Saturday, 31 May 2008

It's all a numbers game ...

On June 3 I will be 68 years old.

Imagine! I never thought I would live past 57, the age when my mother's second heart attack killed her. I feel as if I have been granted an extra 11 years of happiness. It has also been 11 years since I retired.

Who knows? Maybe I will be really lucky and live till I am 86 as my dad did. He too retired at 57 and had almost 30 years of retirement.

Marta is coming for a barbecue and Tammy is going to try to join us ... and I will invite Sarah as well. Are there any other women who would like to join us? Susan? Erin? Our ages will span 5 decades.

I used to think of 68 as very very old ... almost 70 ... and that was ancient ... but once you get there you discover as you did when you were 30 (or 40 or 50 or 60) that you are still young; that the woman inside the sagging body still has a life. Things fall apart as the African writer, Chinua Achebe, says, but life continues, and with it, hope and opportunities for happiness.

More on the Crazed House Guest

As Zeke becomes more confident here, he also becomes more bossy and stubborn.

He reminds me in some ways of Havoc, the Doberman with the crazed owner. Maybe it is just a dominant male dog thing.

Last night's infernal humping session

My den was a hive of activity just now with Zeke growling and attempting to hump Remi who is twice his size and not pleased with the attention, and Kenya growling warningly in the background keeping Zeke just under control. When he broke through the control and began to sound really nasty, I yelled "Hey!" and Kenya got really pissed off so he stopped for a while.

The referee

He will not let me clean his paws before he comes in and I let it go since his owner tells me he will not allow anyone to groom him. But I really do not like all that mud coming in after a rain. Oh well ...

Last night this dog (whom I was told loved his crate in the basement and went into it immediately) refused to go into his crate in the front hall closet, and followed us upstairs. It is impossible to keep him downstairs. Most dogs respond to visual things like baskets on the steps. He just leaps over the baskets and the step ladder I added.

I would have let him into the bedroom to sleep on the carpet with the rest of us but in the afternoon he had jumped up on my bed and refused to get down. Finally after two attempts to get him to lie down on either the dog cushion or the carpet, I had had to lock him out of the bedroom.

So last night I closed the door on his insistent nose and we all went to bed for the night ... Remi and Kenya on dog pillows and Zeke on the runner outside the bedroom door.

I think I know why he is always hungry ... he scoots on the slate floor ... maybe he has worms ... lovely ...

This might account for his ill temper and crazed appearance!

Friday, 30 May 2008

The Referee

Kenya understands that her role is to be a referee. She first establishes that she is the boss dog. Then she protects the puppy and all my rules.

Sometimes it is really easy because the other dogs are submissive.

This time she had to have several arguments with Zeke, a five year old male two thirds her size. Once she had had the arguments ... highly vociferous and lots of teeth being shown on both sides ... Kenya established that she was boss ... although she still will not cross certain boundaries with him.

Then Zeke wanted to prove to the puppy, Remi, that he was dominant, so he mounted him. When Remi resisted, he snarled, and Kenya had to become the referee.

This went on all evening.

Zeke seems to be a sweet dog but he is demanding with people (whining all the time and stealing food) and not very good at establishing a rapport with other dogs.

I had been blaming Kenya for the disruptions, but I am realizing as time goes on that she is doing what is natural and normal. She is the dominant dog here. It is her home. And she is bigger than the others. She knows the rules. She understands that Remi is a puppy. She has the right and duty to keep Zeke in line, and she doesn't do it brutally; she is wise.

I have to trust her more.

She is a referee ... and a fair one.

Zeke and Remi

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Earning My Money!

Zeke arrived a day and a half early so his visit coincided with Remi's rather than following it. Not a good situation! Three dogs creates a situation that is a bit like having three kids all of whom think they are the boss of everyone. They form alliances or have alliances established that make for tricky situations.

Kenya was bitchy as hell when she saw Zeke, and would (of course) not share sticks or food ... after all she never shares those things. Zeke's reaction is to stand up to her. So ... two assertive dogs and one galumphing puppy who just wants to play.

I am dealing with the situation by using a combination of being with them indoors, spending a good bit of time with them outdoors, keeping one inside while the others play outdoors, and generally just waiting for tomorrow morning when I can begin dealing with only Kenya and Zeke, without Remi bouncing around innocuously adding to the chaos.

Later I played with them outside and realized that they likely had to sort this out themselves ... and they have ... I think.

Zeke, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, who does NOT get along with Kenya

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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius

I am not a golfer and any time I have watched a golf tournament I have understood what people mean by the term "as interesting as watching paint dry" ... but this is a good movie about a wonderful sportsman, person and golfer. He gains the respect of all in the golfing world and keeps it by remaining an amateur. At one point he is forced to remind an envious professional golfer of the origins of the word amateur. It comes from the Latin verb to love, and embodies the idea of playing for the love of the sport, not for money. His old friend, a sports writer, predicts ... how very accurately... that once money becomes the reason to participate, a sport suffers.

Our Health Care System: Riddled with Disease

Yesterday I received a phone call that would have brought happiness to most people, but it caused me considerable anxiety. And, as a Canadian, neither response should have been appropriate.

The call was from the Wakefield Medical Centre. They had a new general practitioner who was accepting patients.

Yes I want a doctor 15 minutes from home. I find it very difficult if I am unwell to get to my doctor in Cumberland who is 1 ½ hours away, especially in bad weather. And she is very busy so there is always a wait and I feel a little rushed once I actually get in to see her.


... and yes, it is a big but ...

I am afraid of the two large local hospitals to which a Quebec doctor would refer me.

My experience with both the Gatineau and Hull hospitals has made me fearful of them.

The orthopaedic surgeon who was incompetent and coldly uncaring, and the technician who was rough and incompetent are NOT balanced by the Gatineau obstetrian who saved Sam's life during Kerry's last delivery or by the anaesthetist at the Hull Hospital who was so kind I'd have married him if he'd asked.

