Archive for January, 2007

How she travelled from home to work….Transitions…

January 31, 2007

Friends are revealing all sorts of fascinating preoccupations, joys, sorrows, questions everywhere in suburbia.

This morning a really wonderful gift arrived form a “friend” in Karachi. It makes me want to go out and find cans of automotive paint and paint my sedate old truck with all sorts of colours, and stick on its body some decorations.  Yes, it reminds me to realize that “Real Men” do make embroidery, in all kinds of ways, though!

Drop in and visit –

A poet in our travel trailer….

January 30, 2007

“Rumpole’s” parents loved to travel, and they did, rather modestly throughout the US and Canada  (for nearly 20 years) in their old Rambler they affectionately referred to as “Elaine”.

We had the desire to explore Western North America, and did so by car, and later in an old second-hand trailer.  We did look rather gypsyish compared to the huge and modern rigs which were outfitted with bump-outs, air-conditioning, microwaves and TV dishes.  Being used to having camped in tents in our early married life, we kept the accoutrements pretty basic and minimal so that the main purpose of our meanderings would not be focussed on anything but witnessing the wonders revealed to us during journeys.  I figured that if our-inlaws, a natty , handsome, and comfortable couple, could travel  for weeks at a time out of a couple of suitcases, surely “Rumpole” and  I,  much more relaxed in our attitudes, could do quite palatially well in our slightly tawdry trailer.

So, a large amount of space dedicated in our trailer was for books to read at night, camera equipment, sketchbooks and drawing materials for me. “Rumpole”, fully cognizant of the possibility for needed mechanical repairs stowed automotive tools, which had equal importance to any other category of item we carried. We also strapped on our bikes, so we could get around wherever we landed and explore places inaccessible by car which pulled the trailer.

As we travelled we ate by the side of the road, on grassy verges of farmer’s fields, truck stops and campsites which had laundry facilities. Often, while I sat off by myself drawing, “Rumpole” would either wonder off to take photos, or loll on the ground reading.

On return to our daily lives and doings in suburbia, the trailer sat out beside the house between an apple tree and a huge holly tree, and slightly hidden from the street by a casual hedge of very old rhododendrons.  Because our house was so tiny, the trailer became a little shelter for visiting friends.  There they had privacy and access to cooking on their own, but also use of  the amenities provided by our house.

One day a young friend who had left an unfortunate relationship came by for coffee. She expressed that option to return to her parent’s home was not one she could entertain, nor would bunking with friends.  But there sat the trailer, just waiting to be used. “Rumpole” and I looked at each other and with silent accord nodded, and he casually put out to this young woman – “Well, if you think you may find it comfortable in the trailer and sharing bath and washing facilities with us, you could always stay here for as long as you need to.” She stayed a short two months,  to sort out what she wished to do next.

So came to our lives this young poet. She nested in the trailer and made it quite her own. She put her little pottery jar on the dinette table and filled it with flowers she casually picked from the yard. She pinned a lovely kerchief she had bought at the Salvation Army store in the window. At night when we were in bed, “Rumpole” and I lay listening to music wafting from the trailer and in our open bedroom window, and sometimes to murmured conversations between this young poet and her visiting friends.  This was a most satisfactory arrangement.

Privately we mused that here was out opportunity to be sort of parent, friend, to someone who needed space to plan out her next moves in life – and that she was the gift of a daughter we never had.  And after all, our son “Renaissance Man” had experienced a similar situation in his life, a mere 7 years prior when he lived with an old friend while he was in transit between two communities and two schools?

Ten years later, this young poet has made a marvellous life for herself – she invents her life as she goes along, and has increased the circle of her supporters.  And she gives back through amazing writing. Our friend, “The Prissy German Tourist”, a fine web designer, artist, is currently putting together a  web-site for this young poet.

Within a month they should have her web-site up. So I’ll up-date this post to include her information for anyone who cares to drop in on her.

Elizabeth Bachinsky

“Home of Sudden Service”  poems,

“CURIO – Grotesques and satires from the Electronic Age”  BookThug   Toronto  Screen=PROD&Store_Code=apollinaire&Product_Code=1069&Category_Code=AA


Stuff in life….landscapes of consumption…

January 29, 2007

This Canadian photographer has made an amazing body of work during his career….

