Tuesday, 28 October 2008

What a difference a river makes ...

Contrasts ... Sorry about the formatting. Blogger doesn't like my side-by-side formatting.

Yesterday I had my second ultrasound in the past few months. The first was done at the Gatineau Hospital; the second at the Riverside. The contrast was striking.


1. I had to drink 8 cups of water.
2. Result: I was in pain.
3. They were ½ hour behind schedule.
4. I HAD to pee.
5. The technician was rough.
6. She had to do a second 15 minute probe that was even rougher than the first.
7. She did not get a clear result.
8. I was traumatized and in pain for a couple of days after.

1. I was told to drink 3 cups.
2. My bladder was full, not painful.
3. The procedure was done on time.
4. I didn't have to pee so both ultrasounds could be done.
5. The technician was quietly competent and calm.
6. She did both ultrasounds without incident.
7. I will get the results in 2 weeks.
8. I felt perfectly comfortable afterwards.

I have had bad experiences at both of the hospitals on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. The Gatineau and Hull Hospitals really frighten me. Several of their emergency room doctors resigned a year ago because conditions were dangerous. The Hull Hospital had to close its operating theatres for a while a few weeks ago because their sterilization equipment was a mess. Yesterday I heard that the staff members were taking on the job of recruiting for additional staff since the administration was not doing the job.

My own doctor told me that she has patients who work at those two hospitals but will not go to either as a patient because of the understaffing and incompetence.

I've encountered delays and confusion, a doctor who was incompetent and uncaring, and an ultrasound technician who might have been a plumber or a member of the cleaning staff called in because the technician was off sick, but I have also been treated well by an older anaesthetist who must feel terrible that his hospital is serving the community so badly that people fear it.

Our local paper reported that Quebecers have the highest anxiety rates in the country. I wonder if the state of the medical system as seen in the Outaouais is a contributing factor.

On an almost totally different subject, and one I promised not to blog about again, I have discovered a homeopathic medicine that after a couple of days seems to be providing, if not a cure, at least tremendous relief for those damned hot flashes and night sweats.

Thanks goodness for the Riverside Hospital and for homeopathic medications!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

A Drive in the Country

Today I took Kenya for a walk around the lake and up through the woods and then drove into the village to pick up something at the pharmacy. I was listening to The Vinyl Cafe. I'd received an email that Stuart MacLean was going to be reading a story sent in by the nephew of an old friend so I stretched out the drive in order to listen to the whole show.

As we drove past a farmhouse the paper covering the original darkened boards flapping in the October breeze, MacLean's voice mellowing the day, I thought of all the drives I'd taken with Kenya over the past two years or so. We'd head off to one or another "neighbourhood" in the vicinity and walk for an hour. Sometimes I took photos. Other times we just absorbed the newness. Me the sights. Kenya the smells.

Today was one of those times. I hadn't brought the camera. This particular route was a favourite because it took us up into hills pasts rolling fields of hay and cattle. Driving back down from the highest part I was startled by the sight of an enormous hog ambling around the corner of an outbuilding and toward the road. At the fence line it stopped, sniffed the air and lay down by the wire to watch the world go by. We were likely the most interesting thing that had passed this peaceful Sunday.

Around a corner and far below us were half a dozen horses clustered around the strange small white bales of hay I had been noticing. They looked like packages of mouldy rotting hay that had been destroyed by the rains, but I think they were likely just white plastic covered packages of food for the animals to scavenge from until winter sent them all indoors to the steaminess of winter barns ... a kind of snack time between the lush greenness of summer pasture and the dry sameness of months of winter hay and grain.

We passed a field of pumpkins and I was tempted to stop and ask if I could buy one. Maybe later this week. I have a kit for pumpkin carving that I bought a couple of years ago. Still unused. Where I live no child ventures on Hallowe'en, so there doesn't seem to be much point. Still it might be fun.

Stuart MacLean told the story swap tale. It wasn't Tyler's, but it didn't matter. I'd enjoyed my Sunday noon hour drive listening to the programme and feeling good about where I live and the freedom that is so much a part of my life.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Last of the Menopausal Insomnia Laments

Well ... this is the last one. I tried Debbie's remedy ... no alcohol.

