Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Wild Willy from Peterborough

I spent the weekend in Peterborough visiting an old (and new) friend who celebrated her 70th birthday by having her first art show in forty years.  She is a sculptor whose work is technically excellent but whose real talent shows through in her rendering of emotion through body language.  I am buying a piece called "Grief".

Claire and I had lost touch until we reconnected while we both visited our  friend, Pat in London.  This was our first visit together since then and we had a wonderful time getting to know one another again.  One of the many things we found we had in common was our love of animals.

My post today features Willy.

Willy is the resident cat ... and he is VERY naughty, athletic, and funny. If I visit again before Claire comes here to the lake, I will take Kenya with me. I wonder what she will think of a cat who not only leaps up on counters, but licks the butter knife! I am sure it will offend all Kenya's notions of good animal behaviour, but I have noticed that she is not nearly as bossy with cats as she is with dogs, no doubt because she has discovered that they are completely incorrigible.

Willy provided us with our only adventure during the weekend. He heard something in the basement and wanted downstairs.

As soon as Claire opened the basement door, a terrified starling flew into the dining room and settled among the plants and glass bottles in the bay window. Willy leapt after it in hot pursuit. Bottles crashed to the floor. Plants exploded their leaves.

The bird led the cat into the livingroom where Willy brought a curtain rod crashing down.

All this carnage likely took less than three minutes, and Claire and I stood transfixed as the drama sped by us.

By the time the bird returned to the plants and stood shivering on a sill between flower pots, Claire had gathered her wits, fetched a tea towel, and draped it around the terrified creature. She carried it outside and I began to pick up bottles and sweep up leaves. Amazingly, nothing was damaged. Not even the glass bottles which had tumbled several feet.

As she went into the livingroom to put the curtain rod back up.Claire remarked that the plants had been in need of grooming anyway.  The adventure was over;   Willy had had a taste of excitement for the day; and none of us, including the starling, suffered heart failure.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

ee cummings did not share his home with either dogs or kids ...

... Now I have no proof of that statement ... but I can surmise.  I do know that his first wife left him after nine months taking his only child, a daughter, away with her and refused to honour his 3 months per year custody rights; that he only got to know her when she was in her twenties, and not likely to play in mud luscious puddles on puddlicious  afternoons. 

I love his poem, but the reality for a dog owner living in the country is that all that delightful mud comes in on thick winter coats and paws and becomes, along with the shedding puffy masses of undercoat, sand, pine needles, and, in my case cedar sawdust from the latest construction work.  After a few hours of sweeping, mopping, and bending, my floors are a little cleaner but my back feels as if it might break.   I wish spring were over.

It is my least favourite season out here at the lake.  It is the dirtiest season.  The lake is unsafe so Kenya is unhappily restrained, and I am getting tired of always exercising her on-leash. Summer brings  its own problems ... black flies, mosquitoes, and wet dog odours, but I can swim and kayak and enjoy the garden and deck, so those seem less formidable. Fall is the most beautiful time up here, followed closely by winter, despite the weather.

So ... while everyone happily quotes ee cummings in springtime, I say, bring on summer ... the sooner the better.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Time and Money

Time ... it can be there to kill ... or on your hands ... or to spare ... or of the essence ...

I had some extra this morning while I waited to wake up enough to walk Kenya for an hour up the log road till she bristled at raccoon tracks and sniffed the bear poo, and then around the lake throwing sticks to give her extra exercise. 

This is what I did with those extra minutes.

I tracked a $10 bill I had received in change a couple of days ago.  Someone had written a website on the bill and I followed it to learn that my $10 was in excellent condition when the writer received it August 3, 2007 in Grandora, Saskatchewan.  It had traveled 2,359 kilometres and gone from excellent to fair condition in the time it took to get to me. 

963 days, 13 hours, 54 minutes had elapsed since she sent it off on its journey.

I was the only person in the trail, so I was left to wonder how many hands touched that bill in the nearly 3 year period, and what they used that $10 for.

