, 2008

Dear Marta,


After breakfast this morning (yes, Marta, I took my pill), Oma took Kenya and me for a walk to see the baby calves. On the way we met Rowboat Flo and talked to her for a few minutes. At the farm, Kenya began to pull on her leash and snarl. I wondered what was up her nose this time.

Then Oma started to snarl and snap too. I looked around, and then, finally I saw it: an ugly spotted dog growling at us from the lawn of the farmhouse. Oma tightened up Kenya's leash and told us to come. She had to drag Kenya for a few yards but then Kenya smartened up too.



Until she realized that the spotted dog was following us.


"Get home, you!" shouted Oma.

"This way, Kenya!"

"Yip, yip, yip. I told you he was up to no good."


This went on all the way back to Rowboat Flo's house. By the time we got there my ears hurt, and the spotted dog was ten feet behind us.

Oma told Flo that T-Bone had been replaced by another dog who also refused to go home when she told him to. I dunno about those dogs. Kenya and I think Oma's pretty darned fierce when she's ticked off, but that dog was too dumb to notice she was mad. And I guess whoever T-Bone was, he wasn't too bright either.

They say I'm dumb, but hey! I've got a high EQ ... high enough to know when I better be nice.

Rowboat Flo grabbed a hunk of bark and yelled at the dog to get home and then she pitched the bark at him. Well, I tell you, that dog lit out so fast his feet hardly touched the ground. I think maybe it's best not to mess with Rowboat Flo. Funny though, she was real nice to Kenya and me ... even found us some nice fresh snow to eat.

Later Oma left to walk Wilbur and Remi. After two hours she came back tired and let us out to play.

We hang out on the hill most of the time. Kenya says it gives her a good view of her kingdom. Usually there's nothing to see, but when ANYTHING happens, Kenya acts as if something has arrived to storm the barricades. Geez. She should learn to relax.

This afternoon, though, it was interesting.

We saw two huskies pulling a woman on a bicycle along the road on the other side of the lake. Kenya nattered away telling them it was her lake ... the whole lake.

Me? I was just glad no one was expecting me drag them around.

Later Shea and Teddy came for dinner with their people. I liked the people. They petted me. The dogs were real city wimps. Kenya and I tried to tell them that the wading was great but they stayed back up on the hill watching and going to the windows to ask to be let in.

I like it better here all the time, Marta. Don't worry about me. I hope you are having fun too.

Love and tail wags,

Henry

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Springboards

Rob Breszny posed the following challenges yesterday, and I have decided to choose one to answer as my Morning Write or Blog Entry when I am blocked. I am posting them here in case you find inspiration for your own writing.

1. What did you dream last night?

2. What image or symbol represents the absolute of your desires?

3. In what ways has your fate been affected by invisible forces you don't understand or are barely aware of?

4. Tell a good lie.

5. What were the circumstances in which you were most dangerously live?

6. Are you a good listener? If so, describe how you listen. If not, explain why not.

7. Compose an exciting prayer in which you ask for something you're not supposed to.

8. What's the difference between right and wrong?

9. Name something you've done to undo, subvert, or neutralize the Battle of the Sexes.

10. Have you ever witnessed a child being born? If so, describe how it changed you.

11. Compose a beautiful blasphemy that makes you feel like crying.

12. What do you do to make people like you?

13. If you're not familiar with the Jungian concept of the "shadow," find out about it. If you are, good. In either case, give a description of the nature of your personal shadow.

14. Talk about three of your most interesting personalities. Give each one a name and a power animal.

15. Make up a dream in which you lose control and thereby attract a crowd of worshipers.

16. Name your greatest unnecessary taboo and how you would violate it if it didn't hurt anyone.

17. Give an example of how smart you are in the way you love.

18. What ignorance do you deserve to be forgiven for?

19. What was the pain that healed you the most?

20. Make a prediction about yourself.

Henry's Journal Day 1


Henry has chosen to write letters to Marta.

April 16, 2008

Hi Marta,

Last night I slept with Kenya on the floor near Oma's bed. I started out beside the bed and Kenya started out on one of the dog pillows. Then there was a terrible crash and Kenya jumped straight off her cushion onto me and we both asked Oma what happened. She picked up the bedside lamp the pillow had knocked over and told us it was all right and we should back to sleep. Kenya lay down in my spot so I went over to her cushion. You never told me that cushions are softer than the floor. It's not so bad here.

