Monday, 30 March 2009

Oma in Creek in Flood ... see my boot?

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Flood Waters

I had a flood last night ... I am taking a break to drink tea and tell you about it. I will post some photos later.

At 7, water started oozing over the front door sill. I made three phone calls, and by the time I was making the third I was ankle deep in filthy water everywhere on the ground floor. It was flowing in steadily ... far too fast for me to be able to mop it up. I tried bailing outside and mopping inside.

Then I made the three phone calls.

I left at message the first time ... an urgent message ... but he didn't call back.

The next was to Tamarak for advice. She and her Carino arrived within an hour with their two dogs, their dinner ingredients, axes and shovels . I was not sure the dogs should have come but they were actually helpful later.

The third was to Eric who built my retaining wall. He came within half an hour with a chain saw, ice picks and shovels.

The four of us worked in the dark until 9:30 and managed to clear a path for the water. Eric sawed through and removed a couple of trees that were blocking the creek. Then Eric went home and we went inside where Tammy cooked dinner and Carlos and I began the mop up job.

After dinner we finished moving the only (thank god) drenched carpet and other things and mopped some more.

The dogs tried to help by slurping up water as fast as dog tongues can lap.

They all left at midnight. By then we had basically just a dirty wet floor downstairs. I turned the heat way up so that the floor would dry itself overnight.

This morning I began the job of sweeping to be followed by disinfecting and moving things back. Leonard (a local farmer who clears my road) will come over later this morning to help me make sure the creek can run steadily without blocking up. There is far too strong a current for me to work safely alone.

My back feels as if it is broken. I may have to call a cleaner to help. But the only thing that got lost or irreparably broken was the flashlight I lent to Eric. He stumbled and fell in the stream and the flashlight was swept into the lake.

My retaining wall held fine ... it was just too much water for the creek whose flow was impeded. I hadn't gone out at all yesterday, and the day before the creek was snow covered in parts and running freely in others so I thought everything was fine.

Kenya on the other hand had been acting strangely ... she knew there were problems. Fortunately dogs are above saying "I told you so."

Sunday, 29 March 2009

The spring side of the lake

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It's still winter on my side of the lake

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Wabi Sabi

My last three pairs of Wabi Sabi socks ...

Wabi Sabi
involves two distinct but complementary strands ...

Wabi by itself has come to mean simple, unmaterialistic, humble by choice, and in tune with nature.

Sabi means "the bloom of time". Today it means to take pleasure in things that are old and faded. Sabi things carry their age with dignity and grace.

When the two are put together we have a philosophy which embraces imperfections. "Wabi sabi is a kind of beauty that's imperfect, impermanent and incomplete," says Leonard Koren in his book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.

One of the sources I went to said that "Wabi-Sabi is rooted in the idea that perfection is a kind of death."

What it all comes down to is taking pleasure in simple things, accepting the aging process, and recognizing beauty in the flawed nature of life.

I used to be a perfectionist, but the aging process has a way of making one realize that if all we ever seek is perfection we will forever be dissatisfied.

Without ever having heard the term I began to explore Wabi-Sabi when I retired. I decided to discover the happiness to be found in things that cost little or nothing. I sought out free entertainment in Ottawa and discovered the court house. I attended a months-long murder trial and got a free education in the law. I learned where free movies were being shown. I began to use the parkways and the canal. Nature became a primary source of joy.

I began to love puttering about in thrift stores. And then I began to make things from my woollen sweater purchases ... felted slippers and tea cozies. That in turn led to knitting.

And it was knitting that introduced me to the words "Wabi Sabi". I had decided to start knitting socks as a form of inexpensive entertainment and a way to keep arthritis at bay. It would involve a learning curve so would also be good for my brain. I went to a yarn shop on Wellington Street called Wabi Sabi. There I discovered hand spun and dyed wool that was glorious in its imperfection. The owner gave me a sock pattern and a brief introduction to the name "Wabi Sabi" and I headed back to the hills.

The first thing I learned as I made that initial pair of socks was that I loved the process ... no matter what kind of product emerged. I was luxuriating in the glories of the wool. I didn't even mind ripping things out. This was a far cry from my earlier experiences with knitting. I used to hate the doing but like the done.

That first pair of socks has ridges under the heels because I had trouble reading the pattern. The toes are not grafted and each one is different because I tried different ways of getting around my inability to graft them properly.

