Brown eyes faded now,
The seen world obscured with age.
My green memories…
GM, November 2013
Brown eyes faded now,
The seen world obscured with age.
My green memories…
GM, November 2013
Leaves rest on pavement.
After a rainfall
Rusted leaf ghosts remain.
GM, November 2013
Two elderly acquaintences who live in my apartment building are moving to new places. The reasons for the move are finances and livability of their current digs. The apartments where we all live were initially affordable on seniors’ pensions, however our landlord has availed himself of the right to raise rents yearly, while not effecting necessary repairs to the building’s envelope, so leaky ceilings and mold growth in the units have been a chronic problem. As well, when appliances fail, repairs are not effected in timely fashion, or if the instruments can limp along working in some manner repairs are deemed superfluous.
The unit in which I have settled during the past two years and four months is leaking from the roof in three places (I am on the floor directly below the roof). Lately I have noted some dodgy types moving into the building – there is a lot of movement in and out. Drug deals outside our lobby have tended to become common; hookers regularly proposition visitors parking alongside the building. During the past year I have been reluctant to foray outside after dark, as I cannot drive due to vision problems and walking becomes problematic in the dark. I cannot discern clearly the nature of persons encountered on a dark street. Even though I have a hefty, gaudy painted wooden cane which I call my cudgel, I feel unsafe going anywhere at night. I realize this is why seniors tend to travel in packs; there is safety, of a sort, in numbers. But alas, no more Tango lessons for me!
One elderly friend moved today. I went over with a neighbour to her new apartment, subsidized, hence affordable, to help her stow her numerous belongings and create room for her to move about in. Her equally elderly Wheaton terrier, anxious and feeling displaced, dashed about underfoot as we unpacked boxes and moved furniture about to maximally utilize a dishearteningly scant space. This lady’s tiny new kitchen could not accommodate her necessities for cooking and eating well. Apparently senior persons are to exist primarily on either dog-food, canned food or toast and tea ( mind you there was no room whatsoever for a toaster even!) Well, seniors these days tend to be quite independent and high functioning, as is my friend at 75 years of age. However, notions about seniority tend to peg us at a monastic and dependent level. Naturally this varies from person to person, but longer life-expectancies seem to be a norm, and the prevalence of nuclear family units ensures that there are numerous older women outliving their mates, and these women cling fiercely to their independence, either out of necessity or because of their children leading busy and involved lives.
Anyone who has had to aid an elderly parent move from a long-inhabited family home knows how difficult it is for the one moving to let go of objects and equipment of either useful or sentimental value. My friend Bev( the 75 year old woman) had to move to an apartment which is 300 square feet smaller. She was unable to part with much, hence her new place is packed to the rafters and now she must go through the tough part of sorting through her stuff and making decisions as to what discard. Thus this move represents both a loss and gain for her. She seems up to the task, although she is anxious, uncomfortable, exhausted ad feeling completely dislocated.
The other elderly friend, Elaine, is in process of packing up her goods here. She is to vacate her apartment by the end of March. She is 78 years old and has little help from her son’s family in this move, beyond their removing the possession and transporting them to the new apartment. Obtaining packing boxes, packing and unpacking them is her lot for the next 30 days. She is disabled, has to use a walker, and these chores are exhausting for her. I have managed to have younger friends of mine bring about 10 cartons for her; my son will bring her empty boxes from our 75 year-old friend this coming Saturday (who is now pressured to empty boxes from her own move). Then when Elaine has finished her move at the end of March, she will pass all the empty boxes to me for filling. My move is to be at the end of April.
Meanwhile, I am divesting myself of appliances, utensils, books, clothes and other un-needed items, so that I can have a simpler move, and at the end of that a more pared down environment. It is challenging to tackle change; in truth change is a constant in life, and one must fully embrace it.
I like the challenge of reconfiguring my life for changing circumstances. I have the option of living well within my means, a bit leaner perhaps but with a degree of grace and comfort.
Having said all of the above, moving house as an older person is stressful, as at any other time of life. C’est la vie!
A friend, someone for whom I have felt affection and whose bumping up against my life has left me with indelible marks, has chosen to end his life in early February, 2012. It has been so long since he left this vale to take up residence in one room of my memory house. He is there, along with other close friends who have died.
Some days, whenever my phone rings, I think of him calling on the spur of a moment to share an errant thought, happening or recent accomplishment. “Hey, G” he would announce, “get this!” But it never is he calling, nor will he ever again.