Yesterday afternoon I wasn't so sure.

First of all Oma put me in the car and drove at a snail's pace through traffic for an hour and a half. I kept on panting but she didn't seem to realize I would really rather be walking. Finally we arrived and we both peed on a weed. Whew! That felt better.

Then Oma hauled the toboggan with my overnight bag, food and her purchases on it. I ran alongside sniffing and mini-peeing everywhere. Have to let the neighbours know I'm here, you know. There's one called Mae West who makes a lot of noise but I haven't seen her in the fur, so to speak. We skidded down the last hill and then I heard the other dog barking. She didn't sound happy at all.

And she sure didn't look friendly when she shot out the door straight for me , growling and snarling the whole way. She reminded me of a trapped cat.

Oma invited me inside. I was just about to come in the house when Kenya said I wasn't allowed.

Oma told her what a nice dog I was and how I was her buddy. She just kept on grumbling, but she didn't act as nasty. Something about Oma's tone when she spoke to her, I think.

After a while we went outside together. Kenya kept on putting her paw on my shoulder and saying, "C'mon. Let's wrestle." I'm getting too old for that stuff so I chased her instead. She thought that was great. Then we took turns chasing and being chased. She'd chase me and then one of us would turn and the other would follow. After about fifteen minutes of this I was starting to get dizzy so I lay down and rested in the snow.

I really like rolling around in the snow. When I finished and we went in the house for a while, Kenya cleaned the branches out of my bum feathers. Not everyone likes to clean up your bum feathers. I am beginning to like her even though she has such a rotten temper at times.

When you arrived with my meds about an hour after we got here, I thought you might stay but no, you headed straight back into town. I almost cried, but then Kenya said we could play outside some more, so it was okay. As you know I don't tend to dwell on things.

Kenya and I ate and played till almost 9. Way past my normal bedtime. I was wiped out.
So was Kenya. She slept on one side of Oma and I lay on the other. She had my Kong beside her and I had her blue ring. I like my Kong better, but I didn't want to annoy her and get her started again, so I decided to wait till she got tired of it.

Ooops ... spoke too soon ... I thought she asleep for the night. That dog has wayyy too much energy. She started throwing the Kong at me. I pretended to sleep. Thought maybe she'd quit and we could all get a good night's sleep soon.

Finally ... she got the message. Then Oma said, "Okay let's go to bed."

I thought we were in bed.

Right now we are going out to pee so Oma can send this to the blog. What is a blog, Marta? Oma just ignores my question, but Kenya says it rhymes with dog so it's something about us.


Love and tail wags,

Henry




Tuesday, 15 April 2008

A Hermit by Choice or Circumstance?

Mid-April and I ranted all day yesterday. I will spare you most of that. I will however tell you about Kenya's bad behaviour which contributed to the rant.

We went to pick up Wilbur for his walk. She leapt out of the car at him, teeth bared. Wilbur did his usual Wilbur thing and smiled. She got over any fears she might have had that Wilbur wanted to share her car seat, and the walk proceeded predictably.

Then we met a Portuguese Water Dog called Lucky. The meeting and greeting went well.

Then Lucky's housemate, Chili Pepper, appeared, and Kenya suddenly went ballistic. No one got hurt but Chili was terrorized, her owner, though he remained calm, must have been furious, and I was mortified. If Kenya were anything but a spayed two year old female, I would have suspected either PMS or menopausal madness. As it was, she was just having a particularly bitchy day.

We returned Wilbur and then headed off to see Remi. I thought it might do them good to play rather than walk in view of what we had already been through. Remi wrestling is always a safe arena for getting rid of frustrations and energy. However; 10 minutes into playtime Kenya caught sight of something in the woods and tore across the road in pursuit with Remi hard on her heels. Whatever it was must turned on them and stood its ground because they both dashed home to the chicken strips I was holding up as bait. I leashed them and went for a walk.