Each subsequent pair has fewer mistakes but I have yet to make a perfect pair. And it doesn't matter. What matters is that I am happily playing with a natural fibre that is beautiful in its imperfection. I do a lot of thinking while I knit ... it is a form of meditation. And I have learned ... truly learned ... that the socks are more than socks. They are symbols for the way I should always be living my life ... living in the moment ... thoughtfully ... enjoying the process and my part in it. Not worrying about perfection. Seeing the beauty in the natural flaws in things.

I live in an imperfect house. My dog is imperfect. I am beginning to realize that the imperfections are what give both their personality ... and that it is these imperfections that make them unique. If my house looked like something that jumped off a glossy magazine page or if my dog were a perfectly trained show dog who never thought for herself and never surprised me I would likely not love them as much as I do.

It is at least as important to accept the imperfections in people ... including myself ... especially myself. It has taken far too long for me me to understand this.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Sock it to me!

I made a brief appearance at the Black Sheep. I was the woman sitting fairly close to the door knitting. I left when Layla arrived ... spoke with her for a few minutes and then made my way back to the hermitage.

They had a great crowd ... all very young ... all enjoying the heavy, loud and intensely rhythmic music. Much more rhythm than music for an old lady. I found myself knitting faster and faster and with a steady beat.

Tyren's grown-up orange socks will be ready for his 16th birthday at this rate. I will post photos of the last three pairs I have knit. None are perfect ... but then ... if they were I would have abandoned the Wabi Sabi principle ... but they are all less imperfect than my first few pairs ... and the wool I chose creates lovely patterns ... asymetrical (of course) in the Wabi Sabi tradition.

Tomorrow a post devoted to the philosophy of Wabi Sabi ... a philosophy that, through knitting, is rescuing me from my perfectionism.

Black Sheep and Hermits

From 2-5 today Sound the Alarm will be at the Black Sheep in Wakefield.

It is supposed to be a beautiful afternoon ... great for a drive up to the beautiful little village of Wakefield, so I hope if you are reading this that you will come up to enjoy the music.

For those people who were concerned about Julius and the problems incurred by the death of his son ... all is now resolved. Pat and Deb sent enough money to cover everything. Thank you both.

I am looking forward to getting away from the hermitage for the afternoon and then Tamarak and her Carino are coming for dinner.

I have decided that I need to get out more. Hermits need to get out of their houses and out of themselves occasionally. We all need more portals to the outside world than email and the internet can provide.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

This Just In from Julius

Hii babra, I have trasiported the body to my home this monning, although i was not having enough money , But what you sent to me yesterday was helped me to have a total of ksh 13,000 , so i still have their balance of ksh 5,000,But i gave them my land certificate to stand for the balance. so when i get the balance i return my certificate back so i hve written to patrick saying thank you for what he did.I also say thank you for what you did to to make my fineral succeed, tommorow is the burial ,bye bye , from julius.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Update on the Funeral for Julius' Son

The money arrived safely today and Julius is arranging to have him buried either Wednesday or Thursday.

Just an aside ... sending via Western Union is very expensive. Does anyone know of a safe efficient cheap way to send money? Usually I send it to a friend who is in Kenya six months of the year; it is sent to a Canadian address and the friend in Kenya accesses that fund.but this time that was not possible.

I am always concerned about sending money because the Lions' Club sent $500 for a year of a boy's education when school fees were not covered by the government ... through a Lions Club there ... and it disappeared into the banking system. I took the second donation of $1000 to cover two years when I went over and paid the boy's fees.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

The Sudden Emptiness of the Hermitage

For ten days the hermitage bustled with activity created by dogs and family. Yesterday it really swelled when the three older children arrived. Then, just as suddenly, the noise, the clutter and the love stopped ... like a clock in mid-rhythm. Everyone clambered up the 39 steps and into the van and disappeared.

Before I even had a chance to breathe a sigh of relief that I had my orderly solitary life of solitude restored to me, I felt terribly terribly lonely. Mud Mama and her noisy brood had been sucked out of my life leaving only a vacuum in their place.

I felt the way Kenya always feels when we give back our dog boarders ... bereft.

The two of us are moping around. Kenya keeps flopping down on a surface near me. I try to fill the empty quiet with spring cleaning.