Last night I was up every hour just as always, and I was up for two hours during the 2 o'clock sweat. I am watching closely and I realize I have hourly hot flashes day and night no matter what I do. I go to Wakefield for groceries and am assaulted on the way home. I eat a breakfast of toasted BLTs on homemade bread and have a flash. I discuss an artist's website with Tamarak and my brain explodes and I lose interest. I walk the dog, burst into flame, and begin to fling clothing off in all directions. (Ten minutes later I am shivering and searching for the bits and pieces.)

I have taken to wearing only an old bright pink plushy housecoat at home because it makes it easier to strip off rapidly and then bundle up as soon as the chills start. At night I sleep nude in a cold room with a sheet over me until the flames consume me. I keep my duvet beside me to cuddle up in when the sweat turns icy. On my bedside table is a large glass of cold water which I refill every time I pee. It requires considerable resource management to get through a night.

Today I am making a Nova Scotian (Acadian) cassoulet with pork tenderloin, port wine, white beans, and cranberries. It is a good project for a rainy day, and it doesn't matter if I am wearing something my grandmother wouldn't have been seen dead in (and she used to shuffle around the house in oversized men's house slippers wearing one of the two black and white polka dotted rayon dresses she found in Simpson's bargain basement.)

If anyone drops in to share the cassoulet they will likely be treated to hourly strip shows. Be warned.

Once I have the results of the biopsy and ultrasounds (mid November) I will decide how to handle this. If the uterus show signs of malignancy I imagine they will remove it and all the now unnecessary accroutrements, and then I will, I think, go back on HRT. If it is not malignant I will go back on the HRT.

In the two weeks until I know I will try the local pharmacy's homeopathic for menopause.

No matter what, I won't continue in this state of overheated and stupidity enhancing stasis.

There, that's it. The last of the burning sweating laments.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Two Susans

My second daughter was due today but since she had already arrived a week before, this day fifty years ago, was probably just another day after another sleepless night and no more bloggable than today. Sorry ... I wish I could summon up something more exciting for you.

Well, now ... what to write about? I am writing but it would be really boring to blog about writing!

Sarah and Remi were here yesterday morning. She brought some wonderful baklava and we had tea before heading out with the dogs to the logging road. Kenya chased sticks into the stream that runs under the bridge, and wrestled and bounded after Remi. Both dogs came home exhausted, dirty and happy. Sarah and I ate stew with colcannon for lunch. Yummy.

In the afternoon I swept and mopped up dog hair (Kenya's ... Remi doesn't shed) and did some writing.

After supper I watched The Killing Fields (one tough movie), took Kenya out to pee, had a warm bath, swallowed my natural sleep remedy, and slept for two hours. I awoke, slept for an hour, and drifted back to sleep, waking at one hour intervals ... again. I was perfectly happy all night long but I think next time I go to the pharmacy I am going to look at their homeopathic relief for hot flashes. I would really prefer to sleep during the night and be fully awake all day.

I have been writing a piece about how moving out here to the lake has changed my perspectives and my life. It is far too long and rambling and is ready for a first edit. I had intended to do that today, but instead, it will become part of tomorrow's plan. Today is my only chance to see the work of a sculptor Tammy found. Susan Valyi works with wood, bone, metal and soapstone, and her work is being shown at the Lafreniere and Pai Gallery on Murray Street.

It is very easy to put aside editing for fun.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Zapped Brain Cells

Brain Cells Zapped

Every time I have a hot flash ... that's when your crazy mixed up adrenals shoot an overload of adrenalin into your system ... I feel as if my brain has been zapped by something like a battery operated mosquito killer, only this zap is powered by something much more powerful than a couple of 2A batteries.

My hot flashes are nuclear powered and the number of brain cells that get zapped is in the multitudes. I can forget my own name when it happens, never mind the train of thought or even the topic under discussion.

But I could learn to live with the ones that happen during the day if I could only get a night's sleep. I am awakened every hour and sometimes awake for two or three hours when I get one of these night sweats.

I find myself dying to go to bed each evening because I am exhausted, and dying to get up for the day in the small hours of every morning because sleep is impossible.

Last night I took a herbal remedy for insomnia containing Valerian. I was wonderfully relaxed and fell asleep immediately. Of course I fall asleep immediately anyway because I am so exhausted by bedtime. But imagine my surprise when I was wide awake at 11 but peaceful so I went back to sleep. And then again at 12 and 1 and 2.