If you have some time and a Canadian bill of any denomination on/in your hands, you could check out the website and send a bill on its journey yourself.

Enjoy whatever time you have today.  It is crispy out there but not freezing except when the wind catches bare ears, and if you can find a sheltered spot in the sun it is practically basking weather, a good place to load up on the Vitamin D Canadians lack in the winter months.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Good Luck

Yesterday I was feeling lucky ... lucky to be alive ... lucky to be healthy ... lucky to live where I do ... so I bought my first lottery ticket in about fifteen years.  I slept like a baby last night (a happy one) and  dreamed about former students and animals I have liked.  When Kenya climbed up on the bed at seven or so, I lay there waking up and dreaming about what I would do if my ticket actually won, if I actually had 41 million dollars to spend.

By the time I had fed Kenya and made tea,  I had a very long list of things I would do with a win of any size.  A big win would have made possible huge gifts to the people I love and the organizations I know are doing important good work where it is needed. It was harder to imagine how I would spend my own portion.

I would finish the house properly rather than doing things myself in my incompetent way ...  things like the interiors of closets ... reparation of water damaged walls ... sanding of beams ... all the polyurethaning that would make my life simpler.

I would have the shed, decks, and stairs down to the lake built by someone who would do a good job.

I would replace my old low slung Toyota with an all wheel drive Honda CRV.

I would hire Property Solutions to help me clean up the property once and for all.

I would fly over and visit Pat.

I looked at the lottery results on-line and carefully examined my ticket.

I did not win anything ...

But you know, I didn't feel even a slight sense of disappointment.   I realized that, although I couldn't  give generous gifts to anyone, I still had my home, my dog who climbs up on my bed every morning, all those pieces of furniture to turn funky, my health, and people I love.  And somehow or other, the things that need doing or the car I will eventually have to buy will happen, whether I win enough money to make it easy and instantaneous or not.  I am still a lucky woman.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Grounded: Bad Dog, Kenya

My next door neighbour tattled and now Kenya is grounded ... tied until the lake thaws completely.

Garry told me that the dog I thought had finally learned her lesson because she was staying away from the ice, had, in fact, gone over to his place yesterday and played on the ice again.

So now she will have to wait out real spring ... when the lake become water again ... and swimmable.

Better safe than sorry ... and all those other platitudes ... but I do hate having to tie her out ... 

Tomorrow we will go for long walks ... maybe up in the woods where she can lope along off leash.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Too Old for St. Paddy's Day ...

Well, that's it ... my last celebration of St. Patrick's Day in a public place.  I am just too old.

Especially in a too crowded restaurant ... too crowded to manage the service of food ...  so noisy you couldn't hear yourself think or your friends talk ... so overwhelmed by their popularity that they ran out of fish and chips ...

Especially with a hungry child who becomes sullen when he doesn't get his fish and chips, doesn't like his chocolate milk, and is freaked out by the green whipped cream on his hot chocolate  ...

Especially when the seating arrangement does not make conversation easy ... and one of the people at your table is completely deaf in the ear closest to you.

Wakefield is a community that will forgive a new restaurant for being unprepared for its first St. Patrick's Day, just as they forgave them the first weekend they opened and so many people showed up that they ran out of food.  The community will remember the free green hats, the music, the readings, the free shots of Irish whiskey, the movie they showed, and the good food, even if wasn't the fish and chips they came for.

And they know that next time there will be enough fish and chips; that Le Hibou's owner, Una, will re-assess just as she did that first weekend, so that the same mistakes will not be made.  Le Hibou will survive and grow from this experience. 

I too have learned.  I will visit Le Hibou in the afternoon when it is peaceful and the staff are not harried.  I will take my journal, my water colour pencils, and a good pen ... and I will order something yummy or maybe just a glass of the restaurant-priced wine. 

And I will continue to take my friends there for lunch, because Le Hibou is still my favourite restaurant.