Three months is a long time to wait for another visit. I wish Mud Mama lived close by. I wish all my children did.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Sounding the Alarm

Hii babra , i have lost my through the eye cancer , he has been in the hospital for two weeks . now he is dead. so ai now working on how i can transiport the body for burrial, pass my sorry to gerry and the others . Things has gone crazy for now .bye bye .

I received this email yesterday from a Kenyan friend. He was my askari (house guard) when I lived in Kakamega. His life is very typical of African lives. I knew him as an honest, hard working man who cared deeply about his family, who valued education, who worked very hard, and who cared about the welfare of others.

In the photo, Julius' son is the small boy on the left. The other boy is a neighbour.

When this son was just a toddler Julius came to me for help about his eye. Then it was diagnosed simply as an infection that required hospitalization and drugs. Julius took the boy and his grandmother to the hospital and returned to work. His wife had a new baby girl to look after so she couldn't stay with her son at the hospital. In Africa patients require family members to be there with them because there are not enough staff or resources to ensure that they are kept clean.. Even food must be brought in by the family care giver.

Julius was most concerned about the health of his son's eye because he wanted him to have the education he had been denied through poverty. It was important that he see well.

During my time there, Julius came to me occasionally for small loans which he repaid faithfully. The last loan he needed was for seed to plant his field in corn. I remember writing out a contract for that loan. I gave him the money on the Saturday before his Sunday off. (Askaris get one day off every two weeks) He was to pay me back at a set amount per month. On the Monday morning when he came in to work he brought me the full amount. When I asked why, he said his wife had got a job making school uniforms and he didn't need the money.

I didn't see Julius for three years after I left Kenya. We corresponded and I asked him to check on a child being helped at the Daisy Centre for Handicapped Children. He sent regular reports on this child and on other students I knew who were being helped by ACCES where he was working.

When I visited Julius and his family in 2006, the children were happy and healthy and Julius had built a small house on his tiny plot of land. He was working the night shift as an askari and farming by day. His wife was expecting their third child. He introduced me to his neighbours and to their oldest son who was a bright boy who was getting ready to enter high school.Julius was encouraging him and was prepared to help him financially. I left thinking that life was good for Julius and his family.

Over the course of the last two years, Julius lost his job, the new baby died soon after her birth, his wife was killed in a traffic accident, and now this tragedy has befallen his family.

Julius has, with help from Canada (Sound the Alarm), managed to pay the costs for two years of schooling for his young neighbour, and he has somehow cobbled together enough money to bury his infant daughter and his wife and to pay the medical costs associated with his son's eye cancer. All this on a plot of land perhaps 1 acre in size. He stays in touch regularly but seldom asks for anything except help with the school fees.

My experience in Africa is with people like Julius, people who are decent and hard working, people who care about others. They are without exception people who don't give up when life becomes overwhelming and who stretch out their hands to help others whenever they can.

I know there are the scammers from Nigeria but the Africans I know are people like Julius whose lives are fraught with misfortune but who keep on following their own hard working, decent paths.

A Rwandan man I met on this last trip told me that if you pull one African out of a well he has fallen into, he will emerge with 100 others hanging onto him. If you push one African into that well, he will drag 100 along with him.

Sound the Alarm is having a benefit concert at the Black Sheep Inn later this month. Layla and her organization are helping educate young Africans like Julius' neighbour. They have provided funds to improve the lives of children at the Daisy Centre. They have made it possible for a man who makes jewellery to board his teenaged daughter at school so that she will be safer than the girls who must walk long distances in the dark to school. They are helping people like Julius pull children out of the well. I will be attending that concert. I hope to see some of you there too.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Quick Post from a Busy Household

My usually quiet hermitage is bursting at the seams with energy.

Sprout is singing with his dad in their bedroom after a good night's sleep aided by a homeopathic teething remedy. The night before he was high on his first chocolate. We discovered that chocolate not only makes him hyperactive and unable to sleep; it also ups his gastric acid production and makes him very grumpy. No more chocolate for Sprout!

Mica and Kenya went on a very long run yesterday. After an hour and a half they had not returned despite calling for them ... (very unusual) ... so I went out in the car looking. I had almost reached the main road when I saw Mica's silver form shoot out of the bush and come onto the road. I tried to offer her a ride but she was on a mission. She was following Kenya who was streaking for home quite a bit ahead of her. At home they drank gallons of water and ate a treat and then they slept for hours. Mica continued to sleep long after Kenya was re-energized and we noticed that she was not just exhausted but limping. She is refusing food and treats now and it seems that she has broken one of her toenails right to the quick. They had been going cross country over the mountain and Mica was very muddy so who knows exactly where or how the accident might have happened. I suspect they were chasing the deer and she caught her foot in fencing or undergrowth. From now on they will be let out in tandem. No more going out together for these two girls.