Except that at 2 I lay there thinking. I wasn't anxious, just very awake. I read for a while ... a book of short stories by Melanie Little. I had met her in a poetry course we were both taking and then again at the International Writers' Festival where she was speaking. In that occasion, Marta and I discussed her in the washroom and a voice emerged from one of the cubicles saying she was listening and she was Melanie. A few months later, Marta and I took a weekend writing course from her and we all had lunch together. Then she became the writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta and we lost even those ephemeral strands of connection. Last week I read in the Globe and Mail that Melanie has started a small publishing house in Calgary, where she is the only employee. She has limited the number of books she publishes this fall to 4. The first one, a novel by Marina Endicott called Good to a Fault has been nominated for the Giller Prize. Wow, Melanie!

In Melanie's own book I discovered a note from her, a response to some poems I had written. I couldn't even remember the poems she mentioned.

I was wide awake so I went into my den closet where I store all kinds of writing, my own and that of others. I hunted for half an hour and finally found them. I almost couldn't remember the woman who wrote them. I think the hot flashes must have zapped those cells completely.

Here is a poem by that other Oma.

It is part of a series called "Acts of Casual Brutality".

Disappearing Acts

Where do you go when you leave?

Do you disappear into a book?
your work?
a bottle?

an all consuming affair of the heart?
a vagina?

or do you drop wordlessly
into an abyss?

When women friends plummet
I worry
so I hunt for them
and try to help them out

but with you I'm not sure ...
with you I perch uneasily ...

At first
you phoned as soon as you got home,
left things here,

Then the small disappearing acts began.
Unanswered emails.
Dead phone lines.

One day you vanished completely.

Later you said it was temporary.

Where did you go?

and where are you now?

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Pike Lake After Dark

Kenya and I headed out for our late walk with flashlight in hand and discovered that it felt like Northern Norway in winter, and also like my dad's farm in the Eastern Townships. People living in secluded places have a great deal in common, I realize.

The only time I turned the flashlight on was on my own property so I could see where my feet were as I navigated the hill to the house.

First of all there were only two houses with curtains on the windows. Rowboat Flo's and RoseMarie's ... both older women and both living in houses that are right on the main road around the lake but without being in the tiny hamlet where the houses are clustered.

In every other inhabited house the windows blazed with light allowing glimpses of the life going on inside. At this time of year several houses are empty because they are owned by cottagers, and Luigi is never home in the evenings because that is when his pizza business thrives.

The two Lises were each entertaining women friends. Gerry was visiting Andy and his wife. His own house had only Christmasy green and red lights at the front door. The entire front porch of Barrie's house was lit up and he had company. Claire and Tom were alone, as were Jenny,Tanya, Lyall and the new neighbour with the small child. I saw the blue light of two television screens.

Kenya and I walked our usual two miles all the way to the last house on the lake. The only sound we heard was the crunch of our feet on the leaf strewn road. The houses spilled out their light but the closed windows kept sound indoors.

In Northern Norway it is dark all winter and no one covers his windows. Oh, there are draperies that frame the glass, and candles and other lights in the windows, but walking in the darkness you always have a sense of community, a sense of safety. Even the children's snow forts are lit up, and ice candles line walkways.

My father's last painting was called "The Friendly Little Lights of North Troy". He died before he finished it, but the series of sketches and drafts show a man sitting in his rocking chair looking out the livingroom window of his secluded house in the mountains down toward the tiny lighted community of North Troy, many miles and a country away.

We may like to live like hermits away from people, but we take comfort in knowing that we are not completely alone, that we are still part of a community, connected to the world.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

You know you are getting older when ...

There are some things you just can't do any more.

My eco-wood arrived 2 days ago. Usually they truck it to the bottom of my hill and I help carry it in and stack it in the porch. This time the delivery man refused to bring it down the hill. He off-loaded the pallet beside my car. There are 39 steps down to my house and another 40 horizontal feet to the porch door. Each box weighs 35 pounds. There are 60 boxes on a pallet. That meant that I had over 1 ton of unwieldy weight to carry into the porch. If I were burning regular wood I could have carried it a few logs at a time from a wood pile, and I would have stored it outside. Eco-wood has to be stored indoors.

I was not happy with the new rules. Had I known this was going to happen I would have waited till the snow fell to order my wood so that I could use a sled to bring it down the hill. Or I would have considered an alternative to eco-wood.