Next March 17, however, I will make my own haddock and fries,  I will drink cheap wine, and Kenya and I will wear green and watch The Commitments at home.  And my friends will be welcome to join me.


Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Ice Floe Rescue Attempt

"Your goal should be out of reach, but not out of sight."

This advice may be wonderful for most enterprises, and certainly for the Olympic rowers urged on by it, but my basic premise has always been, "Don't risk falling into the waters of  a partially frozen lake to save a dog.  Kenya is younger and more agile, and her body weight of 80 pounds or so is distributed over four legs.  She will save herself.  You, on the other hand, will drown or die of hypothermia."

Yesterday, the dog I thought was smart enough to recognize the dangers inherent in the shifting cracking ice of Pike Lake decided to investigate to see if she could get closer to all the spring walkers enjoying the sunshine on the other side of the lake, and I broke my own rule.

I headed down to the shoreline with small pieces of cedar planking which I placed on the ice to allow me to get closer to her.  I offered a Dentibone, thinking she might just be refusing to come in.  She ignored the treat.

I tried going just a step or two closer.  The ice began to crack and split apart beneath me.   When the ice began to crumble away with every attempt to save myself,  I felt the same terror Kenya must be feeling each time she tried to get back onto a solid footing. 

Finally I felt solid ice beneath me, and turned back to shore. 

When she saw me retreating, Kenya keened, a long drawn out plea for help.

I hurried a little faster.

By the time I returned with two sleds that I thought I would shoot over to her, she was pacing in the freezing slush.  Her eyes never left me as I exhorted her to come NOW! FAST! she could do it.  But after a few more half  hearted attempts to get onto ice that would support her weight, she stayed where she was.

I realized the silliness of my plan at about the same instant she did.  She looked over toward the floating dock now mired in ice and snow.  And I shouted again, "C'mon, Girl.  You can do it!" 

She dashed across the moving ice floes to the dock and in a frenzy of relief spun around in circles on it before making the last run to shore to meet me.

We headed up to the warmth of the house where I dried her paws and she settled in before the fire with her dentibone.  I lay down beside her, buried my face in her ruff, breathed in fresh air and sunshine, and exhaled relief.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

New Lady of the Lake Story

I just heard about Kenya's good deed yesterday, but she performed it about a month ago.

Sadie is our newest puppy on the lake.  She is 5 months old, belongs to Dan, and follows Kenya everywhere when Dan has her up here at my end of the lake.

On this particular day Dan was walking Sadie off-leash around the lake.  When Sadie saw Kenya on the ice, she ran off to join her. Dan was comfortable with that, but when he was ready to go back home, Sadie paid no attention to his pleas, demands and orders to come. Ignoring him completely, she continued to play.  Dan kept on calling without success as he walked back towards his house.

When he got to the beach area he decided that enough was enough, but how to get a willful puppy to obey?

That's when he decided to use strategy.

He called Kenya, who came immediately, shadowed by little Sadie.  The leash was snapped on, and the mission was accomplished.  All that was left was to tell Kenya to go back home.

Good dog, Kenya!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Yes, I Can ...

New Look, Sugar, Cleaning and Taxes ... It Must Be Spring

Yesterday I emerged from the shower, took a good look at my hair, and decided to lop off a bunch.  It has taken me nearly seventy years to get up the courage to cut my own hair.  I wonder why it took so long to realize that hair grows back in.  Maybe it has something to do with painting funky furniture and realizing that you can always sand a mistake back and do it again.  Or maybe it is realizing that you never know what you can do until you try it.  Or maybe I'm just cheap.  Anyway I no longer look like an elderly native man ... more like Topsy.

This is Erin's  first attempt to make maple syrup too.  She and Rodger are tapping over thirty trees and producing wonderful maple syrup.  Saturday we feasted on pancakes, homemade sausage patties made with lean local organic beef, salads, champagne and orange juice.  I donated the smoked duck and dim sum I had purchased at T&T the day before, but my experiment with Asian groceries turned out to have been a mistake. 