Mud Mama and I have been poring over the knitting book she brought with her ... one skein wonders ... and I have nearly finished the second sock of the pair I started last week. These will be Nature Girl's birthday present, I think. Mud Mama has been practising various stitches and things while she has a guide at the side.

I did a ham wrapped in bread dough yesterday for dinner. I started the bread dough the evening before and Mud Mama stayed up and played with it for hours after I went to bed so that it was ready by morning. (I hadn't put nearly enough water in it and then mud mama put in too much and had to knead flour into it before putting it into the fridge.

It has been nice having family around. The hermitage bustles for a change.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Quick Updates

I have turned the heel of the first fine sock!!!

I have spent the morning doing some exciting research for the novel which will enrich it I think! Also provided a title.

And now I am going to make an errand run into the village.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Ancient Titles

Some titles sound VERY old. Great Aunt, for instance. The only people who ever talk about great aunts are themselves middle aged or older so the words Great Aunt (usually pronounced with a distinctly upper class British accent) always conjure up for me a vision of crepiness, blued silver hair coiffed in unmovable tight curls under a hat with a veil ... in short a very old but very fashionable woman of some means.

My daughters, Mud Mama and Zoom, are so far from this image that it makes me laugh.

But yes, they will be great aunts by Christmas.

I will be an Ur-Oma ... and that also makes me giggle. I am far too young to be an Ur-Oma.

But strangely enough, Debbie is exactly the right age to be a grandmother and Lindsay is exactly the right age to be a momma.

I am delighted that my eldest grand daughter is going to be providing our family with a new baby for us all to love.

Isn't it lucky that I have learned to knit with such fine wool on such tiny needles just in time to make baby clothes?

Thank you, Lindsay, and congratulations. You will be a wonderful mother.

Dealing with Dial-up and Quebec Bureaucracy


It is nearly noon and all I have done this morning is bake banana bread, do half the on-line banking, send off by email the submission for the workshop, and fill out the Elections Quebec form.

The rest of the chores are still not done, and it has nothing to do with procrastination this time. It just takes forever to do anything because I have to keep on re-dialing and spending time waiting for screens to load.

I also have to photocopy 2 documents before I can send off the Election forms so that I can vote in the provincial election next time. Amazing how difficult it is to live here sometimes. I had no trouble voting in the Federal election but was denied my vote in Quebec because they screwed up my address. It never helps that the form they send is unilingual. I can read it but it takes much longer to ensure that I get everything right. Sometimes I feel as if I need a mentor ... you know ... the kind of person who eases a refugee or immigrant through the intricacies of the new system. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by how easy everything is but just as often everything seems completely foreign to me, and I feel as if I am running up against intransigent brick walls of bureaucracy that make no sense at all.

I haven't made any of the phone calls on my list and I have one more on-line chore to accomplish.

I may not get any writing done today at all. Damn.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Homemade at Oma's Hermitage

At 2 a.m. I thought I might have thrown away time and money. The yogurt in the mason jars had set but the two bowls contained very liquid whey.

I put the jars in the fridge, put the bowls back in the oven, turned on the oven light, went back to bed and stewed.

Oh well, I thought philosophically, the whey will be healthy. I will pour that over Kenya's food and use it to make bread. And I went back to sleep.

This morning I got up to discover that I had 4 (yes, I made a mistake yesterday) litres of fresh nicely set yogurt. The cost per litre is $1.30. The cheapest commercial yogurt I have found (packaged in plastic and not as full of wonderful enzymes and such)costs $5.69 for 2 litres or $2.84 per litre. And I have to make a trip to Costco to buy it.

My yogurt, like my homemade bread, is cheaper, healthier and always available. Availability is an important consideration when you live where I do.

Do I sound like a proselytizing born again hippie living off the land? Yeah. But I promise I won't keep blogging about it. I'll just get that lovely little thrill of accomplishment every time I make some, the same as I do when my multigrain bread comes out of the oven or I make a great meal on the wood stove which was already being used to heat the house.