Oh well, I thought stoically, I will just keep it wrapped in plastic and take it a few boxes at a time. We are supposed to have sunshine for the next few days. I'll carry about 20 boxes per day. I went over to the pottery to "break" my first three tiles for the bathroom, and, when I returned, started to transport the boxes to the porch.

I had a system.

I took the wheelbarrow to the top of the hill, unwrapped the plastic and put three boxes in the barrow. At the bottom of the hill just before the last set of steps I began the task of carrying each box into the porch. Because of the shape and weight, the only way to carry the boxes was straight out in front of me. I could feel the strain on my back almost immediately. By the time I got six boxes down to the porch, my back was screaming for mercy.

It was clear that I needed a new system.

I called Leonard and asked whether he could bring his fork lift over. The next day he manoeuvered the pallet down to the bottom of the hill for me. When I asked him how much I owed him, he said, "Well I didn't do much, you know." And finally, he said it would be $10. A good neighbour is a priceless gift.

That evening, Tammy and Carlos came for dinner. By the time they arrived I had managed to get 16 boxes into the porch. I had also discovered a better system. I could avoid carrying individual boxes down the stairs by using the sled and letting it careen down the slope to the gravel with its load of three boxes. That left only 30 feet to carry each one.

The three of us worked together and I got another few boxes stacked before my back gave out and Tammy sent me indoors. I retired to the kitchen to finish preparing the chicken dinner. They, god bless good friends with strong backs, finished carrying in the rest of the boxes. By the time they got to the end, the boxes had been feeding on their strength and now weighed 100 pounds each. How can I thank you, Tammy and Carlos? A chicken dinner is small recompense.

I am going to have to re-think my wood situation in the future. I need a system that will work without destroying backs. We can't do this every year.

As for the rest of this weekend, I am going to treat my back gently. I will busy myself with domestic duties instead of attempting jobs better suited to muscular young men. I will feed plants and maybe bring the lavender in to join the rosemary and parsley.

Maybe I will finally make the duvet cover I bought sheets for last year. Ever since Kenya decided that she likes to join me in bed at 5 a.m. my laundry has increased. It is her heavy shed time, and also the time when tenacious seeds with barbs hitchhike on her coat. Everything: hair, sand, and burrs, seems to end up between my sheets. I don't want to forbid her access to the bed because I get my soundest sleep of the night once she joins me.

It looks like a wonderful weekend for walks with the dog. A good weekend to relax at the lake.

Ever since the porcupine incident I take Kenya outside rather than letting her out, and as a result, I am discovering the night again.

This morning before light I took her out to pee and thought again how much I like darkness out here by the lake. Maybe we will spend some time this weekend exploring by flashlight.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Poverty Awareness Day

This is Poverty Awareness Day

I have known poverty first hand as a teenage bride and as a single mom, but I think I survived intact mainly because because I didn't come from a poverty stricken background. I never asked my father for help but I always knew that he would not let me or my children starve if things got too tough. My experiences with poverty occurred in the bad old days, the ones before medicare and other safety nets were in place.

I have seen poverty at close hand here in Canada. Two of my children were forced to go on welfare when they were single parents. But they, like me, were not undone by the experience.
In their case there were programmes in place to ensure that they lived decently if not well. And both were intelligent and knowledgeable so were able to navigate the system and get out of poverty.

In my case there were no safety nets but people were kind.

The doctor who delivered my first two children provided all my pre-natal care, performed the deliveries and included the children's well baby visits for the first year for $35 and $50 per child. I had to ask him how much I owed, and, when I asked why he hadn't billed me, he showed me his bank book and said, "Do I need to charge you money?"

The Ear, Nose and Throat specialist who cared for my children and performed their tonsillectomies gave special rates to Quebec teachers and nurses because he knew we were badly paid.

Both of those men made house calls because I had no car.

My first boss paid my $10 phone bill each month because I would need to phone if I were ever sick and my pay could not stretch that far. (I started teaching at $1800 per year and my rent was $77.50 per month.)

My neighbours gave my second child a three quart jug of milk for her birthday because she hated the powdered milk I could afford.

Through that whole period I don't think I ever felt desperate or hopeless. I was young. I was taking courses at night and in the summers. My salary would improve. If I were ever in a real jam my father would help.