Health care should not be a balancing act for patients.

Canadians should be assured of competent care at any hospital in Canada. Canadians should be able to expect that they can have access to a family doctor. Those are the two basic planks on which universal health care should rest.

The woman who called me sympathised. She recognized that my fears were justified and suggested that I continue with my Cumberland doctor until the health problems that are being investigated are resolved.

The Canadian health care system is liable to crumble.

People cannot find family doctors.
Hospitals are under-staffed.
Cancer tests are being handled incompetently.
Forensic pathologists are careless and incompetent.
C Difficile is rampant and has been covered up.

It is not just the Outaouais.

Health care is a provincial concern but it is a Canadian problem.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Comments Again ... and a day's plans ...

Looks like I may have re-enable the screening of the comments. That last comment did not come from a girl in Kenya. Weird way to get your jollies, eh?

A beautiful day here at the lake ... brilliant sunshine and mist steaming off the surface of the water ...

I have no "must-do's" today so I think I will likely wash the floors I swept and mopped yesterday, work on the mess below, transplant some more lilies, and throw sticks in the lake for Kenya. Or maybe I will just go for a walk in the woods with Sarah, the dogs and a trowel and see about digging up a transplantable root of the witch hobble.

We can use one of the many plant pots littering the area where they had a marijuna grow-op in that part of the woods. All that is left are the mounds. Whoever had the plants left a helluva mess ... empty bags of fertilizer, plastic plant pots, and a length of hose to bring the water from the stream. It looks as if they grew only a few plants for their own consumption, certainly not a major production. Kids? Aging hippies? Dunno.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

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Lake Happenings

This morning it felt as if winter was setting in. Now, with the woodstove on it feels like a sauna.

I walked Kenya over to get Remi and was delighted by the pair of Canada Geese and their two goslings. We picked up Remi and the geese lost some of their appeal as Remi was determined to be a little vaccuum cleaner sucking up the green goose droppings. Yecch!

Then I saw masses of the mauve hybrid trilliums we get in my woods as a result of the mating of the purple and white trilliums here. I will post a photo later. As soon as the dogs have had a chance to wear each other out I will return Remi to his house.

Relative Poverty

Marta and I spoke about poverty the other day. She felt that only the really down and out, the hopeless, were actually poor. No one could argue with her that real poverty is different from what many people mean when they say they are broke or poor or feeling desperate about money.

My money worries are miniscule compared to those of someone who has nothing ... someone living on welfare ... a refugee anywhere in the world, but especially one living in one of the camps. My financial state is nothing like the poverty in which almost all Africans and Indians whether from the sub-continent or displaced here in the Americas live. I do not have to worry about starving to death or dying of one of the many poverty-related diseases that plague the really poor.

But concerns about money cause me anxiety.

It is not that I have nothing; it that I own something I value and do not want to lose it.

I have embarked on a project that will give me a home until I can no longer live here by the lake, a home which will in turn, provide security when I am really old and something for my children to inherit when I die. This project is swallowing huge amounts of money, way more than I expected it to ... not because I wanted to create a mansion but because of problems over which I had no control ... building problems caused by the landscape and by the builders I chose. Nature can be hard but at least you can't blame anyone. Human ineptitude and dishonesty are something else. They cause stress. So does wondering where you can find the money to fix the mistakes or complete the essential parts of the job left unfinished.

My pension provides enough to live carefully and when I look after dogs I can afford some luxuries. If the house does not devour more of what is left of my savings than I am prepared to spend this summer, I can manage ... at least until my car dies ... or unless some terrible calamity befalls me.

I am not going to go hungry or cold, but I might lose my home, and with it a good bit of the savings I have invested in it, because it will take time to recoup that investment. If that happened I would have to find affordable housing. If I were in the city I would not need a car. If I were in the country I could have dogs.

It usually helps me to look at worst case scenarios.

This time, however, the worst case scenario not only means I will lose the house on the lake I love, but it will have meant that I have spent a year living homeless, and another year living with construction going on around me and dealing with the problems of building. Over two years of my life have been invested as well as the money — invested in a dream that is still not fulfilled. I am still living in an unfinished house on an unfinished lot. In the past two years I have also spent a lot of money unnecessarily on moving costs, and on transfering my life to Quebec.

The past two years have aged me. I am not as well as I was before all this started.

So yes, I have more than someone who is truly poor, but trying to hang onto it is diminishing me and making me feel poor.


I have disabled the moderation which I enabled when I began to receive spam. I hope it makes it easier to comment. It will at least make it easier to read comments as they are made, and I won't receive so many notifications by email that I become confused.

I cannot comment on Erin's blog and I cannot read the comments on Kerry's. I am not sure whether that is a fault of my dial-up sluggishness or something to do with their blogs.

I am still feeling my way around here.

Monday, 26 May 2008

I don't like films in which I dislike the characters ...

I have been watching some pretty second rate films recently (as well as good ones like Bleak House), and what I am realizing is that if I do not like the people in the film I find it painful or boring to watch their lives play out on screen.

The Wedding Crashers was the worst one. I disliked everyone in the movie. I found them crass, opportunistic, power hungry, unkind ... and almost every other negative adjective that could be applied to people.

In Look at Me, many of the characters made me uncomfortable, and the angst and anger in this family controlled by a selfish, unlikeable, angry man was hard to watch.

The Upside of Anger also portrayed a dysfunctional family who were unkind to one another and to themselves, but at least in these last two films, you saw a realistic portrayal of real unhappiness, and justifiable anger.

In the first, a young girl is quite rightly upset by her father's disregard, and in the second, the anger (based on something they all thought had happened) made sense. When they discovered at the end that they had based that anger on an incorrect assumption, they return to being decent human beings with normal warts and flaws.

There was nothing to redeeem The Wedding Crashers, I am afraid. It was an unrealistic movie about nasty people ... a waste of time.

A Very Rainy Monday Morning ...