The result of our obsession with novelty , status,  acquisition of  power, pleasure and need to ease of innate fears has had profound consequences on us – in how we live, where we live and our ecologic impact as a species.  Sure, we read all about this every day, but think back on the way the bombing of the Twin Towers in 01 held most of us spellbound (because it so closely affected us).

As I type this on my rebuilt computer and brand new monitor…. niggling in the back of my mind are the pictures Burtynsky has captured.  They should be played all day without surcease on Televisions in suburbia.  Pictures can sometime be worth a thousand words!

This film  of Burtynsky’s has been playing in Canada in 2006…..Profoundly affecting…..a dirge!

Manufactured Landscapes

Photographing the Dying….Aide Memoire

January 29, 2007

This post is for T, Kay and all friends visiting who may be interested.

If you visit  you will see one artist’s manner of wittnessing and celebrating a friend’s spirit and his love for her, as she neared the end stage of her life.

Variable Weather in Suburbia….everywhere in the world

January 28, 2007

Some of you dropping by have reported variable conditions  today – snow in Belgrade, stormy in Cornwall.

It’s sunny here, and lovely, but miss snow. If you are an armchair traveller who doesn’t get around much any more stop by at:  – “St Sava – All Schools’ Slava”

He gives good tours!

Fog in suburbia…

January 26, 2007

It is foggy in suburbia this morning.

This brings to mind 2 sites the fog of the internet  has revealed to me, and which I  plan to linger in to enjoy and learn more about the nature of fog as experienced elsewhere by people.

Applying labels…

January 26, 2007

Yesterday morning, as “Rumpole”was leaving suburbia to go to his office downtown, he asked what my plans were for the day.  I told him that the reason why last night’s spaghetti was so oddly flavoured of cilantro, and which he found so unpalatable but nevertheless ate (he made faces and didn’t manage to eat everything on his plate) was due to the fact that I hadn’t paid close enough attention when refilling the cilantro and basil jars, and put the wrong spice in the wrong bottle.  He was tapping his feet, rolling his eyes as he was waiting for me to get to the point. Finally letting the penny drop, I told him that the spice jar labels needed to be corrected so that’s what I would do this day.

A while later,  I took out the mislabelled jars, scrubbed off their paper labels but had difficulty removing the adhesive that had been used to stick the labels to the glass jars. As I went about this chore I tried various methods to remove the sticky stuff . It was tough going and took awhile. My thoughts, for whatever strange reason,  roamed around and oddly settled onto my lifelong preoccupation with lawns. This may have had to do with the fact that while both dried chopped cilantro and basil tasted completely different they looked very much alike, but also a lot like grass clippings. Grass clippings brought to mind lawns.

Lawns are a hot topic, here in the suburbs. Sherry (the feminine half of Sharold) is pretty religious about maintaining the lawn at their place, both front and back. She monitors weed growth and grass height,  does the weeding and watering, but leaves the cutting, fertilizing, aeration and pest removal to Harold. He takes the clippings to the dump after each cutting. Their lawn looks really good.

By comparison our lawn is a sorry sight. Our neighbours, kindly enough, don’t make outright comments about this, because a) we’re older, b) we obviously try to maintain at least a semblance of lawn ( we keep it cut, but never fertilize it, or aerate it, or weed it) and c) suspect we really don’t care but are too polite to ask. Sharold  and others  living here in suburbia affectionately call this neighbourhood “Pleasantville. They really mean this, unfortunately sometimes they take pot-shots by mentioning our weeds, the strange uneven cuts which never twice look the same.  They really get worked up by all the moles living in our lawn which create little piles of earth all over it. They never actually come out and say ” mole”, but instead offer advice on how best to kill them, and have even gone so far as to gift us with mole-eradicators!!!They have never suggested that we read the definitive book on Lawns, but some provided good references in case we wish to learn all about them. “Rumpole” and I  occasionally wonder what  names our neighbours might call us,  but don’t dwell on this too long. From time to time we admit fleeting embarrassment.