On the knitting front I just have to graft the toe of the second red sport sock and I will have completed my fourth pair of socks. Each time they get better ... never perfect ... but the owner of Wabi Sabi (a knitting store in Hintonburg near the Elmdale Tavern) told me that Wabi Sabi means it's okay to make mistakes, that the purpose of knitting is the process not perfection. I think that philosophy is what has enabled me to learn at this late date to knit socks.

This pair has grafted toes AND sturdy double heels!

The next pair I tackle will be made of very fine wool worked on needles the size of toothpicks ... but it knits up BEAUTIFULLY. I love the swatch I made. I suspect it will be months before I graft the toes on these. I bought enough in different colour combination to make four pairs. I decided to start with Heartland (pale yellows, blues and greens) because it was my least favourite. I figured if I were going to destroy one with ineptitude it better be the one I like least. The others are Mellow Stripe, Tequila Sunrise and Spring Stripe ... don't they sound yummy?

And the novel? Dan is going to discover the body today. I have written the suicide note which will be part of the back story ... and the suicide will appear to be an accident to everyone except Emily, the recipient of the note. I wish I could enact the situation by walking through a local barn beside Dan, but it's icy and grey today so I will likely not bother. I will try to slip imaginatively into Dan's skin and make the trip at my computer.

And yes, I will try to get to the things on my to-do list!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

This is what 3 litres of yogurt looks like

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Kenya's Spiffy Scarf

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Not too lazy Sunday

I have not accomplished a great deal today but I did do some work on the novel and took Kenya to the village with me. My intention was to buy milk and then go for a walk some place where the roads were less icy than here ... more amenable to walking. Kenya got all dressed up in her new scarf and looked pretty spiffy.

We bought the milk and found a great spot between two sunny fields but as soon as I got out the car the wind caught me and practically tore my jacket off. The windbreaker broke no wind! I drove home.

Enroute we saw a flock of shaggy sheep and a pack of Alsatians lying peacefully on their dog house roofs. Then we saw a road sign showing a husky crossing. Just as I was thinking how cute that was, two deer bounded across the road.

When we got back to our parking space I unloaded the groceries and let Kenya loose, and then we visited Tanya (my nice neighbour) and I drank tea and ate some home made pumpkin and chocolate chip squares and Kenya got a bunch of loves.

When we came to the house ... my gawd it is treacherous up here today especially wearing rubber boots ... I made three litres of yogurt which will be ready sometime late tonight ... and we curled up and watched Pan's Labyrinth. I worked on the second red sock and Kenya dozed.

I am up here preparing this post because the movie was at that terrible torture scene and I didn't think I could face it just then. I am not sure I can face it at all. I may just do something elsewhere till it is over.

I hope everyone has had as pleasant a Sunday as I have.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Look! A Seamlessly Grafted Toe!

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Almost Spring and the Writing Trudges on in Waterproof Boots

Yesterday I went through the first 20 chapters and made myself a kind of visual representation of it. I wish I had a white board wall in my den, but this worked okay ... 20 pieces of paper taped together and strung out in two rows on the wood of the kitchen counter back so that I could read it from the dining room.

I discovered some gaps and I realized what needs to be written ...

Generally, since I started work on it again, I have been guilty of wanting to move the story forward to its appropriate conclusion. That can lead to plot driven crap. Those parts need to be re-written ... which of course may end up changing the direction of the novel.

Some writers can plan their books. That would work for me with non-fiction maybe ... but maybe not even then. Writing tends to be something alive rather than static. It takes on a life of its own and determines its own path. At least that's what happens when it is going well.

When it is not, I find myself dictating to it and it dies and becomes just words that fit in boxes.

It is still hard slugging but I have decided which chapter to send in for critiquing and admission to the Great Blue Heron workshop June 30-July 5 in Antigonish. (A very early one ... Chapter 2 ... because the writing was leading me then, and maybe it will be good enough to gain me acceptance to this workshop.)

I make lists for myself and it is amazing how the same items appear daily because I hate making phone calls or dealing with my dial-up system for business.

This weekend I will go out and play in the puddles and I will write because I can't do the phone calls till Monday and the dial-up connection is even more crowded on the weekend.

Next week I will call to make a medical appointment, get reimbursed for an out of province medical fee incurred at Christmas, I will cancel a credit card I never use but pay an annual fee for, I will finish the registration for Great Blue Heron, and I will deal with the on-line registration for the desk light I bought.

Remind me! Embarrass me!