The poverty I have seen in the developing world is much worse than any I saw in Canada. But even there, except for the orphaned children living under the streets of Ulaan Baatar, it was seldom completely hopeless. The Africans I knew were almost all poor, but so were their neighbours. Even the neighbours who were a little better off didn't live in radically different housing or eat different food. Everyone ate the local corn porridge with wild crafted greens stewed on the side and occasional pieces of chicken. The greens in Kenya are called sukuma wiki ... stretch the week ... and nearly everyone needed to stretch the week sometimes.

What distinguished the truly poor was their inability to provide any education for their children, and, in most places in the developing world, education is a commodity that is highly valued by everyone for without it there is no way to climb out of the abyss. And that is why I would see people with very moderate incomes ... steady jobs ... paying school fees for many children that were not their own. I once asked a woman who was comparatively well off how she managed to pay fees for sixteen youngsters. She said she had to; otherwise her children would find themselves having to help four times as many needy relatives.

I think that poverty hurts most when you are continually made to feel poor, when the systems don't work well; when everyone else around you has too much and doesn't share; when you feel smaller and less competent than everyone else.

I think that poverty devastates when you feel there is no escape route. Children without caring parents; old people; the mentally ill... those who come from a long line of poor and uneducated people ... and in a place like Africa when drought or war threatens even the most basic food supply.

I vote NDP because the party believes in helping people rise from poverty. I vote for them because their predecessors, the CCF, started a medicare system in Saskatchewan. These are the people who give people a hand up without tramplng on their dignity.

There is a saying in Africa that I heard from a Rwandan man in Kenya a couple of years ago that captures why it is important to help people help themselves rather than blaming them for their situation or pushing them out of sight.

"If you help one African he will pull 100 others out of the pit with him. If you push him in, he will drag 100 others with him."

Strategy sucks

Well ... so much for strategic voting! I am going back to the tried and true ... well at least to the familiar ... I will simply vote for what I believe in from now on.

Last night I went to the first meeting of a new book club. I think I will enjoy it. The books chosen range from non-fiction to biography to the short story to the novel to poetry. I like reading novels better than anything else, but maybe this will stretch me. The people seem interesting and intelligent. I just hope I can afford the books!

Today is going to be a cooking day. I am trying out recipes that are basic, down-to-earth and cheap. Yesterday I did a side dish with beans and green pepper. Today I am cooking up a minestrone and an apple cake.

I am glad this election is over and we can go on to other things, but that post election coverage on CBC was helpful last night. When I awoke every hour with night sweats I drank water while listening to the latest returns. The night passed more quickly than it usually does.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

On Voting Strategically

This will be the first time I have cast my ballot for any party other than the NDP ... if I can actually do it once I am in that booth. I have tried before but been unable to bring myself to put that X beside the name of the other candidate.

This time I think I will be able to even though the NDP candidate is an intelligent woman, a teacher, someone I respect.


Because I am in one of the tight race ridings. The Conservatives have a small lead over the Bloc which has a small lead over the Liberals ... and the two best parties are well behind. The incumbent here is a Conservative who has no empathy for people, not even the ones in his region. And this is Pontiac riding. It has an ultra conservative anglo population especially around Shawville. I think the Liberals are the only ones who could possibly get the English vote away from the Conservatives.

But then I think, what if other strategic voters decide to vote for the Bloc because they are in second place? What if I am simply throwing away my vote?

So ... bottom line is that I may get into that booth and waver and fail once again to vote against my heart.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Giving Thanks

This has been an outstanding weekend so far, and it is only 2/3 over. The weather has been sublime. I've had fun. I have felt a part of community. Who could ask for anything more?

On Saturday after walking Kenya a couple of times I went to a Thanksgiving afternoon and dinner at Erin's. She had gathered together an amazingly eclectic group of good people. I met and got to know people I had only met in passing like Edwin, the man who installed my pine floors. I met some great new people (among them, Ed's girl friend, Sophie, and Emma, his four year old daughter, Sophie's Franco-Ontarian friends, and Danny, the Texan musician who is Erin's friend). An added bonus was seeing Chris and Myrrha, students I had taught way back when. Both were students I really liked, and they have grown up to be people any mom would be proud of -- handsome, talented and warm. Thank you Erin. I can't remember when I have had so much fun at a party. You have a talent for being really truly inclusive.