A good weekend! Productive and fun.

Still some debris to deal with but the deck is now almost completely clear so my view of the lake is unimpeded, at least if I lift my eyes a bit!

On Sunday I had a lovely time with Lois, Tammy, Carlos, Marta and all the dogs. We ate and drank well, told stories ... and laughed lots. I hope Tammy and Lois will send me photos because I didn't take any.

Marta and Henry slept over. I am discovering that having someone here at night helps me find the peace of mind to sleep better. I dreamed dreams of old friends and lovers in new situations, and my blood pressure dropped to healthy levels despite have drunk a good bit of wine.

I have been monitoring my blood pressure carefully lately and find that only mental stress and anxiety cause it to rise. Wine has nothing but positive effects on it. My doctor, an abstainer and a Muslim, would like me to follow the 1,7,2 rule. Two drinks a day maximum; 7 drinks a week maximum. In other words do not drink more than a glass of wine every day with dinner or drink two glasses of wine every second day. I like drinking wine daily and I feel deprived if I must stop after one glass. I like the second, and occasionally the third, glass. I associate wine with relaxing at the end of the day, and I usually pour the first glass around 5 p.m. and sip it as I prepare dinner. Dr. Mellick (whom I really like) says that the research is showing that the blood pressure of women is lowered by the first glass of red wine and then raised by subsequent glasses. My research is not bearing this out. My blood pressure is highest during the day when I am most likely to be under stress, and lowest once I begin to relax over wine.

I will be going in to the Ottawa Hospital's Cardiac Diagnostic Centre again on June 13. This time they will do a myoview scan as well as the treadmill. It is nuclear medicine and they will inject radioactive dye and watch the progress of blood to the heart while resting and while stressing the heart through exercise. If there are any blockages they should be able to detect them. Apparently heart X-rays are not always accurate indicators for women because their breast tissue shadows things so that they get false positives more often. That is when the myoview is a more precise tool.

Today and tomorrow I will be walking Remi with Kenya and I am looking forward to it, especially if the rain lets up. For someone who is being monitored for two potentially lethal conditions, I am feeling remarkably healthy and fit.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

I just realized I went to the dogs a long time ago ...

The air is still blue with the smell of melted chemicals. It is not visually blue ... just olfactorally blue. No. It is not really blue at all. It is an ugly colour smell so blue is wrong. It is acidic yellow green, I think. No ... it's greasy greenish black.

It reminds me of the times back in the early seventies when we lived in an old school house in the Ottawa Valley and my husband regularly burned the garbage.

The kids (our own and those of the neighbours) would roast weiners over a fire redolent with the smell of burning plastic. Just thinking about what they ingested gives me the willies now.

Looking back on that time, I realize we likely were regarded in that very conservative community as some kind of Dogpatch family of unkempt hippies. I didn't attend church. I supported Dr. Morgentaler. I gave a tea party for the local NDP candidate. I wore jeans and had hair falling to my waist. And we were the people who lived in that dirty old school house, you know.

But I digress. Here at the hermitage, so far this morning, I have hauled a couple of bags of garbage I collected yesterday up the hill. After breakfast I will do some more raking down there, and bag and transport more .

I also have to pull up some of the stinging nettle. When four of us were wrestling the old washing machine up the hill, Tom was stung. I will try to get all of it this time. It is a nasty weed.

Then I will see what needs to be done with the fire area. There is a twisted metal sofa frame in it. Likely too big for me to move alone, but I need to get rid of that black ash or I will have dogs with black feet decorating my slate floors all day.

And there will be four, possibly five, dogs here today! That is a lot of greasy black puppy paw prints.

When everyone arrives this afternoon, I will ask Carlos to put the clothesline up ... again. It takes two people, at least one taller than I am, to attach it. I am not sure what the guys were carrying that was big enough to snag the clothesline yesterday, but after they left I discovered my laundry lying in the dirt, and the chicken wire fencing festooned with underwear. Fortunately everything was dry when the line collapsed.

On this glorious sunshine-filled day, I am looking forward to a morning of outdoor chores plus preparing for company and an afternoon and evening with friends. We are going to have ribs, chicken, and sausage. Tammy is bringing salads, and Marta dessert. It will be a great picnic, even if we have to eat indoors to avoid the stench and the black flies!

At least today I won't be cooking the meat over a garbage dump fire.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

A Splitting Headache ... Several Actually ...

Sorry I have not been posting lately. The reasons are the same ones that are giving me the headaches.

1. It took me three hours on the phone, another hour to write a letter and get the documentation Hydro wanted faxed, and another hour to take it into Wakefield and fax it because their line was continually in use. Five hours and the problem is still not resolved. My bank took my money, deposited it in a non-existent Hydro account, and then Hydro told me my bill was overdue. So that was one day and one major headache.

2. The following day the dial-up refused to do anything without bumping me off-line. Headache #2.

3. That was also the day I went to the ByTowne to see a movie with Marta. The movie was a disappointment. One of my favourite novels, The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence, had been badly translated into a film. The novel is a wonderful sprawling rendition of a life; the film is an awkwardly patched together attempt to capture what perhaps is unmanageable. The filmmaker's changes to time were disconcerting, as was the incorrect aging of the characters. Hagar was far too young for 90; Doris and Marvin far too young for 65; and the age difference between Marvin and John which was perhaps five years suddenly at one point became a twenty year spread. I am usually not as upset by the liberties taken by film makers attempting to move a novel onto the screen, but this was a travesty. Dickens' novels like Bleak House are also big novels, but the BBC did not ruin Bleak House by trying to fit a 400 page novel into 1 1/2 hours. They made a 3 DVD production. Better to have put The Stone Angel aside as undo-able than to seriously damage the integrity of a fine novel. Headache #3.