It has been several weeks since I have had garbage pick-up here because big trucks have not been able to get in on account of the snow. Now they can, but the road is so soft that it is in really bad shape and I am bottoming out on it. Large trucks would destroy it completely. I think I am going to have to park elsewhere till spring thaw is over. I hope that Lise will let me park there.

I have to get my garbage cans out to Dan's while I can still get out with the car. I now own four (garbage cans, not cars) and will take two to Dan's. Today will likely be my last trip down the hill unless Henry has too much food for me to carry. I am picking Henry up this afternoon after I take my tax stuff to the accountant.

Yesterday afternoon I watched The Snow Walker and saw once again the profound difference between us and those who live with nature. The young native heroine is so wonderfully accepting of what life hands out ... no childish outbursts of temper and frustration ... no railing at Fate ... she simply does what is necessary to survive. She is willing to wait for the fish or the marmots as long as it takes. Even her death is accepted peacefully.

Henry Miller says that we should accept what life offers unquestioningly; that we shouldn't run away, deny, denigrate or despise anything that life hands us. Rather we should face all adversity with an open mind in order to discover in it a source of beauty, joy and strength. "Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to accept it as such."

So I guess I should be reveling in the ever increasing isolation of this place and welcoming the additional opportunities for exercise afforded by its inaccessibility. I am after all a hermit by choice.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Wakefield Covered Bridge April 13, 2008

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The Gatineau River in April

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More Signs of Spring

Yesterday Kenya and I walked along the Gatineau River. Like the tiny rivulets racing to reach brooks and then streams that lead into Pike Lake, the Gatineau is charging over rocks, swirling water into foam, as it makes its way downstream.

Kenya pointed out a huge black shelled beetle outside the back door. It was crawling out of the snow. I bagged and measured it: 1 1/2 inches long; 2/3 of an inch wide.

Today there is a pair of new birds at the feeder. I am pretty sure they are ladder backed woodpeckers, but this seems to be out of their normal range.

The Fragility of Dreams

Dreams are terribly fragile. They shatter easily and their fragments scatter and fly back to their source, making them impossible to gather.

Perhaps a better metaphor would be to imagine those tiny fragments of images and thoughts as fish. If a rock is thrown into their midst they disappear like quicksilver becoming invisible in the water.

There are only two ways to capture dreams on waking, I am finding. I have to write down whatever I remember when I can, preferably during the night when I first wake up from a dream in progress. That is often just too hard to do. The other way is to awaken slowly, letting the fragments find my stillness one by one. Only then can I gather the elusive fragments of the subconscious into the net of my conscious mind. I feel a bit like someone fishing with her hands in a tranquil place. I have to become as still as the water for the fish to trust me enough to swim into them.

This morning, I stretched luxuriously, eyes closed, waiting for the fragments to come to me. Then my left calf cramped sending me shrieking onto the floor. Kenya dashed back to her cushion to avoid being stepped on, any fragments of the dream scattered, and I hobbled to the slate floor of the bathroom to uncramp my leg.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

The Dream Stream Flows Again ...

I had a weird dream last night ... and remembered it with the help of notes that were almost indecipherable this morning.

We were discussing painting the children's rooms, making them more conducive to peaceful contemplation, and quiet pursuits away from the communal space. I felt we all needed quiet pleasant retreats.

We decided to go out for a walk with the dogs to discuss it. Kenya and Shea were two of the three dogs and they were off lead. The conversation moved from ideas about painting walls to creating really attractive getaways on all levels ... and then to his concern that we get good speakers for the stereo system because the ones we had were off balance.

We quickly left the sidewalks of the urban area and found ourselves in rough unfamiliar country. The dogs loved it and my companion/mate forged on ahead with them.

I got to a place where I was climbing what seemed to be a crumbling sand bank. Every time I would get a hand or toe hold, more sand would break away. I was beginning to feel a little frustrated ... not scared ... not defeated ... not resigned to falling down the mountain side ... just frustrated. And then I saw the ladder.

It was just an ordinary wooden ladder, the kind shaped like an upside down V. I managed to unfold it so that it was unhinged, and used it to climb to safety.

A second man appeared during this exercise, and simply watched and then joked with me once I was safely on the top of the hill.

The dream dictionary says that ladders represent trying to "get somewhere that is presently out of reach, difficult to attain, or perhaps involves risks and anxiety" ... and "might show feelings of achievement through effort and daring."