On Sunday I walked with Kenya a couple of times and delivered new DVDs to my friends Claire and Tom. Claire is looking radiant and has gained two pounds despite the chemo she is undergoing.

In the late afternoon, I went to the Black Sheep where Danny was performing. I was prepared for an acceptable performance by a new friend, but he was wonderful. Erin, Ed, Sophie, Emma and I sat together eating bags of chips and drinking draft. Danny's music made my feet dance under the table and drew Emma out onto the dance floor when she wasn't singing along silently and drawing pictures for him.

I thought often of my own grandchildren as I interacted with Emma, and I called Kerry on Sunday morning. She and the family were having a homeless woman and her child and a couple of other needy people over to share their Thanksgiving turkey dinner.

So, this Thanksgiving I am giving thanks for family, our environment, and for good friends; and I am offering up a prayer to the universe that over the next year we can protect the things that really matter.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all my friends and family who read my blog.

Sunday, 12 October 2008


Does anyone else remember the feelies, those movies in Brave New World (I think) in which all the senses were assaulted?

This morning as I walked Kenya along deserted roads, I found myself wishing I had more than a camera or a keyboard to record the experience. The camera could capture the blue of the sky, the shapes of clouds that invited me into their hidden world, the smoky mists rising from the valleys and lakes, and the golden vibrancy of the fall colours, but I wished I could capture the other sensations and keep them alive forever.

In a quiet world, all sounds stand out. This morning the dogs at the boarding kennnel a mile or so down the road were being fed and their raucous voices carried over the distance. Despite their noise other sounds also reached us. The honking of geese still here enjoying Indian summer. The shuffling crunch of leaves underfoot, and the dry snap as they continued to fall.

It smelled wonderful today ... woodsmoke ... green freshness of evergreens and leaves ... morning damp earth in the woods. Down on Mountain Road hints of cow manure and baled hay wove themselves into the fabric.

And this was a day that felt good. The air against my skin was cool enough to make me wish I had knit mitten ends for my fingerless gloves, but the sun's warmth was already promising another summery day.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Emptied Out

This will be a scattered post, I am afraid. Part catch-up ... part rumination.

My first response to the big news --- the global financial crisis --- was to remind myself that I had almost nothing invested anyway; that I had resigned myself to the fact that my RRSPs looked small on paper and much smaller when I cashed them in. Then I checked and discovered that they hadn't lost a cent. I had told the banker when I withdrew the last lot that I would likely have to cash in the rest very soon and he said I should secure the balance --- so I did.

I am not a gambler and, I have discovered, not greedy. Oh, like everyone else, if an opportunity to make money falls into my lap I will not refuse. But I don't care enough about things beyond the basic necessities and few pleasures to want much money.

This "failing" has hobbled me over the years. I didn't work hard enough to sell my novel. I was easily discouraged. I didn't see any need to sell my teaching and administrative skills so I gave them away to teachers and children in developing countries. I have no regrets about my volunteer work overseas, but I do wish that I had not aborted Explosion. It deserved to be read, especially by young people in Nova Scotia.

My failure to value money has also served me well when times have got tougher. When I first retired I determined to discover how to live well on less, and every time there has been a down turn in my own finances, I have adopted the viewpoint that once your basic needs are met you can enjoy things that cost little or nothing.

And that, I believe, is what many people will have to realize now. It's not such a bad lesson to have to learn. Sure beats throwing oneself out a skyscraper window.

And now for the catch-up news:

1. Kenya is well again.

2. She had a visitor in her outside water bowl yesterday.

3. Life with Tango was fun except for his forays into forbidden foods.

4. It was good to see Marta and Henry on the weekend and Sarah and Remi on Wednesday. We ate well on both occasions.

5. My trip to town on Thursday was more tiring than fun but I stopped at Tammy's on the way home for a cup of tea that bolstered me for the final leg of the journey. I really hate shopping, especially in sub/urban stores where everyone is faceless. Here in Wakefield a shopping trip is a social occasion.

6. I started working on the tiles for the tub surround during Friday's pottery class. They flow like the landscape of these hills.

7. When I got home I made a batch of spaghetti sauce and took a couple of meals over to Barry who just got home from Toronto after having his knees replaced. Everyone on the lake is feeding him just now, and he likes the visits as much as the food since he faces eight housebound weeks.