It is almost spring and I have no commitments this weekend so I can dig out the violent pink rubber boots and wear them over the colourful yellow socks. Maybe I will go over to one of my neighbours and learn how to finish my socks properly. I have a lovely vibrant red sock whose toe is ready to be woven. OH! Did I tell you? Yesterday a big bag of yarn arrived from Kitchener-Waterloo. Some of it is sock yarn that knits up in a fair isle pattern by itself ... and it has aloe vera in it to make it feel wonderful to knit.

Maybe the socks and boots will encourage more colourful writing.

But then ... maybe the new yarn will entice me away from writing ... again ...

Friday, 6 March 2009

Is it me?

Am I just old fashioned?

I must have moved the side dial on my clock radio because I woke up this morning at 6 to a news item that inspired great hilarity. The female news reader was telling us about a British couple. The woman had bitten off 1/3 of the man's tongue while they were kissing. The reason she gave was that they were having difficulty conceiving.

It was the husband's reaction to all this that caused the three people on the radio show to crack right up. The husband said he could no longer taste curry. He couldn't tell whether his toast was toast with cheese or merely toast.

At this point someone said, "Couldn't he just look?"

The news reader continued through restrained laughter that the man was no longer able to speak or work.

And then ... one of the men on this show, I think his name was Rush, immediately began to speak as if he had lost a large portion of his tongue and were East Indian. The original news reader completely lost it. She giggled till I was sure she would wet her pants.

One of the two male hosts said, "That's not funny," and the the man mimicking the husband just rode right over his protest and even began to read the next news items in the East Indian handicapped accent. The woman couldn't even attempt to contain her laughter. Wave after wave of uncontrollable giggles erupted.

A year ago I was traveling in the Toronto area and listened for a while to another on-air racist exchange, and I wondered how they got away with this on Canadian radio. This morning I realized that it is happening in Ottawa too.

I was listening to 89.9 ... the hot radio station ... the fastest growing radio station in Ottawa.

I have thought for some years now (that tells you how old and crotchety I am becoming) that CBC has really lowered its bar in an attempt to garner more of the radio audience, but CBC just rose miles in my estimation after listening to today's competition.

I guess I spend most of my life cocooned from life. I listen to CBC. I watch movies instead of television. I live forty minutes from the nearest urban area. I spend more time with dogs than I do with people.

Maybe that is why I was shocked this morning.

Funny, I was just thinking I should probably get out more. Now I am not so sure.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Spay Neuter Swap Clinic

People in our area have set up a clinic to get strays and animals belonging to people too poor to pay spayed or neutered. I am not entirely sure how the financing works, but basically it depends on donations to operate. Business people offer their services free, and people using the clinic pay if they can and get a chit for one of the free services. The money is used to provide free services for those who need them.

I have offered a three day stay for a dog with all the same conditions that apply if I were doing it for money except that the spay-neuter clinic gets the $75.

When I stayed on the out island of Eleuthera (one of the Bahamian family islands ... and as different from places like Freeport and Nassau as it is possible to be) I adopted a stray dog that I called Chance. She was a golden colour and looked a lot like a coyote.

Chance loved, and I mean loved, puppies. She had just finished whelping when she came to us. Her dugs were still swollen and she was thin from feeding a litter. But it was her habit of stealing them and bringing them home with her that convinced me completely.

She would arrive at the house with a puppy alongside. They'd play for as long as it took for me to set off on yet another return-the-puppy trip. I'd call around to see which family had lost its puppy this time. There were only a couple of them so it didn't take long, but then we'd all three walk back along the coral roads till we arrived at the scene of the kidnapping. It usually took a fair bit of time traveling by road keeping the two dogs with me, and I often had to carry the exhausted but still wriggling puppy half way. (Chance had probably taken shortcuts unknown to me when she got him in the first place.)

Chance would cry and hang around the puppy until I attached a rope to her new collar and led her away. It was never more than a week before I'd look out and see the puppy playing on the front lawn with Chance.

When I returned to Canada I found a new owner for Chance and took her up island to Harbour Island where there was a free spay-neuter clinic. It ran on the donations and energy of a group of committed women.

Getting her there was an adventure involving a truck, a boat and a walk through streets busy with golf cart traffic that terrified Chance. Getting home involved a motorcycle ride with a prone dog sprawled across my lap as well as the boat trip and the truck ride back home to Rainbow Bay.