Before our move here  ten years ago, we lived on acreage in the Northern bush.  On our lot were trees, upright and fallen, shrubs, an interesting succession of undergrowth plant and even some pasture. We could see several different kinds of woodpeckers, owls and other birds. Occasionally on misty spring morning we might see a moose browsing in the pasture. On clear cold winter nights we’d sometimes hear wolves howling. We thought our place to be our own private Garden of Eden.

 When I am woolgathering, my thoughts skip around. Once, I allowed myself to think frivolous thoughts about the Garden of Eden such as the fact there have been no clear descriptions of it. There were all kinds of flora(clover , moss and dandelions, I presume), and fauna,( moles, and even a snake!!!). No mention of lawnmowers and Mole-be-gone! I have seen artists renderings of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are never shown cutting lawns or drowning  moles with a garden hose . Eve is always handing Adam an apple.

I like to imagine that Sharold, like Adam and Eve, have been expelled from the Garden of Eden, as have the rest of us here in suburbia, in “Pleasantville”.  We are all destined to be obsessed or pleased by,   uncaring or worried about our lawns.  For certain we  sure have to do a lot of maintenance to keep them up and use lots of  energy to do so. This seems to me to be wasted effort, with really uneven results. I wonder why we do it. Grass that grows tall, waves about in the breeze, contains plants that vary from season to season and allows moles and birds, molehills and even an odd snake might be preferable to the regimented sameness of lawns.

“Rumpole” and I really miss living in the bush. Occasionally he was known to have taken an apple from my hand. We really enjoyed our life there! It was a great place to raise a child, we like to think.

Glamour couples……a new fad or a tradition?

January 25, 2007

I am going to be somewhat long-winded in telling this.  Please bear with me?

“Rumpole” and I, spend mornings before he goes to work drinking coffee and reading the local rags. We are not “morning people”, although in a half-assed “Stepford Wife” fashioned way I tend to fake it and try to be a bit more chipper in order to buck up “Rumpole” who has a hard time waking up, needs his coffee  to arrive in his sleepy grasp fresh and strong.  He usually is very curious about current affairs, the economy and politics and often discusses items that pique his interest and we have great conversations that often make me think, when we are apart, about various things he has pointed out. He rarely reads feel- good stories,  articles about fashions and trends, odd bits and pieces, nor book reviews. While he reads about the weather in the papers, I look out the window.  We check things in the papers  based on our individual tendencies and often react quite differently when we discuss what has come to each of our attentions. Sometimes we are in complete agreement. Other times we debate, with varying degrees of fervour, depending largely on how we’ re feeling at the time and how we each are mulling about our upcoming activities.

This morning, I noticed a photo of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in “The Sun”. The newspapers referred to them as “Brangelina”.  Brad Pitt reminds me of a younger version “Rumpole”(when we were courting I thought R  was”Hot”.  This is a pleasant memory, but I digress).  I  never looked as good as Angelina Jolie does in this picture  (in earlier times Rumpole acted like he considered me a hottie).  I  thought a bit about this while sipping coffee and started snorting and chuckling. “Rumpole”, interrupted at his reading, asked me what I was finding to giggle about.  He had been engrossed in and alarmed by an article on new tax measures. I pointed to the Brangelina photo and said that they were sure an attractive couple. ” So, what’s your point?”, he asked rather irritably.  I told him that right then we looked like a fine pair , definitely not like a glamour couple, him with his glossy bald head and ratty bathrobe and me with my wild grey hair sticking up all over the place and my Snoopy slippers.  He looked blank for a moment and then started laughing.

“You are so silly”, “Rumpole” managed to get out between chortles. I laughed and asked him to think of neighbours who might be considered a glamour couple, even if we would not. “Consider Sherry and Harold (younger neighbours two houses over from ours). Harold is sure easy on my eyes, besides which he is to be admired as a highly skilled tradesman, hard worker and much respected, good natured and  honourable and Sherry and their kids love him. Meanwhile you, “Rumpole”, like Sherry,have said that you thought her extremely attractive, witty, very capable  and caring. You said she had ‘pluck  and character’ “.  He scratched his head, while considering this, and finally concluded that yes, Sherry and Harold were the glamour couple on our street. Laughing, I suggested that from now on we refer to them as “Sharold”, in code, to save time. We had a good laugh over this.  For a little while he stopped his fretting over news about taxes and his mood improved.  He went off and got dressed in his suit. Today he had to be sharp in court.