Today I am going to a Thanksgiving dinner feast at Erin's. Her brother is smoking a turkey. Tomorrow afternoon I will go to a concert at the Black Sheep where her house guest, Danny Everett from Texas, will be performing.

On Monday I will just relax and remember Thanksgiving weekend two years ago when I broke and dislocated my finger hiking with dogs on a ridge when the weather was fantastic and the leaves as magnificent as they are this weekend. That accident changed my life quite radically and I changed as a result. It wasn't just the pain and time spent having surgeries and undergoing therapy. I lost my self assurance and my faith in our medical system. Two things I in which I had had unshakable confidence were revealed as fragile.

One of Carol Shields' characters, Daisy in The Stone Diaries, believes that "old people are better off obsessed than emptied out." I keep hoping to find something that will grab me by the throat so that I go back to being an old woman who is obsessed. I am tired of feeling emptied out.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

8 Hours of Sleep

Wow! When did that last happen? Both Kenya and I slept like babies last night. Wonder where that expression came from. Babies are not really deep sleepers. But I guess "slept like teenagers" would not conjure up the same images of round bums and peach skin ... sprawling gangliness instead.

It is still dark and the poinsettia plant remains tucked in the closet for the rest of the 14 hours of darkness it needs daily in the fall if it is to bloom in December. As soon as it is light outside I will take Kenya for a walk and feed Oberon. If Kenya's tummy seems to be back to normal I may plan a day in town.

I'd like to buy gas since it is lower than it has been for a while, visit Sarah and Remi in their new house, and spend some time with Tammy. I have to run errands but none are essential today.

But there are some places to explore: a concrete house on Pretoria whose exterior has been decorated by its artist-owner , the Mid-East grocery store where my nose will be sublimely happy, and the Sally Ann where I can just poke about looking for treasures.

Or I may just start to do some felting and finish the pair of special mitts I am making for my arthritic fingers, and put off the trip to town till Thursday.

It feels wonderful to have energy, enthusiasm and choices simultaneously.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Sax Notes

Early Saturday morning, before anyone else was up, I walked the dogs to the other side of the lake. I was following music that drew me as irresistibly as notes from Pan's flute. I expected I would find the source at the home of a neighbour who plays the guitar. It wasn't a guitar whose notes I followed, but it made sense that one musician would attract another. However; that was not where I found the source.

Instead the lonesome notes floated down from the mountain. A small red car was parked on the road below. I listened as the solo sax concert continued. Jazzy, bluesy, the music was the purest thing I had ever heard. I stood for a while, scanning the slope, hoping to catch sight of the musician, but I saw nothing.

The music followed me as I walked the dogs along the road and I felt privileged. It was a perfect fall day. The lake and the forest were peaceful and radiant. I was absolutely alone with the dogs and the music coming down the mountain. I felt connected to nature and to the unseen musician.

The rest of my weekend unfolded in its normal pedestrian way, but every time I performed a chore or walked the dogs, the music in my head, those clear notes, reminded me that life was precious.

That haunting music blessed me several times last night.

The raccoons had gotten into the garbage ... again ... and all three dogs (Kenya, Tango and Henry) got into it the one time they were allowed to run free since the porcupine affair. Sunday morning Kenya was up retching at 5:30. She produced bile wrapped in tinfoil. Then Tango began retching in several places as I made lavender pancakes for breakfast. He produced yellow bile which I covered with paper toweling until after breakfast. A few hours later, Kenya's diarrhea started.

Last night I was out with her at 9, at midnight, at 2 and hourly from then until 7 when we got up for the day. Each time I shrugged on an oversized fleece jacket and pants over my pyjamas and picked up the flashlight. Most times I let her lead me up the hill to the road and then I followed her staggering route along the road until she found a spot where she could turn in circles until she was released from the cramps by a watery gush. Sometimes I'd have to wash her before we returned to bed.

I was exhausted and the only thing that kept me from despair in those long dark hours was the music that played in my memory with such clarity I almost believed the sax player was still up on the mountain watching over me in the darkness.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Waiting for My Mail to Come In

Yesterday every walk hurt and there were three of them. Even pottery class hurt because I was standing on a cement floor the whole time. Garry, who was walking his two huskies and is an athlete, told me HOW to use the RICE method ... You take 20 minutes in the evening and put your foot higher than your body and ice it. That along with the compression bandage when I walk the dogs should help. Certainly after following his advice, last night was a better night than the preceding one.