4. Today Tom and his crew came to finish up the removal of the cottage debris. They did not finish. They did create clouds of bilious, headache-causing smoke ... and on the May 24th weekend. (My neighbours are likely cursing me.) When I went to get them clean boxes out of the big blue bin, it (the bin) ... 4 1/2 feet high here in Quebec ... came crashing down on my head raising a long ridgelike goosebump on the scalp. Ouch! Headaches #4 and 5.

Not a good few days ... but I hope the air, my head, and my schedule will all be clear by tomorrow morning so that I can prepare for company (faithful blog readers all) and post a morning entry.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Eclectic Mix

Does anyone know what this flower is? Sarah and I saw many of them in the woods. They grow on tree-like bushes and look like Queen Anne's Lace surrounded by strawberry blossoms. They have a bit of an aroma ... neither entirely pleasant nor terrible.

The walk in the woods happened during a break in the weather. It has been cold, damp and windy all week. I have been comforting myself with the knowledge that the rain must be good for the clover and day lilies I planted.

Also on the plus side is the fact that the wind drove the hordes of blackflies away for a bit. When it died down again, I found myself breathing them in and swallowing them.

The last few days I have spent more time snuggling up with Kenya on the couch with a fire going watching movies than I have outside. It is supposed to get warmer and sunnier on Friday.


Born Romantic ... a feel good movie about some disparate people linked by a desire to find love and dance.

Water ... This film reveals how women are denigrated in the name of religion by people who use religion as a means to their own ends. Set in 1938 colonial India as Mahatma Ghandi's rise to power begins, it deals with Brahmins ... but its message is universal, and the film is excellent on many levels.

Notes on a Scandal ... Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett give excellent performances in this very uncomfortable film about two school teachers whose lives become horribly tangled.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Five Birches in the Woods

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Kenya's Walk in the Woods

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A Mossy Stream

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The Bole

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A Walk in the Woods

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Yikes! I am becoming my father ...

"If you have a positive thought your body actually goes into a positive vibration, you actually attract everything that resonates with that vibration."

(sent to me courtesy of Insight of the Day to which I subscribe)

It reminds me of Dad's little books of homilies for living a happier, more successful life ... you know ... the kind that Amway salesmen promote ... Dale Carnegie stuff.

But the really scary thing is that I believe this! I believe that happiness begets happiness.

I have found since I retired and began wearing glasses that people smile more at me. I figure I probably smile more myself, and I likely look less threatening than I used to. Now I am simply a little old bespectacled smiling lady. I exude no sex appeal, no power, just bemused niceness.

I like pronoia (the antidote to paranoia), Rob Brezny's philosophy, although I do balk when it gets too saccharine.

I like being around positive people and walk away from complainers.

Dad used to get headaches when I would lecture him about socialism and the evils of American imperialism. I get headaches just remembering all those wasted hours and days and weeks, yes, years, of trying to convince people that they should boycott Kraft products, Dare cookies and lettuce harvested by Mexican slaves for their capitalist masters.

We were smarter, I think, but we looked just as foolish handing out pamphlets outside grocery stores as that lone guy I saw on Bank Street the other day. He was haranguing passersby about God.

We were right and time has proven us so, but no one wanted to listen, so it was foolish to try to convince them. All those other old Wafflers are probably just like their parents now too ... complacent ... trying to shut out the doomsayers even though they know they are right.

But it isn't just this longing for peace in my valley. It is also how and where I choose to live. Dad chose a place in the mountains of the Eastern Townships where he could be free to enjoy nature. He lived for a while with a partner, but was happiest when he became a hermit again ... a hermit with one good friend.

I don't think he disliked people any more than I do. He liked to interact on a superficial level with the neighbours and tradespeople he encountered every day, but he liked going home to his hermitage. He called his place Shangri-La.

I like knowing I am part of a community and I value my friends, but I like living alone with Kenya. A hermit enjoys a freedom that is not possible when you live with most people.

I look at happy couples who seem like two halves of a whole while remaining fully themselves as well. There aren't that many, or at least I haven't seen that many. Some days I think it would be nice to find someone to share this life, but I am not sure I could begin that long process of becoming part of a comfortable couple again.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Long Weekend in May

Saturday Morning ...

Sunlight streams in the windows. Clouds of mist swirl across the lake and reach up toward the heat. I think this will be a beautiful day despite the weatherman's dire predictions about rain this afternoon.

Last night I dreamed that Anne Marie and I fought off a ferocious beast. She looked as she had the first evening I met her at the tapas bar with Tammy and Carlos ... large, strong, confident ...

Her party was wonderful. I never will get the hang of holding a wine glass, a plate of hors d'oeuvres and a napkin in one hand so that the other is free to shake hands, I am afraid. Anne Marie told Tammy she finally got the manoeuvre perfected and then it was too late to practise it as she became too ill to attend cocktail parties. She, however, would have handled her ineptitude with greater aplomb and self deprecating humour than I can rally in large crowds of strangers.

I did meet (after three glasses of wine) a very nice couple from Lunenburg — Anne Marie's brother and his wife. Up till then, even Tammy, Carlos and I were having difficulty making conversation with each other, none of us comfortable at small talk gatherings. Anne Marie's brother is a musician, and I hope that Kerry, Maurice, Raphael and I can go to hear him perform in Halifax while I am there.

Marilyn Smith is having a show today. I may go if Marta doesn't want to have a bigger adventure.

Tomorrow I get to meet the pair of Shih Tzus that Kenya and I may be babysitting for two weeks in September. I hope they are little dogs with the confidence and ease of big dogs. Kenya is fine with small, quietly confident dogs, but dislikes the yappy aggressive ones. The last one of those we met bit Kenya on the nose. Most just bitch at her, and she bitches back, but her bitchiness sounds much more ferocious than theirs because of the size of her voice, teeth and body.

I am off with my Earl Grey tea to enjoy the sunshine .

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Some Thoughts on Death

No ... this is not going to be a morbid post.

But death has been something I have been thinking about lately for a number of reasons ... but thinking about it peacefully ... with equanimity rather than fear.