Often I amuse myself, recalling how, 16 years ago, when we were auditing a Contemporary Painting Course at a local University we would engage in a mad scramble to carry our piles of materials and equipment into the studio so we might be able to take possession of a choice piece of studio real estate. Because he had OCD tendencies, and really knew how to pack up stuff for easy and organized ferrying back and forth I learned a lot to be less haphazard and more organized in my packing up for studio time. I cringe to think of he had disparaged, publicly to a studio full of young painters, my piggish painterly practices. Of course he did this in an amazingly witty fashion, so that rather than glower at him I would break out in fits of laughter.
I don’t think I will ever be able to sit through a Peter Greenaway movie without imagining him sitting nearby and saying, “Wait, lets replay this… and this…look… look!!!”
He left behind his wife and two grown boys. They are devastated.
His older son went to Burning Man last summer where he created a shrine of his Father’s digital artwork, printed out and strung up like Buddhist prayer banners. These he burned.
Both sons have access to his files of visual work and writing. He did produce two books on Blurb.com, as well as hundreds of paintings and drawings. He was a man of remarkable sensibility and aesthetic sense. I miss him.
Rest in Peace, Thomas Ziorjen, my friend.
Yesterday, Martha, who is disassembling her life here and moving to London, brought me a plasti-bag full of music CDs she is de-accessioning. “Keep what you want,” she said. “Most of these are from a time when I was trying to develop a taste for classical music, but no longer play regularly.” In spite my promise to myself to acquire no more possessions, on studying the labels of each CD, and what composer and piece of music was exampled on the different discs, these gifts from Martha seemed appropriate to where my head and heart are these days, reveling in memory, revisiting long-assumed to be dormant pleasures of sensory nature. Perhaps because it is September, a treasured time of the year for me, when memory causes me to anticipate the joys of this season, that aides memoires such as the sound of winds in the late afternoons, and specific passages of sound make me revel in being alive.
So, I popped onto my player the Scheherezade of Rimsky-Korsakov as I prepared hot water and vinegar with which to wash the tile floors in my apartment. I should know myself better by now, because, all of my life I have been unable to multi-task, especially when music is a component of what must compete for attention. After hearing about the fourth bar of the overture, I collapsed into a heap on the couch, dripping scrubbing cloth clutched in my hand – and all ears.
Memories arose, unbidden. Of kneeling on the floor in my childhood home, right next to the radio, of a late September dusk, Anyu and Apu sitting close-by in the scuffed leather chairs, Idiko perched on the piano bench, all of us silent as Scheherazade piped through the cloth covering the radio speaker. A few years later, coming home alone in the afternoon from Catholic school in Kingston, after parting from Ildiko at the church where she had her daily piano practice session, letting myself into the empty brownstone parlour and for company putting on the Rimsky-Korsakov record which had arrived as donation in a box of household goods from our church. On hearing the second movement, my eyes filled with tears of gratitude in the memory of how that music had helped me then assuage feelings of nostalgia for my lost homeland, and how it had kept me wonderful company when I was feeling particularly alone.
After an unexpected lassitude overcame me, my thoughts strayed to doing guided meditation sessions while recovering from Leukemia treatment, which involved the therapist verbalizing a scenario in a soothing voice – so sound and meaning implied by word content and context was able to transport one beyond quotidian concerns into a place of respite. That fleeting moment of puzzlement was replaced by a sense memory of holding my new-born son and a reminder of the special place of safety and oneness a mother and infant shared moment can be.
At some points in the music the sound made me experience temperature change, taste sensations, colour variations and the texture of varied fabrics. Sinewy arabesque threads wound along the lines of melody Instrument sounds implied tapestries woven of different weight and colours of fibres. A taste of fresh figs, honey, acrid sweetness of plums vied with pungently spiced taste tidbits, the texture of roasted almonds. I was awash in sensations.
Sudden silence when the music stopped brought me back to the clammy touch of the cool washrag in my hand, the sunlight streaming through the windows, the sound of wind teasing through the aspens outside. The noises of nearby construction re-asserted itself. My tile floors remained uncleaned, but after relaxing in my newfound sense of comfort and pleasure, I tackled that chore with a vigour which surprised me.
I do wonder though, do creators of works of art ever comprehend the effect of their creations, because they are ever varied, and largely unpredictable. But the riches bestowed on the individual appreciator are thousand-fold. Was Scheherezade an artist? She of the Thousand and One tales, the one Rimsky-Korsakov references as muse, to aid us in reviewing tales of our own, read about, told to us, or directly experienced. Hmmm…
Glasgow Girl, my daughter-in-law, is one of the most fussy eaters I have encountered in my lifetime. She will not eat organ meats, or any meats with bone in. One cannot even present to her a dish of cooked meat without bones first removed prior to cooking. As a result of her predelictions Mousey, also is demonstrating tendencies toward unreasonable fussiness, and it seems this dislike of bone has become one of her peeves as well.