Always before when my knee acted up, the pain and swelling started in the knee and stayed there. This time it started in the ball of my foot and traveled up along the shin to the outer hip. Then it started to affect the knee and the groin area. Finally it localized itself to the knee with only occasional twinges in the calf and groin. Until it settled into the knee giving me the familiar symptoms I had no idea what was going on.

In pottery class we learned how to make things using the slab method and we did some staining and glazing on pieces that were ready. I have nearly finished the piece I started last week, a coil dish. I always seem to be one class behind. Carrie came to the house and we are going to do the tiles for the bathroom together but will do those outside regular class time because I really want to work on the different methods as she teaches them. There are two excellent potters and one good one in the class ... and then me. One of the excellent ones is brand new but she seems to have a real gift. She mastered the wheel the first class and yesterday made a beautiful lantern for a candle.

When I got home I discovered tin foil on the floor and toilet paper strewn upstairs. Tango had eaten the banana bread on the counter and then rummaged through the waste basket beside the toilet. From the delectable to the disgusting. I am so used to Kenya's disinterest in such things that I had not closed the bathroom door or cleared the counter before I went to class.

I have started the in-floor heating. Well I have tried to get it going. The breakers for that tank keep switching off so I have gotten in the habit of checking their position every few hours. They stayed put all night so I hope that is a good sign. I really want this system to work because it is the nicest heat imaginable ... cozy without any intrusion or pollution ... sort of like living in a tropical area. Warm inside in winter but cooler inside in summer. I was always surprised in Jordan that our apartment with its thick walls was such an oasis of coolness despite the fact that there was no air conditioning. The cement slab floor operates much the same way except that it requires heating in winter.

Someone must have sent me a photo or 5 because I have been trying to receive the first message in my e-mail since 7 a.m. — almost twenty minutes. I hope it is worth the wait and not some piece of junk mail forwarded by someone I have already told to PLEASE stop sending me these image-dense messages.

Well it was both ... a video about Kotex set in the fifties ... when they were the size of diapers and attached to sanitary belts. It was very funny The rest of my mail was less interesting but I did get one spam message whose heading was:

"Waken your body and produce the necessary growth of an organ."

Now doesn't that give rise to interesting speculation!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Hot Flashes

I have been researching how to get my luxuriantly leafed poinsettia to bloom for Christmas, enjoying the antics of Kenya and Tango, baking banana bread, simmering autumnal soups, potting up rosemary plants for the winter, putting away deck chairs and solar lamps, starting up my heating which will jump my hydro bills tenfold (now if only I could get my income to do the same), watching the fall colours take over, and wondering when the nine Merganser ducks on the lake will head south. (They have survived surprisingly well this season. Usually by now the original brood of a dozen is down to two or three.)

I have also been enduring hot flashes that create hot spots in my bed that make me think of running my hand over the ironing board after ironing cottons. They keep me awake for an hour each time even though my body cools down after a few minutes. During the day they trick me into thinking my house is warm, so there are some benefits. Maybe there is some way to use them to heat the radiant floor.

What I have not been doing is writing. I find that any irregular but frequent intrusions on my peace destroy my ability to think for any length of time. These suffusions are destroying brain cells as well, I am certain.

One of my children gave me a book by Susun Weed back in 1992 when I was 52 and could have been expected to need guidance through menopause. I didn't expect to need it at 68 ... but the symptoms I endured for a year at 60, and sent into abeyance with HRT are back in full force.

Weed's crone says, "....your Menopausal Change lets loose lightning-like hot flashes and waves of energy that free your feelings and stir your spirit....strong energies will move within you...allow those hot flashes and sleepless nights to guide you into metamorphosis and initiation."

Weed goes on to say that our society, with its emphasis on youth, its denigration of old people, especially women, who become even more powerless, even more invisible in old age, does not give us the support and acceptance when we become menopausal that is afforded in other societies. We are supposed to go through the change invisibly. I think that may be changing as women make jokes about the flashes and sweats, as women are more open about such things.

I hope Susun Weed is right, that this is a passage through fireworks into something better, and that I have the energy left to enjoy it.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Oh No! I Caught Another Faerie by Accident

I swear I didn't see him in the bull rushes. I just thought the bull rush was beautiful. I hope I don't incur any wrath this time.