Our family is going to celebrate what would have been my father's 100th birthday in June. He died in 1995, and we will celebrate his life in the small village where he lived much of his life, and where he is buried.

I am dealing with estate questions just now, so the practicalities of my dying are on my mind.

And Anne-Marie's party tonight has been another trigger.

But the other things that have got me thinking are a couple of books about death for people who are not expecting to have an everlasting life. The religious have the comfort of their belief that they will continue into the hereafter; the rest of us cannot take comfort in a life after death.

One of the books begins with the words: "I don't believe in God, but I miss him", and the other describes what comes after death in a very comforting way despite the fact there he expects nothingness after death, as I do. Both books are about not being afraid of death despite living in a culture that fears the very idea. Especially frightening for most people is the concept that we lead brief flickering lives that die out to disappear forever.

In the mid-seventies at university I had a professor I adored ... oh not in any romantic way ... but he was my hero and I worshipped his ideas. He talked about the difference among British, American and Canadian writers, and a large part of the difference had to do with the idea of the importance of the individual. Because Canadian writers have been influenced by both of the other traditions, it is not surprising that we hold beliefs that are an amalgam of the two. As in most other things, we seem to reach a compromise position; in this case between believing the individual has no importance or that he is all important.

Robin Mathews believed that a novel like Who Has Seen the Wind showed the extremes in the reprobate, the Old Ben, and in the rigidly upright townsfolk who were his antithesis, but that Digby, the school teacher, represented the Canadian viewpoint. Digby was a good tough man ... good and tough. He stood up for himself and others. He lived a morally upright life. He was neither anarchic nor rigidly bound by tradition, and he lived his life for the good of himself and other people. He tried to make his small world a better place.

This thread weaves itself throughout Canadian literature. The most important thing that people leave behind them when they die is not wealth or prestige or plaques on buildings, but ripples that continue forever.

The writer of the second book on death, is Irvin Yalom, a psychiatrist who often quotes a philosopher, Epicurus. Yalom says, "Rippling refers to the fact that each us creates — often without conscious intent or knowledge —concentric circles of influence that may affect others for years, even for generations."

So Digby left his influence on Brian, on the Young Ben, on generations of students, and even on the Old Ben and the Mrs. Abercrombies of the town.

Everyone who is a parent will surely touch her children and their children, but all of us leave those ripples whether we are genetically close to people or not.

We all conduct our personal, business and community lives in ways that affect others.

Most of us are just little frogs in little ponds and we make small ripples throughout our lives. Most of us will die without having invented penicillin or caused a genocide, but all of us have done good and bad things that have affected and influenced others in smaller ways.

As I get closer to the end of my life I try to remember the good ripples and hope there were more of them that the bad ones, not just because I want to be remembered as a good woman, but, more importantly, because I hope I have made this world a better place than I found it. It doesn't matter whether anyone can remember which of us had what influence. What really matters is whether things got a little better because we were here.

And that is remarkably comforting.

I wish my father had been more comfortable with the idea of dying than he was. He did a lot of things wrong as a parent, but I see his good ripples all the time in myself, my children and my grandchildren, and I wish he had gone to his death comforted by that knowledge.

May 17th ...

May 17th: I was married 51 years ago today. I was 16.

May 17th: Tonight I will be going with Tammy and Carlos to say a final good bye to Anne- Marie, a wonderfully vibrant woman who lived surrounded by art and friends, and died too soon. Tonight's party will be a celebration of a life well lived.

May 17th: Marie confirmed that the photo of Linda in my blog entry a few days ago ( A Morning Fresh with Possibility ) is indeed the Linda who is being helped by Layla's Gala funds. I was hoping it was. She seemed in the short time I spent in her company a couple of years ago to be a peaceful strong young woman.

Yesterday I worked hard physically all day ... vaccuuming, washing all the floors, transplanting lilies ... Kenya and I went to bed at 7. Except for a phone call from Kerry and a couple of times that I listened to the loons and the whipporwill, I slept almost 12 hours. They too seemed more at peace last night.

The second roofer is coming this morning to examine the roof.

And so my day begins.

Friday, 16 May 2008

A noisy night on Pike Lake ...

The nights here are generally peaceful but far from quiet.

Last night at 2 a.m. at least two loons were very agitated. There was a familiar wail and then an 11 note response and then the tremolo which usually means the nest is in peril. One call followed another and then they began a concert of one call overlaid on another. There was nothing harmonious about this three part performance, and I found myself responding anxiously to their anxiety.

They are at it again this morning. One loon just flew in to the lake and another began the 11 note call (duh, duh, da, da, duh ... etc. ... not great music ... a very repetitive rhythm that reminds me of someone calling a child or a dog home over and over again.)

When they finally quit last night, the whipporwill began its insistent and incessantly repetitive call. I find I have to stop listening to it in order to be able to ignore it. That's hard to do when it is annoying you. More than once I have wished for a gun.

This morning the songbirds began their day before 5 a.m. and so began my day after little sleep!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

All that's left of Remi: the Little Lord Fauntleroy Tail

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The Whole Plant

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Anyone know what this plant is?

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A Morning Fresh with Possibility

I feel good this mid-May morning!

Everywhere the trilliums are glistening with dew, the birds are making the woods a noisy busy place, and one of my plants has burst forth with a flower that is all seed pod. A Canada goose is almost drowning out the birdsong with his honking. My day's plan is to continue to transplant day lilies, and get my knees all muddy again. Calvin says that "if your knees aren't green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life."

Yesterday I had my car in for its spring tune-up. It cost $700 but Grant, the local mechanic, told me that it is a solid little car and I should get 300,000 kilometres out of it. It is 10 ½ years old and has just over half that kilometrage, so the Corolla, Kenya and I may all just make it to the end of my ten years here at the lake.