Fussy eaters are made, not born. If one has unlimited choice, the tendency is toward refined, adulterated tastes I expect. Is there anyone out there in blog-land who might share with me great delight in eating the marrow out of soup bones. This common fare is best served on substantial toasted bread, lightly salted, and is in my opinion absolutely delicious.
Cavemen in early days were the first to discover the delights of cracking the long bones of their killed, roasted meats, and extracting the delicious bounty of cooked marrow. As a modern suburban woman I am finding it increasingly difficult to acquire soup bones. Poor people in my neighbourhood might utilize a good supply of these to prepare delicious broths as base of soups and stews. However modern urban people, especially the poor, do not know of this plentiful enriching ingredient, and instead rely on purchasing highly processed, over-packaged and unhealthy junk foods.
It is to me a sad state of affairs, that in these times of seemingly unlimited plenty so many of us have forgotten a most basic rule of making use of every available part of animals we husband as food. As animals, we humans can share the seeming pleasure of dogs in extracting from animal portions every bit of taste and nutrition they might provide There is basic deliciousness in cooked connective tissue, the gelatinous portions, on the ends of soup bones well stewed, in the taste of marrow, the greasiness of which is necessary addition to help process vitamin nutrients from vegetables accompanying our meals. Such simple unfussy enjoyment seems to ba a matter of repeated experience through which taste acceptance is gradually acquired through familarity.
Twenty years ago, I provided room and board to a young native fellow from Kitkatla. He had been raised on an Northern Island, where much of the foods eaten were obtained by fishing. When he first arrived in my home, he had broughtwith him several big cardboard cartons which smelled intensely of smoked fish. He explained that his mother was most concerned that he would not have easy access to his favourite snack – dried salmon roe on dried seaweed. Also in his stash of goodies from home were many cans of home-canned salmon. He shared some of his roe and seaweed snacks – and they were surprisingly delicious, but foreign tasting to me, and I expressed to him my idea that favourite foods became such through repeated experience, and that sometimes he might not enjoy some of the foods presented to him for suppers. He said, it would be all right, because his supply of familar foods might help allay his nostalgia for comfortable, familiar fare. And being a very young man of healthy appetite, he openly sampled the variety of foods presented him at meals. Some he found more to his taste than others, and would gladly verbalize his analyses of flavour impressions. He most definitely wasn’t fussy. I expect this may have been on account of growing up in an environment where food sources were limited, and he did not develop a jaded, world-weary palate.
Too much choice tend to spoil our possible pleasures, I feel.
Two weeks ago, I travelled to Vancouver Island to stay with Ardent Feminazi at her Saanichton acreage and to kick around exploring the city of Victoria with a vague idea of relocating me and my goods there. Since becoming an official senior with a Gold Card, the only vaguely golden item I possess, it is now possible for me to sail to the Island via ferry, as foot passenger, GRATIS, but only if travelling between Monday and Thursday. This is quite the perk for canned pet-food eating seniors in B.C. Naturally, I took advantage of this.
After disembarking and dragging my wheelie suitcase across the sweltering tar-mac of the passenger pick-up zone, I spied Ardent Feminazi’s ratty red Toyota pick up truck, but no AF in sight anywhere. We had a bit of mix-up with the time of arrival, and she is not one to sit idle, but had gone off to the bottom of the ferry dock to see if in my heat-addled daze I had perhaps disembarked with vehicles rather than foot passengers. After all I was piloting a wheeled bag, and may have taken too literally the advice for wheeled appliances to leve the ferry via the car deck. Since I have been known to make such errors in judgement on previous occasions, it made sense to me that eventually AF would return to her parked vehicle if she didn’t see me labouring along down below. Meanwhile I wandered around from one shady bit to another and gathered a decent amount of melted buble gum on the bottom of my sandal soles, and then whiled away some more time trying to scrape that off at the edges of sidewalk.
At AF’s acreage, under the shadow of tall cedars, we sat quaffing cold coffee and plotting my searches of Victoria area to find just the right apartment for me. We made lists, looked at maps, looked up nearness of grocery stores and medical offices, considered nearness of neighbourhoods to the University, the Art gallery, parks and beaches. I settled for Fairfield/Cook Street Village area as most meeting my diverse needs, and we made an apartment search list for the next several days.
During non-search times on the following days I played with Ardent Feminazi’s wonderful Malemute/Wolf cross, Sheena, inspected AF’s studio with the gorgeous huge etching press and wonderful light, made phone calls to Property Management agencies to view desired apartments, and ate fresh organic produce grown in Saanich.