Freud also describes the ladder as a symbol of sexual intercourse, the rungs representing the physical movements of sex and the mounting orgasmic feeling represented by the climb.


Well ... I think the first explanation is the more likely. I was certainly not a sex symbol as I clambered, upside down and inside out, up the crumbling cliff and onto the ladder. I looked more like some scrabbling beached whale with fingers and toes.


The dictionary says that hills and mountains represent "difficulty, obstacles, something needing energy with which to deal with it," and that the struggle to climb means the dreamer is "facing problems and overcoming them with courage and skills."

Oh good. Maybe I am getting somewhere.

Walking " usually depicts personal effort, making your own way at your own pace .... The direction you are walking shows where you are aiming to go in your activities and hopes. The future is represented by where you are going."

That's me ... the hermit ... As for where I am heading ... well at my age you sure don't want to be heading down that mountain, do you?

The laughter afterward is exactly what it appears: " release of tension ... ridicule of self, taking things lightly ...".

So I am still dreaming about moving forward into other things, accomplishing something difficult through my own initiative ... and able to laugh at the situation and myself.

What a nice dream.

Maybe I will end up becoming a sardonic oracle/philosopher on a mountain top to whom cartoon characters bring their questions about life.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Million Dollar Baby

Probably the toughest movie I have watched, Million Dollar Baby is a first rate film. The acting is flawless, and the script never falters. The characterization and plot are believable, and despite the depth of feeling, the film never sinks to sentimentality. The violence in the fight scenes is overwhelming, the cruelty of the family scenes, terrible to watch, and the conclusion of the film, heart rending, and yet, overall, it is a film about love and hope and dreams fulfilled.

It was a dark and stormy night ...

My dream stream has dried up ... I still dream but can't remember the details any more.

Last night I wrote down "pills" and this morning it meant absolutely nothing to me.

I was up a couple of times in the night. It was very noisy in my bedroom so I closed the window to shut out the racket of the stream. The noise continued. I checked other windows to stop the wind. No windows were open. Then it dawned on me — rain — on a tin roof. You know all those romantic notions about how you will drowse off listening to the rain on the tin? Well, rain being driven full force out of the sky is more alarming than sleep-inducing, especially when you live in a house that has already suffered from weather.

Before the house was built; when its foundation had been poured and construction just begun, I was staying at the cottage below the house. One night a giant storm blew in. It dumped tropical storm quantities of water on us. Sand and gravel from the road and the building site were swept down to the cottage and into the lake. I went outside with a flashlight and tried to see what was happening, but I could only get enough of a picture to banish sleep for the rest of the night. At first light I was outside taking inventory.

The cottage's kitchen door was blocked by sand and the recycling box covered.

The hill above the cottage was gashed open by the water flow. Three fissures wide enough to accommodate motorcycles scarred the earth.

The house foundation the day before had been invisible beneath tons of construction sand. Now one corner jutted out, obscenely naked, from a cavernous hole and a muddy stream bed leading to the lake via the cottage.




I felt sick.

We built a huge (and very beautiful) retaining wall above the new house to prevent the mountain and the road from ending up in the house. Then we created a second retaining wall down from the house to the cottage. And we placed rocks strategically to trick the next storm's deluge to go into the stream bed rather than overland. I say "we" ... but of course it was really Eric and his crew and their massive rock and earth moving machines that did the work. I planted clover and paid the bills.

I haven't been outside yet this morning to see if the barriers and tricks worked, but my first observations from the windows are reassuring.

As long as this house is vulnerable, so am I. When it is truly finished and secure, I will feel safe enough to be lulled back to sleep by rain on a tin roof, and maybe then, the dream stream will begin to flow again.

Friday, 11 April 2008

The mountain throws debris onto the road

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Pike Lake's outlet stream in spring

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Rocks thrown off the mountain into the lake

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Spring Movement

Every morning now I wake up to the sound of water rushing down the mountain to the lake. My stream is full and noisy. This morning I awoke to birds drowning out the stream with their own chatter, but the water moving off that mountain is the most insistent sign that spring is here.