Before I left home, I tried steaming the first two dim sum dumplings, expecting to discover that they would have little treasures of tasty minced pork hidden inside.  No. Steaming produced a gelatinous mess with nothing at the heart of the mushy globs and strands.  I decided to try baking the remaining four at 350 for 30 minutes.  This produced buns but not nice fluffy ones.  More like little golden rocks.

The duck was fatty and tasted a little like the unpleasant smell I associate with Asian grocery stores.  Now I know how the odour is produced ... by smoking.   I have a feeling that you either develop a taste for Chinese smoked duck or you hate it forever.  I fear I belong to the latter category, but at least now I know that the unpleasant smell has nothing to do with dirt or a nasty ingredient ... just with a smoking process that uses tea and rice.  I prefer my duck crisp and orange flavoured, my tea piping hot, nicely steeped, and in a cup, and my rice in a bowl or on a plate.

The place overflowed with dogs ... Erin's two, Rodger's one, a strange little wiry creature that reminded me of a small wart hog, and a Golden Doodle named Marshall.  (There seemed to be more but I didn't get to know all of them because most stayed outside.)  When Kenya first saw Marshall she must have thought that it was Remi with a brushcut, and she chased him around the kitchen with her nose up his bum.  Once she satisfied herself that this was a different Doodle, she fell in love, and spent the rest of  her time with him. 

Today I think I  will begin my spring cleaning with my bedroom.  Right now it looks like a repository for furniture I wanted to work on this winter.  I want to restore its tranquility.  (I haven't decided yet where I will store the chairs.)   The second thing I am going to do is get the closet set up properly.  I am tired of rods that collapse under the weight of clothing every few days.  I will install large hooks on one side and a pair of rods on the other.  I also have some patching and touch-up painting to do because of the first winter's problem with the roof.

Or maybe I will clear the dining room table and tackle the taxes.  I have a feeling that will be a week-long exercise in frustration and angst.

Or maybe I will treat the two projects as on-going tasks that provide relief from one another.

The more I think about it the more I wish I could just start the funky high chair!  The responsible side of me insists, though, that has to be my treat for getting the onerous jobs done first.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and have a good week.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Dog Treats

Well ... once again, it has been a while ... I have been feeding my soul with art, drama and companionable food experiences ... almost all, courtesy of my flurry of pet sitting activity last month.

Tamarak's show opening was a great success.  I particularly loved her flow paintings in which the brilliant colours stand out against very dark backgrounds, especially the two that had clearly defined boundaries within them.  My two favourites sold immediately.  She sold about a quarter of her canvases in one afternoon.

The day after the opening, Tamarak and her family came here for an afternoon of snacks and wine.  We were seven humans and four dogs so we enjoyed a full house of activity.  Tamarak's brother took away the high chair I am making funky for an expected baby so that it could be made completely stable.  I have it back now and am ready to begin painting.  Just waiting for the ultrasound to tell me which colours to choose.

On Tuesday I spent a good part of the afternoon at Le Hibou with a friend from my Mongolian travels.  We perched in the booth that gives a panoramic view of the river and an owl's eye view of the whole cafe.  I had the moules frites; she had a salad; we discussed writing.  She has been asked to write an article for a northern magazine about her teching experiences in the Arctic in the sixties.  The whole afternoon was a treat for the senses and the mind, and the laughter we shared was a real bonus.

On Wednesday, we celebrated Tamarak's birthday by going to the GCTC to see Blood.Claat, an amazing 90 minute show written and performed by d'bi.young.anitafrika.   She is wonderfully talented, seemingly inexhaustible, and intelligent.  This one woman show which combines elements  of "biography, poetry, music, myth, magic, monologue,  and dialogue" is performed with an energy that crackles and surges like lightning or storm-lashed waves, but also with very human warmth. On a stage fitted with only corrugated steel walls, a stool, a washtub, a bottle of Dettol, and a clothesline, she created not only the Jamaican setting but also the illusion that there were several other characters.  She moved smoothly from the central role of the fifteen year old protagonist to the other roles in an absolutely convincing way.  Everyone from the religious auntie to the stern grandmother to the cool boyfriend came to life.  If you have a chance to see it, do.  It runs till March 21st.