I got the names of qualified roofers from James up in Kaz and will call them today. While I was there I noticed that the baby finger on James' left hand looked just like mine. I asked him about it and discovered that he'd had his set two years ago at the Hull Hospital. I wonder if the orthopaedic surgeons at that hospital think baby fingers looks better that way!

Last night I fell asleep listening to the rain on the tin roof and my bed became Avonlea. I was certainly glad that watching Anne of Green Gables had been a stronger influence than watching The Last King of Scotland. It was much calmer spending the night in Avonlea than it would have been in Idi Amin's Uganda. 300,000 people were slaughtered during his rule. The movie made clear that his political opposition was wiped out, but when I was in Uganda learning to whitewater kayak, my friend Tim told me that he got rid of anyone who was educated because he feared them. Tim lost his school teacher father during that period.

Such terrible things have happened in Africa.

But some of the most heart rending and uplifting stories also originate there.

Yesterday Marie sent me a letter about a young girl, and asked if Layla's Gala money might be able to help her. Layla immediately responded and said that the $1500 raised at the Gala and whatever money is raised at Philemon's fashion show (likely another $400) may be used to help Linda.

I found a Daisy photo of a girl called Linda. I wonder if she is the same Linda.

Here is Marie's letter, and Linda's story:

I saw a girl today who I think some of the funds for Daisy might help. She is a student at Mukumu Girls High School. When she was in primary school she fell while carrying water and broke her Right lower leg. Her grandmother refused to take her to the hospital -saying she was just trying to get out of going toschool. When she finally did get treatment she had osteomylitis in the leg. She spent four years (yes 4) at Kakamega General Hospital because her family said she was dead and refused to consider taking her home. A Social Worker at the hospital finally helped her go to Daisy to complete her primary education.

She passed well and was taken at Mukumu. She has been taken today as a CHES student (they had extra money)but she has a very badly contracted leg and must use crutches to get around.

Because of the infection in the bone she has a huge open wound on her shin from knee to ankle which must hurt like hell.

Now comes the good part. She is number one in a class of 386. To top it off she is a cheerful smiling girl who helps others by encouraging them when they get down! I would like to send her to Kijabe Hospital near Nairobi - they are a mission hospital specializing in orthopedics and they might be able to help her. They have a staff of doctors from the USA and other countries who come for short periods. They are not that expensive but we have no source of money for this kind of thing. Do you think some of the Daisy money could go for this? I can't think of a more deserving person to spend it on.

Just a small endnote:

Kakamega Hospital is a forbidding grey building with minimal facilities. Outside its gates the coffin makers line the road. It is a place in which to die - a terrible place for a young girl to spend 4 years.

The Daisy Centre is a cheerful boarding school for disabled children and AIDS orphans in Kakamega.

CHES is a Canadian organization which sends very bright poor girls to high school in a couple of places. They have an office in Kakamega and another in Tanzania. They provide all fees, boarding costs, school uniforms and books for the girls. It is not easy to get acceptance by CHES. They are deluged with requests at the beginning of each school year. Only the very best candidates can be accepted and provided with the four years of high school education. If they are successful they are then given ACCES scholarships to continue their education.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A hermit prepares to become a nomad ...

The car and Kenya are easy ... oil change, tune-up, good tires ... add in meds and food for Kenya ... and they are set to go.

After all the traveling I've done, you would think getting me ready would be at least as simple, but it's not. Even choosing which clothes to take is a problem. I have to consider ranges of temperature and all kinds of weather because I don't wear metal or fur year round. I have to worry about the demands of different social occasions.

I also have to deal with mapping things and ensuring that I can find pet-friendly accommodation.

And make sure that I can manage my finances from a distance.

And I have to consider my sanity. I am most sane when I am settled in my hermit's life at the lake. That is where I write, watch my films, read and reflect. I become too scattered for thoughtful pursuits when I am on the move.

I love the infusion of new experiences and the adventure of travel but I also need the settled feeling of being at home. That is likely why I travel as I do, settling in to a place as soon as I arrive, even if it is only for a few days. I treat each new place the way I treat a move to a new home. I travel out from it in ever-increasing concentric circles, learning where I am and what amenities are close by.

On this trip I will be staying with friends and family for periods ranging from 4 days to a month, and, except for the road trip to Nova Scotia I will be staying in people's homes.

Nevertheless I am mentally preparing for this trip as if I will be on the road with Kenya for 2 ½ months. I am trying to ensure that I can carry as much as possible of the serenity of our life at the lake with us. Kenya will be perfectly happy as long as I make sure she exercises regularly, eats properly, and has the odd cookie. She will also have other dogs to visit most places.

I need to be able to read and write. I need to create hermitages even in the midst of family life.

I have decided that I will take an interesting range of books, a fresh journal, a used laptop, and my first cell phone.

My book list is eclectic: two books of poetry - Ariel by Sylvia Plath, and Birthday Letters by her husband Ted Hughes; a book about death - nothing to be frightened of (Julian Barnes); three books about Africa - The Village of Waiting (George Packer), God's Bits of Wood (Sembene Ousmane), and When a Crocodile Eats the Sun (Peter Godwin); a memoir - The Gargoyle's Left Ear: writing in Ottawa by Susan McMaster; and two travel memoirs by women who travel as I do - Dinner with Persephone by Patricia Storage and Touch the Dragon by Karen Connelly. I should not be bored.

No novels, despite the fact that novels have always been my favourite genre. Perhaps because I know that I can likely pick up novels along the way.

Almost all of these books are about transience, and I will be a transient all summer.

And my own writing this summer will likely be pick up and go, so stream of consciousness travel writing is most like journaling.

I hope that the book about death will, like the poetry, give me food for thought as I drive.

My journal will likely be a day-to-day account of my travels with Kenya. As long as I can carve out a couple of hours every day to reflect and write, I should be okay.