Everywhere water flows inexorably to the lake. Tiny rivulets thread their way to join others until they form streams everywhere around the lake.

The outlet stream from the lake that hardly moves in summer and is quite still all winter under the snow, is pulsing with life now.







The entire shoreline is watery now and you can see green ice under it. I can hardly wait for the real crack-up when the lake will boom and flex its muscles. Did you know that for about a week after that happens the air will smell like spring because the cold water rushes down to the bottom pushing the mucky lake bottom to the surface?


The mountain side opposite my place has been crumbling for years and in the spring it sends sharp pieces of rock onto the road, making driving hazardous. This year, I realize, it also sends rocks flying into the lake and uproots trees which it throws onto the road. Next year that road will be a walking path.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Ultrasound Outing

This afternoon I had my ultrasound at the Gatineau Hospital. Yesterday a neighbour mentioned that they were having C Difficile problems there, but I had made the appointment and was unwilling to pay $150 at a private clinic, so I went ahead with the original plan.

Before I left I drank 6 cups of water. My bladder holds exactly 6 cups, I think. I parked the car and edged my way, every muscle tensed, to the office where I was to get my health card. Then I went to Radiologie and was told it would be 20 minutes. I said I wasn't sure I could wait 20 minutes because I had drunk a great deal of fluid. The receptionist smiled and told me to go to the big waiting room.

I moved from one chair to another. I tried reading but was unable to concentrate on my book. I did some people watching hoping to get my mind off the distended basketball being pinched by my skirt's waistband. A woman wearing tight black stovepipes and white pumps with black stiletto heels sat opposite me with her two children. Another threesome came in, the daughter in a wheel chair. The mother was one of those ambiguous people whose sexual identity has been blurred by drugs. I got up and moved again.

This time I went back to Radiologie, loosening the top button before I got up. I explained my predicament, told the older receptionist I would have to reschedule because I was in pain and could not wait to use the toilet. She suggested a small pee. Surprisingly I found I was able to oblige and the pressure lifted a little.

I returned to the waiting room. Ten minutes went by and the fluids I had drunk earlier moved down to displace the ones I had released. The pain began again. I have been uncomfortable before but this was much worse than anything I ever experienced having an ultrasound when I was younger. Although I had a baby pushing down on my bladder then, I also had more elastic tissues. I gave up then. I went into the bathroom, peed, and told the receptionist I would definitely have to reschedule.

She suggested I drink more water. The technician arrived and said she could do it "the other way" with an empty bladder. The "other way" was not pleasant. In fact I was thinking I never wanted to even think about having sex again, when she announced that my bladder was not completely empty and I would have to return to the bathroom. I was sceptical but I toddled off obediently. Five minutes later a minuscule dribble leaked a few droplets into the bowl and I returned to the little room and the instrument of torture. More agony.

Then she called in the doctor who peered at the screen and pointed out something he was able to discern. He asked if my gynecologist had sent me. I said it was my GP. He said I would have to see a gynecologist and have another scan done.

I drove home feeling almost cheerful After all it was over and I was making this trip over the bumpy back roads on an empty bladder. CBC was interviewing Susan McMaster who has just written a memoir called The Gargoyle's Left Ear. I made a note to pick it up tomorrow when I go into Wakefield.

On Mountain Road I passed a field of cattle. A big white bull was mounting a cow. I felt considerable sympathy and remembered a poem I had written about the cows on that farm back when they were first introducing the Charolais strain into Canadian herds. My sympathies were with the young heifers then too.



Sacrificial Cows

I passed a herd of cattle,
lots of creamy white,
and remembered the first Charolais
in the Valley.

Aristocratic ...
French ...
imports ...
... big ...

but not as hardy
as the stocky shaggy
little animals raised in the Valley
who could winter out and thrive.

The first heifers
must have been terrified
by the enormous French bulls
at stud.

But of course they never saw
the source of the fluid
antiseptically introduced
into their vaginas,

never saw the bull they wanted to scream at
as they tried mightily
to expel those first
Charolais-Hereford calves

never saw the cause
as they were cut open
to save the new breed of calf,
larger, stronger than either parent.

So they screamed
at the farmers,
and the vets
they had trusted.