Yesterday I was in town  running errands at such diverse locations as the Book Mart, the huge Asian supermarket, T&T, and St. Vincent de Paul.  I divested myself of "things", prepared to get rid of books, and wandered around T&T picking up things like Japanese bread, Asian sauces, smoked duck and dim sum.  I ended up with a friend at a cafe eating a kangaroo burger and looking at art.

Today I am going to another friend's to help with sugaring  ... the last of my treats for the soul.

I intend to spend next week house cleaning, working on a course I am offering, and doing my taxes.

By the end of the week I will be ready for more dog treats

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Dolls, Horizons and Redemption

Well ... I am beginning to think that busy unfocused people may need more boredom than old hermits do ...

I received a jolt of enthusiasm yesterday that sparked all kinds of ideas.  I need infusions of excitement, not more boredom, I think.

My first issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors arrived yesterday.  In it were all kinds of wonderful projects, images and ideas.  My very favourite was several pages of Earth Mother dolls created by participants in one of their contests.  I loved them!  Then there was the mixed media piece on landscape ... empty skyscape.

I opened my eyes this morning and looked out my window at the tree line across the lake with brand new eyes.  All the things Tamarak has written about tree shapes came to mind, and the words of my sketch booking teacher filtered in ... it was magical.

I think I now have a germ of an idea for the chair for The Well, and some other ideas for smaller pieces ... and I am going to Tamarak's official show opening today so I am sure I will come away even more inspired by what she has done with this FLOW series.  Most of them are ones I have not yet seen.  All of her abstract work glows with vibrant colour and in these FLOW paintings, the the three dimensional flow lines become the horizons and create landscapes.

So ... as Julia Cameron prescribes ... For the next while I am going to rediscover my creativity by drinking deeply of the waters in the well that feeds the imagination.  I am going to replenish myself by feasting on art and drama and other people's creativity.  Later I can settle down at the lake and be bored enough to let that other brain begin making its own magic.

On a totally different topic ... This morning I read about a man convicted of white collar crime who was imprisoned in a leprosarium.  He has written a memoir called In the Sanctuary of Outcasts which I am ordering.  It is all about self acceptance ... taught to the author by an 80 year old leper who understood that her sense of self worth came from within, not from the world.

Friday, 5 March 2010

On Cultivating Boredom

Apparently, boredom is a significant springboard to creativity. Neuroscientists have also found boredom to be a source of feelings of well being and a strong sense of self. In boredom, the brain continues to fire away in those regions that conjure hypothetical events and new possibilities. The wandering mind, the dream world, can be a better world than the real nuts-and-bolts world and for the artist, with the addition of task-positive skills, it can transform into the joyful business of making it happen.

So ... how to cultivate boredom?

1.    Stay here at the lake all the time ... eventually it will become boring.

2.    Stay off the computer when boredom begins ... and just look out the window instead ... or into the fire.

3.    Don't watch a movie ... meditate instead.

4.    Put that book down and just relax.

5.    Don't start working on a new project unless it is one of boredom's gifts.

6.    Don't substitute company or a drive for boredom ... welcome it.

7.    Walk on familiar paths that require little thinking.

8.    Snowshoe ... it is incredibly boring to simply put one foot in front of the other mile after mile.

9.    Kayak around the lake noticing the shoreline, the paddle strokes, the trees.

10.    Relax in the tub with just candles for light and let the mind wander.

11.   Knit without distractions.

12.   Do repetitive chores like sanding wood or patching cracked plaster.

13.   Lie in bed an extra half hour just stroking Kenya's softness.

14.   Doodle in a journal.

15.   Make a zentangle.

16.   Play with clay without intent ... in the same way zentangles happen.

How do you invite your unconscious mind to play?