This summer is an experiment. The next nomadic summer (2010) I may choose to rent a place in Newfoundland or Western Kenya or Nova Scotia rather than traveling from one place to another.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

A Practice Run

Kenya and I were driving most of yesterday. We left home around 9 and got back around 3:30. We stopped for pee breaks and lunch as well as a visit with Rob, Scott and Charlie so we were actually driving for about 4 hours. Once we start our trek to Nova Scotia we will likely be driving over 300 miles a day. That will entail at least 6 hours of driving per day plus rest stops. We can do it but it will be a marathon for an old hermit and a dog who both like lots of leg stretching exercise. I guess we will start out really early every day and break up the day around 9, noon, and 5 for meals and walkabouts. I have to find a way to make sure that Kenya gets her meals indoors as she can't relax when she eats outside. She thinks she has to protect her food from predators. I may just feed her a whole day's ration when we get to the hotel each evening.

Friday, 9 May 2008

A little of this and a little of that ...

After three days of trying, I finally managed to change the heading on this blog. I was inspired by my luck with the travel blog, but the damned dial-up was not very co-operative.

Yesterday was my last day walking Remi. His mom is pregnant and cannot be around small children because she has never developed an immunity to Fifth Disease which can cause miscarriages. I had never heard about this disease before and was surprised that the Quebec government is so vigilant with its pregnant teachers that it whips them out of the classroom on full pay as soon as they test positive for pregnancy and negative for the virus. I am delighted that she is pregnant, and of course we won't have a chance to miss Remi because we can still see him every day, so it is good, but it is a little sad that she didn't even have a chance to say good bye to her kindergarten kids.

I hope today is a brighter day. I am finding that my mood is affected by the colour of the sky, and the presence of the sun.

One way or the other, now that I am free of my commitments at noon, Kenya and I may visit Lanark to pick up my printer cartridge ... and see Rob, Scott, and Charlie. I also need to pick up a few odd things at the grocery store.

Rowboat Flo and I moved the tree that was blocking the road. What a sight! Two old women wielding a nylon dog leash and a hand saw to muscle a thirty foot tree off the road. We are pretty damn tough, so we are!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

My Third Blog

Since it was a dreary cold day for the most part, and a fallen tree across the road prevented me from going to the village to run errands, I decided to get started on a travel book I have wanted for some time to put together. It will include travel pieces I have written over the years. So far I have posted Eleutheran Adventure: poems from that wonderful island, and the first of the Matatu Matata stories. I will post these by country, but the book itself will likely be constructed differently.

I hope you will give me feedback on these. It will be a real help to me.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Poking About Behind the Facades in China ...

China is filled with hidden worlds. Indeed the entire country was a hidden world till very recently. I have only visited Beijing a few times so I have glimpsed a mere fraction of what lies behind the facades. The Chinese government is busy destroying many of these very human places in the name of progress. The damming of the Yangtse has drowned several villages. As the country prepares for the Olympics, ancient historic huotong neighbourhoods are being replaced by sleek high rises. One day only the Great Wall, the Tomb of the Terracotta Warriors, and other tourist attractions will remain ... and of course the factories. But when I was there I saw some wonderful worlds where real people lived hidden behind the facades of the buildings that faced onto the wide avenues.

On my first visit I wandered out into the area surrounding my airport hotel and discovered a world alive with bicycles, carts, children and their parents, all living, traveling, cooking, and eating on the narrow roadways. It felt like a very friendly place, and much greener than I had imagined.

Another time I spent my time in one of the many parks listening to musicians and watching families sipping their tea from themoses.

The last time I was in Beijing I stayed for a few days at a hotel within walking distance of Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. Of course I went to see these tourist attractions, but one of my most interesting finds was a place I was not expected to discover. I looked down from my hotel window on a curious sight that made no sense from twelve stories up so I went down for a closer look. It took some doing to find an entrance off the main street into the neighbourhood behind the sleek highrises, but I finally found what I was looking for: an outdoor exercise area used by the people living in the small old houses.

I saw an old man go through a circuit of joint limbering exercises on a series of green low- tech, muscle-powered machines. I watched as a woman taught another tai chi or yoga moves, their bodies swaying to silent music. I stayed a while. Doors opened and more people came over to use the equipment for a few minutes before slipping back inside their houses. And yes, I too went through the old man's circuit.

Then I saw the sign. It explained that Olympic money had been used to provide this exercise and recreation area for the neighbourhood.

Over the course of the next few days, in several other neighbourhoods, I saw more of this green equipment being used by people. I thought about how wonderful it was that the Olympics meant that the people of Beijing would actually be left with something that would help them stay healthy long after the summer of 2008.

Of course the reality is that the Olympics will displace many of the people I saw using that equipment.

Just as I had to work hard to find the neighbourhoods where people actually live in Beijing, I had to make a real physical effort to climb up to the Great Wall. I arrived huffing and puffing, my heart racing from the exertion. It was worth it. I forgot all about Beijing and the vendors along the route. High above the city and the commerce, I followed a yellow butterfly along a path that had been walked for centuries.

I hope that China's sudden entrance into the world of capitalism will not mean that the culture created over all these centuries will be lost completely.

I have of late been thinking of China in terms of cheap goods sold by our dollar stores and Walmart, of lead being used in children's toys, of poisonous substances in skin care products and toothpaste. Made in China has come to mean loss of jobs in Canada, cheap consumer products that cannot be trusted, and visions of Chinese workers living their lives like ants in an anthill. I also think of the human rights abuses, of Tibet, of the imprisonment of practitioners of Falun Gong.

I would rather remember the old people sipping their tea and doing tai chi. I want to remember that yellow butterfly.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Hidden Worlds on the Other Blog

I unearthed the poem, "Hidden Worlds", and published it on the writer's blog. It needs an addendum based on Beijing's hidden worlds behind the facades on the main streets ... hidden worlds that may disappear before the Olympics. Tomorrow, I think.

One Soaker Later, Mission Accomplished

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What doesn't kill you keeps you young ...

Another brilliant day on the lake.