I helped the vet perform that spaying as well as the one that preceded it. During the first spaying, the pit bull came out of the anaesthetic and had to be re-anaesthetized. This caused some consternation around the table. I hadn't thought to worry till the vet's voice cut through the confusion, "Get her drugged now. This is the dog from hell."

During Chance's operation blood spurted everywhere, and I wiped the vet's glasses clean for her. Chance had gone into heat in the waiting room making the surgery more difficult and messier.

I am one of those people who stops to watch at an accident. I want to see for myself. I really wanted to see what happened when a dog is spayed.

I didn't expect it to be pleasant, but I was surprised by the mess of internal organs inside Chance's belly. I had grown up thinking that my reproductive system looked like those neat tidy diagrams. You know ... the ones that look like flowers on stems ... the ones the school nurse used to show the girls in health class. Chance's looked far more like a nest of writhing snakes. The vet tugged and pulled them apart as if she were untangling yarn that she didn't expect to use again.

Before she sewed up the incision she stood upright and stretched her back. This was her tenth surgery today, and the waiting room was still full. One of the women put a peppermint in her mouth.

I must have looked surprised because she said to me, "Sometimes we eat lunch while we are operating. You can get used to anything."

My reaction to all this? Not disgust. Not horror. I was just very interested. But I came away from the experience thinking that a surgeon's job was not only backbreaking, but ultimately a very boring one. How different can one dog's reproductive system be from the next? I was glad I had not fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a vet; that I had become a teacher instead.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A Real Job

Kenya finally has one ... a real job.

Oh, she has always thought she had one. She always alerts me to intruders. The problem is, there are no real intruders up here. No one would risk coming all the way in without special equipment because his chances of getting out again are not good. And not only is there nothing here to steal but it would have to be carried up the 39 step hill and possibly hauled along the 1/2 kilometer private road to the first municipal road where everyone else lives.

So all that barking about Jenny walking Miss Vicki on the other side of the lake or when she actually sees someone brave enough to venture in for a visit is quite unnecessary.

In the banner photo Kenya stands on guard for me. She waits for hours for something to actually happen on my lake. I am never sure whether the barking is an alarm call or whether it is simply excitement that she has actually seen some activity.

BUT ... now ... if we are interpreting the tracks correctly, she has a real intruder to deal with. In fact, I would say she has a whole family of them. I think there are raccoons under the deck down by the lake.

So now, I am really glad that Kenya plays sentinel. The last time a raccoon lived there, it dragged itself out to die and I had to haul the forty pound corpse up the hills(s) 22 steps from the lake to the house and 39 steps from there to the road. Then I had to get Leonard to come with his truck to haul away the metal garbage can in which I'd put the corpse. It was enormously bloated and stank ... well ... like a dead body ... even through the multiple layers of plastic in which I had wrapped it.

I would really like it if Kenya chased the raccoons over to the house next door ... the one where the people come every few weeks all winter. They upset Kenya, steal my parking space, run chain saws for hours on end, and invite very loud and obnoxious guests to their parties.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Sign Visible

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I do presume ... I am not a timid mole ...

So in photos is my very unprepossessing day.I managed to rewrite a short scene today ... and finish a sock ... and take Kenya for a long walk. On the way home I noticed how little snow we have had this year. Last year this sign was not visible because the snow banks were so high by the beginning of March. Do you remember, Mud Mama?

For some reason this is refusing to work tonight. I will try posting the photo of the sign later.

This sock was knit in a yarn that reminds me of sunsets in August. Mud Mama has chosen all kinds of yummy wool, all of it variegated or hand painted. I can hardly wait to see and touch it when she brings it. The wool in this sock has been knot and unraveled several times and every time I am happy to re-knit it because I like the colour effects so much. However; I do hope this is its last incarnation.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Moles, of course, do not presume to blog ...

Moles by Mary Oliver

Under the leaves, under
the first loose
levels of earth
they're there -- quick
as beetles, blind
as bats, shy
as hares but seenless than these --
among the pale girders
of appleroot,
rockshelf, nests
of insects and black
pastures of bulbs
peppery and packed full
of the sweetest food:
spring flowers.
Field after field
you can see the traceries
of their long
lonely walks, then
the rains blur
even this frail hint of them --
so excitable,
so plush,so willing to continue
generation after generation
accomplishing nothing
but their brief physical lives
as they live and die,
pushing and shoving
with their stubborn muzzles against
the whole earth,
finding it