Last Post on the Universe

I feel as if I have just survived an attack by voracious piranhas. When one of the piranhas starts, the other leaps in. After they have torn pieces off me for a while they either go in for the kill or one of us gives up and turns to something more interesting. Usually only my two most writerly piranhas get involved; the other two seem to avoid these feeding frenzies.

It must be evident to others as well because I have received private notes from people concerned for me during this flurry of to-ing and fro-ing.

I am not crazy. I do not believe rationally that Fate, the Universe, Lady Fortune, the Man in the Moon or God intervenes in the lives of human beings. I enjoy playing with the notion that they might, and when a series of coincidences suggest there might be intervention occurring, my desire to play with the idea is activated.

I am also not fixated on this theft. I have done everything I can to document it and to find out what my legal options are, and I have got past the terrified rabbit stage. I am prepared to fight this legally if that seems the most practical option or to forget about it if that seems wiser. I am very glad that I am no longer too scared to stand up for my rights.

Now I will get back to commentary on the weather, dogs, books and films.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Unfolding of the Universe

Yesterday I was very pleased that finally I seemed ready to confront someone in order to assert my rights. Not everyone has agreed with me that I should. That's okay. It is one of those situations in which people weigh in on one side or the other.

For the sake of "peace in my valley", I should likely forget it and kiss the $330 (now $345) goodbye ... after all it is only money and represents a couple of weeks of work in my life ... it is not thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, standing up and facing my fears is not such a bad thing to do. Usually I am too ready to think I screwed up so even the worst things that are done to me are probably my fault. This time I know that I have done everything possible to handle this properly; that I did not deserve to be cheated. That is likely why I am ready to fight this time; ready to face those fears in a courtroom; and yes, ready to face my fear of a courtroom.

One of the people who feels I should let it go has said that justice will be done. I am sure he is right; that what goes around will eventually come round.

The Universe does fight my battles when I back away from them myself. When I cut and run, Fate steps in and cuts my attackers down. It has happened on several occasions. Unfortunately Fate has a very heavy hand. Where I would simply ask that someone stop hurting me, Fate puts a very final end to their ability to hurt me.

And Fate doesn't always punish the right offender. Something about blind justice here, perhaps.

The greyhound that broke and dislocated my finger disappeared a few days later. I was saddened when this happened. I never blamed the greyhound. It was the incompetent surgeon at the Hull Hospital who should have been punished, not a startled dog who ran from something that scared him.

The incompetent and dishonest builder who has caused me so much grief died this week. I was considering taking him to court for the damages caused by all the mistakes and carelessness when he was putting on the roof. (Fixing the roof and repairing the places where the leakage occurred will involve thousands, not hundreds, of dollars.) Fate has intervened once again. I can't take a dead man to court.

I did not want him or any of the others to die. I just wanted them to be competent, honest, not vengeful. I don't want some terrible thing to happen to this young woman. I simply want her to face up to her responsibilities, and to pay me for my time and work. Leaving it to Fate could have far worse consequences for her.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Spring Notes

It is a grey day, promising rain.

More evidence that spring is really here emerges from the snow daily.

The stream is flowing noisily ... and in its own bed so far. I can see parts of it now that some of the snow has disappeared. Until a couple of days ago it remained an audible but invisible underground stream. The ice has melted where it empties into the lake.

On the shore, bits of debris from the old cottage are poking out now: sheets of wood, the bath tub, a ladder. Beside the old cottage, under the snow, I can see the bright blue tip of the canoe and a hint of its outline. In the side yard an old bucket and the barbecue are beginning to show through the decaying snow.

There is good reason for people to do a major clean-up come spring. All that messiness which has been hidden under a white cover reveals itself when the snow begins to disappear, and the snow itself, just a week or so ago, still beautiful and clean, is tainted now.

Havoc in My Life: a well-disguised blessing?

Havoc's owner has apparently moved without leaving a forwarding address.

People have said, "Who gets a male Doberman?" "Who calls her Doberman Havoc? Who puts a studded collar with a Harley Davidson crest on a Doberman?" "Who delights in the fact that her dog responds to strangers with a menacing growl?"


A dishonest coward who hides behind a dog she hopes will look threatening.


There were all those clues ... and more ...