As luck would have it, I did find a great little apartment a few blocks from the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion, the art gallery, Beacon Hill Park and Cook Street Village, and decided to come home and look after the deposits, etc.. The morning before I was to come home via ferry, I was up early, enjoying the cool of the morning while boiling water for a pot of tea. AF’s house is situated among tall trees and blessedly cool on a hot day. I walked from room to room in the quiet enjoying the green views from various windows and decided to go to my room to collect my morning medications. Meanwhile, Sheena had, unheard by me, arrived in the computer room to continue her early-morning lie-in, thus as I was passing through that room I tripped over her recumbent body and lofted over her back, landing in a pile of freshly washed, unfolded laundry.
Thankg God for AF’s tendency to be casual with laundry – at least the pile made my landing a bit softer. Sheena was surprised, but unharmed. My right foot however had folded under much in the same way as 19th Century Chinese folded a young girl’s arch and bound it tight to deform the foot to an ideal standard of beauty. Boy, did that hurt! Sweet Sheena gazed into my eyes and licked my face to let me know she would look after me. I hopped off to retrieve my pills, then limped back into the kitchen to make the pot of tea and put my sore foot up on Sheena’s back. The foot looked all right, but hurt like the Dickens. I sat quietly sipping tea and applying cold wet cloths.
When AF woke up, she chastized me for not calling her to help. But why should someone be disturbed just because I am such a Klutz? After breakfast she drove into Sidney to buy me a sturdy cane. Afterward she tried to convince me to go into Saanich Emergency and get my foot X-Rayed. I refused to spend my last day on the island by sitting for many hours in a hospital waiting room, and figured that could as easily be done when I got back home. I figured since I could put weight on my right heel, but not the arch and bottom of the whole foot, things may not have been broken.
So, the following noon Ardent Feminazi borrowed a wheel-chair at the ferry, where thus ensconced, and in true Crippled Klutz style I was deposited on board into the care of a kind stewardess who actually brought me a sandwich and a cup of decent coffee and then wheeled me off at Tsawassen to pass me into the care of my sister, Margaret.
On the way home to my place, Margaret said. “you know what will make you feel a whole lot better, G? I found a wonderful Hungarian deli in Vancouver where they actually carry canned Montmorency cherries and other goodies. I know how you often whine plaintively for sour cherry soup.”
“Okay” I said, ” but they better have Dios Beigli (Walnut Roll), Toportyu (deep fried pork rinds) and Majos Hurka (spicy liver sausage) as well. I feel the need to be totally self-indulgent.”
So, on the way home, we stopped at this deli, and I went wild, purchasing all of the above, as well as my beloved Montmorency cherries. As well, we stopped at a Save-On where Margaret nipped in to buy a large pack of frozen peas to serve as renewable cold-pack for my darn foot.
The frozen peas came in handy for the regular application of cold to my swollen and colourful foot. I did go to local emergency the next morning and lucky as I tend to be, found no breaks, but chipped tarsal bones, and sprained tendons.
So the past two weeks, while regularly icing my foot, I also foraged my way through the Hungarian delicacies and frugally doled out tiny portions of Montmorency cherries – on youghurt, with sliced peaches, on oatmeal, spoonfuls by themselves. No Sour Cherry soup, but simply delicious sour cherries. Now I know where to get more of these cherries, and now that the frozen peas have eased my foot so I can freely hobble around, I think a bus ride is in order to the Vancouver deli, bring home several bottles of the Montmorency cherries and make the soup before the end of August.
Two years ago, when I split the blanket with Rumpole, I found myself moving into an apartment, above ground yet! Having become a spoiled Stepford Wife, I had become accustomed to having at hand the latest time-saving implements and machinery. Of greatest usefulness among these were the automatic washer and drier. How was I going to be able to cope without these so ready to hand? Not wishing to revisit boiling clothes on top of the stove, and rinsing them out in the sink, as i had done in early years, nor of wanting to languish wasting time at a laundromat watching clothes endlessly circling on the drier setting, I decided to problemo-solve.Memory tends to help in problem solving. I suddenly remembered that when I got my first teaching job, back in 1970, the first domestic purchase I had made then was a washer/spin drier combo. That little machine was a god-send!
The thought did occur, back then, that perhaps this Luddite contraption was no longer available to purchase. While waiting for Rumpole’s protracted negotiations of our separation to be finalized and whilst searching for the right apartment into which to land, I researched the Internet for such an appliance. (I found a Danby unit which would do the job quite nicely, and then proceeded to call all local appliance dealers to order me one.