Yesterday I found the green ladder that enables us to get down to the lake from the deck. It is very ugly and very heavy. I made it when we built the deck. Last spring I found it leaning against a tree down at the other end of the lake and I had to get Tammy to help me hoist it onto the roof rack to get it home. I was very glad I found it before it had got too far this spring.

It was hovering next door, kissing their dock which has fallen to pieces.

Kenya and I made our way through the undergrowth to the old dock where I stood in the water and attached a yellow rope to one of the rungs.

So far, everything had been simple, but now the hard part began.

I had to make my way back along the shoreline keeping the rope on the lake side of the trees as I dragged the ladder along toward home. In manicured countryside, this might have been easy, but Pike Lake's shoreline and forest are largely untouched tangles of brush and trees whose root systems are half in the lake and half on shore. This can make grabbing a small tree to avoid falling in the lake a little hazardous, as some of the smaller ones are not rooted at all.

By the time I had moved the ladder about 30 feet I decided that I needed to bring the kayak over to complete the journey. Too many of the trees were just too difficult to make my way around or too big to manoeuvre a rope around. The one I gave up on was impossible to circle with my arms and the lake at that point was too deep for rubber boots and too cold for bare feet.

I tied the yellow rope to a tree and Kenya and I made our way back home. I picked up kindling as I went and Kenya tried to take fallen trees with her. When that proved bothersome she tried to steal my sticks. Have I told you Kenya doesn't share sticks? Well, neither do I. We argued all the way home.

I climbed on the table in the porch and got the kayak paddle down off the rafters. The thought that I might fall and break something crossed my mind briefly. Men have these thoughts and act on them; I just have them and ignore them. After all, how would a small hermit woman manage to accomplish anything, if she paid attention to such thoughts?

I was tired by now so I decided to make it my mission to take the kayak to recue the ladder the next morning.

Several years ago when I was much younger, and Tyren was a year old ... 15 years ago ... Kerry and I took the canoe to rescue The Royal Bob, our floating dock. We couldn't leave Tyren, so all three of us got into the old yellow canoe.

It is an ungainly thing that is almost untippable but also almost impossible to steer with one paddler. We bought it when Kerry and Rob were old enough to want to play in a canoe, but too young to handle anything less stable.

Off we went, zipping along to the populated end of the lake, both of us paddling, Tyren happily ensconced between Kerry's legs, his little red life jacket making him look quite seaworthy.

I tied the yellow rope to the raft and we began to paddle home. Paddle, paddle, THUMP! Paddle, paddle, THUMP!

Each time we were thumped we'd have to get up steam again and retrace the last few paddle strokes that we had lost when the raft hit and pulled us backwards.

Tyren began to wail, and every time the the raft hit us, he shrieked. Kerry had to stop paddling.

It took a very long time to get the raft home.

I trust today's adventure with a ladder, a very tippy kayak, and May-cold water will be easier. But I am now almost 68. The last trip occurred when I was 53 and not alone. If you don't hear from me, I am likely caught in undergrowth somewhere along the shore.

I am off on my next adventure.

Monday, 5 May 2008

What a Glorious Morning ... following on the heels of a great weekend ...

I had a great weekend ... the work party on Saturday and a mini- artists' tour on Sunday. Today is wonderfully sunny, and it feels good to be alive.

We saw the Joe Fafard show at the National Gallery. His work is stunning ... sculptures that capture whole stories of daily life in the faces and bodies of real human beings ... meticulously detailed right down to the veins and age spotting in their hands. His work is an interesting mix of super realism and caricature. I had seen his horses and cows before ... and they are wonderfully detailed as well, but it is what he captures in the human subjects that holds me ... their humanity and their mortality. He is a keen observer and a great craftsman, but it is his ability to discern what is truly important that makes his work outstanding. And it is that wise ability to see into the true heart that makes possible that juxtaposition of the real and the suggested. I am not sure I have captured what I really mean, but I will likely come back to this post again. I didn't want to leave the impression that his art is to sculpture what Andrew Wyeth's or Alex Colville's are to painting.

His human subjects range from indigenous people to artists (my favourite was Emily Carr) to politicians to family to just plain folks. There were times when I looked at one of his sculptures of an indigenous person and saw a whole history of a people. With the artists he uses the colours and textures of the artists' work to make the sculptures true and complete portrayals.

I must say I also loved his holstein cow that reminded me of a poem about cows in a field ... looking like badly made tents. (Maybe Ogden Nash?) And his horses made me want to touch them expecting to feel horse hair instead of cold metal.

I loved the running wild horse installation piece. Big ... halfway between two and three dimensional. I felt as if a painting had come to life. I could feel the movement and the loss of a time when wild horses ran free on our western plains. In Mongolia it still exists ... that unfenced freedom ... but there are few such places left on earth.

The next artist we visited, Barbara Carlson, is playful. She has produced all kinds of art composed of found pieces ... and even a book about pocket lint ...

One of her pieces is her creation of a people's highrise based on photos of real homes. It is very different from what we see in real life, not at all like those sterile concrete structures that house poor people. It is mainly red brick and every apartment is unique and also part of the whole community she has created. You know from the detail that real people lead real lives in this building.

I bought a small print of one of those pieces ... a rear view ... because I like poking around behind the facades of buildings and streets. I wrote a poem once about the secret places behind the facades ... the places you would never guess existed if you didn't poke about and explore what lies further down an alley or in behind a door.

Today I have already been out throwing sticks in the water for Kenya, taking photos of the Canada Geese who are visiting the lake, and hanging out my first line of laundry this year. It promises to be another great day!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Fencing to keep dogs out ...

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Remi : Two-toned

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Tammy's Photos

39 steps

Shea surveying the work from the rock wall

The men spreading the topsoil while Sarah oversees the work

Mark and Mandara taking a break with Shea and Kenya

Moving the debris before dealing with the site

Breaking up the topsoil with every possible implement

May take all night but Tammy's shots are great ... so I will try! Again! There are two more.

City dogs lead a very different life ...

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