Her landlady arrived with insufficient food and said Karina needed to learn to take responsibility; that she resented having to look after her. After all Karina wasn't her daughter; she was her tenant.

The landlady had been feeding Havoc 1/3 of his daily allowance of food ... apparently because Karina had not left instructions.

Later Karina said that her landlady had done this before and couldn't seem to get it right. Also ... there was a full bag of food that the landlady was supposed to have brought.


Who was lying?

I suspect it was the person who canceled the cheque, and refused to discuss the matter; the person who ran away from responsibility and was willing to cheat me.


Not sure what my next move will be, but I have no intention of letting this go.


This may prove a blessing in disguise. I have always been able to fight injustice against others who were not able to fight themselves ... for my Oma when she was in hospital ... for teachers when I was a unionist ... for Kenyans like Julius and the kids ... but when it came to my own rights I shrugged my shoulders and walked away. Maybe this will give me enough anger to fuel the courage I need to fight for myself.




Monday, 7 April 2008

Portrayals of Conflict in Africa

Blood Diamond and A Long Way Gone, both set in war-torn Sierra Leone, and What is the What, set in Sudan, portray the reality of countries torn apart by civil war, and all show what happens to the children when adults lose their tenuous hold on civility.

I was more touched by the film and the memoir set in Sierra Leone, not because they deal with child soldiers instead of displaced boys, but rather because they were stronger pieces of film and literature than What is the What.

The film, Blood Diamond, shows the complexity of the conflict. This is not simply an attempt to seize power by a revolutionary front. The interests of diamond dealers fed by the developed world's hunger for cheap diamonds complicate the struggle. Journalists hungry for adventure and acclaim play into the mess that Sierra Leone has become. The good people of Sierra Leone, the ones who just want to do their jobs and look after their families, are trampled in the process. Children are turned into killers by the revolutionaries. Families are driven from their homes into sprawling overcrowded refugee camps enclosed by barbed wire.

Both books are written in the first person. Both narrators are young African men who have survived civil war in their countries. There the similarity ends.

The memoir, A Long Way Gone, by one of the reclaimed lost boy soldiers, is written simply and movingly by a young man who has faced his own heart of darkness and writes honestly about the whole experience of loss, terror, and survival by any means. He was one of the lucky ones, saved by the UN, given the chance to complete his education. It helps that he is also a talented writer .. not a clever writer, but a good one, an honest straightforward one, who tells his story naturally and clearly.

What is the What, on the other hand, is written by an American writer. He has taken the story of one of the lost boys of Sudan and produced a book that jars because the voice of the narrator has been lost. The writer has played with literary devices so that the voice of the boy, the voice of Sudan, has disappeared. I found myself paying attention to the writing rather than to the story of a lost boy.

Africa is a continent in which the oral tradition, story telling, is still alive and part of the culture. The written literature reflects that tradition. It was part of A Long Way Gone; it was not part of What is the What.

The traditional telling of stories is chronological. Film techniques, like flashbacks, and literary techniques like the use of stream of consciousness, and insertion of other genres into the writing are all legitimately part of western writing which has evolved because of the things it has encountered as it grew. They are not part of the African tradition. African literature will evolve in its own way.

Blood Diamond is not written in the African tradition either, but it makes no claim to be from the perspective of a lost boy, a child soldier, or a Sierra Leonian. It is what it is: an outsider's view of a complex war.

Non-African writers can write about Africa, just as non-native writers can write about indigenous people, but we cannot appropriate their voices. It just doesn't work. And when we try, we reveal our arrogance.

Butterflies, Blue Herons and Black Squirrels

Spring really has come. On our way back from a walk up to the Five Lakes Fishing Club we met Monarch butterflies. Later in the evening the blue heron lifted off the lake. This morning the first of the black squirrels appeared at the feeder gathering peanuts. It may have been a long winter but it doesn't appear to have been a killer.

The squirrel looked a little mangy but seemed otherwise healthy. (Mud Mama just told me the mamas pull out fur to line their nests for the babies. I must have done something right. My children all teach me things now. That's what happens when evolution takes place!)

Today I have two dogs besides Kenya to walk and I feel like walking now that the sun is out and I am wearing a normal amount of clothing. It feels like a good day already!