When I went to the appliance dealer to order and pre-pay for one, the salesman beaded me with a critical glance. “Why do you want such a primitive machine?” he asked. “No woman alive could possibly want one of these. It means too much labour. Are you sure you are up for one of these?”
I told him, ” Well I had one of these puppies in 1970, when I was beginning my teaching career. It had been a step up from wringer washers, and boiling clothes on top of the stove. It worked then, so why should it not now?” He shrugged and gave me one of those glances which might indicate I had lost my mind. “You’re the customer..” he simply mumbled and filled out the order invoice. Six weeks later my Danby arrived. It was a bit of a disappointment – it had too many plastic parts that could potentially break.
I have been using this little washer/spin drier for a year and a half, with great contentment and appreciation. Clothes come out clean. I am aware of how much water is used in the wash and rinse cycles. I am grateful for how much water is spun out by the tiny spinner, and how little time it takes to dry clothes on a line – winter or summer. I like the mindfulness the whole process of washing a load of clothes helps me attain. I like the business of watching water aggregate in the washer, of snapping moist clothes out to rid them of wrinkles prior to hanging them up.
And on a strange level, the past forty years have become negligible. I feel as satisfied with having completed this domestic chore well and simply, just as I had forty years ago. And no, I have not flooded the apartments below me because I have forgotten to turn off the tap while filling the washer. When that unfortunate incident happens, it will be time to retire me to assisted living. Until then I often revisit the past, in performing the mundane tasks of laundry. Most contentedly!
Living in the downtown core of this little bedroom community, walking everywhere to provide for my daily needs I have had ample opportunity to observe the gradual development and redevelopment of the local environment. Old buildings, some not more than thirty years old, have been demolished. Some defunct, boarded over apartment buildings of wood and stucco still sit languishing in their derelict decrepitude
. An older down-town park has been refurbished, but not in any stellar aesthetic way with arcing concrete walkways leading walkers around and nowhere in particular and hard iron benches plunked down alongside to give a weary walker respite from treading the brutal hard surfaces but not from the blazing sun. At the entrance of the park, just off the main downtown street, a horrid set of fountains have been buried in corners of the park. These are the most unfriendly of water features. The design is Conrete Brutal and resembles uncannily a set of bidets radiating from a backdrop made of tempered glass to echo visually the mountain ranges which loom over our fair municipality. No one tends to linger there to soak their weary feet, or to wave their hands through the cooling waters, except perhaps street people at night, most likely performing their ablutions in the dark. The water jets, which burble to no more than 18 inches above the concrete bidets has been dyed a sickly turqoise. Not exactly inviting to put the hand or foot into this water, that is if first one does not skin oneself on the geometric hardness of the fountain surround. A Fountain of Trevi it ain’t.
There has been road construction a block and a half from my apartment building. This has been in process for about twelve months. Because of all the concrete surfaces in this neighbourhood, construction noise has been steady and unremitting. The scant green sward left as buffer still gives me privacy if not respite from the constant noise of vehicular traffic and earthmoving and paving machinery. Some days I wish I were going deaf, although I do crank up some opera to help drown out the noises.
The concrete skin here spreads and crowds out natural growth. Despite this endless encroachment nature asserts itself with its guerilla seeding of weeds in the slightest cracks. On my daily walks I marvel at this perseverence and at its peculiar manifestation of beauty.
April is National Poetry Month here. Ama, a colleague who is passionate about poetry and ideas organized a celebratory dinner at a local restaurant, and afterwards a group reading at her house. I had arranged for a young friend to spend the day and overnight with me to connect him with this activity and group of fine friends. I have known Jari since he was three years old. Now he is a thoughtful young man of 23 and is immersing himself in the world of stand-up comedy. He is well aware that concision and well thought out palaver relating to life situationsof comedic construction is somewhat similar to processes of poetry. Or , so goes my perhaps faulty consideration. You may wish to weigh in with your opinions as to whether or not this thought of mine may or may not hold any merit.
It was a compleat pleasure for me to be instrumental in connecting Jary with other sensitive and sensible individuals at the poetry bash. Also to provide him the opportunity to practice his skills in front of a possibly responsive audience. As a young man with a disability, the spectrum of which comprises Asperger’s, chronic depression and anxiety, some of life’s possibilities may be difficult for him to negotiate. In spite of his difficulties, he is forging ahead and immersing himself in a discipline where he feels, if he achieves a modicum of success, he will be able to advocate on behalf of others who have similar disabilities.
Jari’s performance made my day and evening! He made useful connections with actor director/ poet writers, educators at a local university and other creative, committed types. I feel myself blessed to count this young soul as one of my valued companions on my life’s journey. And, I bless his mother for her intelligent parenting and nurturing of this terrific young man.