As “Rumpole” and I, “Stepford Wife,” said our goodbyes at the door this morning, I noticed he had a bit of spring in his step. He smoothed my messy hair and patted me on the bum.

I just had to write this down so I can remember this situation in the future, and it may cause me delight. And true to my silly nature, I’m wondering what Venus and Mars, that glamour couple in old times, would have had their two names condensed to, to  arrive at a version of “Brangelina”. Did whatever code neighbouring Olympians decided to shorten their names to enable Venus and Mars  to share laughter momentarily and Mars to have a spring in his step as he left the grove to go about his business? 

The next time I am walking the dog, if Sherry is out in her yard puttering about, I’ll casually mention to her that from here on in, to save time in greetings whenever we all meet , I’ll call out to them – ” Hi Sharold!”  She and Harold might get a kick out of this! 

Kay’s mother’s death watch…

January 25, 2007

Kay’s mother is 95 years old.   Kay’s mother is in the process of dying. Kay is spending most of her time now, sitting with her mother. They converse whenever her mother is lucid – her mother’s mental faculties are intact and she communicates her physical discomforts as well as her desire for and appreciation of how Kay has been  and continues to be a caring companion and caregiver up to now. 

Two days ago, her Mother announced that she was “ready to go”, and that she felt she had died twice that day. They had an interesting discussion about whether this actually happened. Kay reports telling her that “Yes, she was still here”, and where here was.  They together looked around the room where her mother was lying, to enumerate things familiar there. Look at the wallpaper (check) grasp hands(check) sing a hymn(check).

Kay’s mother then requested that Kay keep her company and go with her to the afterlife.  She really thought this was a good idea and would prefer this to happen.  (Kay’s mother has, throughout her long life, reinforced and acted on her belief in a strict hierarchy of “Power from the top down” with God at the top, prophets, the Bible, priests and other learned men, Government at all levels, bosses, parents and finally children. She fully understands the importance of her position in the pecking order of “Power from the top down” authorities and what duties she must fulfill and how she must fulfill them. She also has firm expectations of Kay’s duties and desired conduct as a daughter, someone operating from a lower level of power. She dispenses her approval, permission or displeasure in what she considers an even-handed way; she is the arbiter of all matters pertaining to family life.)  Kay patiently explained that she had still some of her own unfinished business to complete here.  Her Mother understood and approved the need for Kay to finish her tasks, and gave her permission to remain behind.

Today, Kay has reported on the phone that her siblings have all arrived in suburbia to be with their mother in her final days.  They spent the afternoon together by the bed, where their mother is lying, now mostly unconscious. They remained quiet, and to preserve silence, they sat on their respective chairs doing cross-word puzzles, each by themselves.

Kay said she has been taking photographs of her mother, whenever she has lapsed into sleep, to have a record of her mother as she is right now. One of Kay’s sisters thinks this is not a good thing to do. Her brother just shrugged. Kay, an artist as well as business woman, expressed to me that she wants to make some artwork using her mother’s image.  We segued into a conversation about why it is okay to take pictures of people while they are alive, but is considered less desirable to show them in the stages of dying. Kay mentioned the various paintings that Edvard Munch had made of deathbed scenes. In these scenes, people dying are tastefully depicted, and  those who surround them are shown in various postures that can be read as expressions of their feelings of loss. Kay said “Imagine the furore that would have erupted in Munch’s day if he had painted a death scene showing family members playing cross-words”.  We  considered that Munch would have been considered dis-respectful, unloving and thoughtless, or insane. He would be highly criticized, maybe shunned. Kay ruefully stated that her mother, would  react in a similar fashion, and perhaps also with sadness and anger, if Munch had been her son and painted such a picture..  Next, Kay wasn’t sure how to feel about doing cross-words at her mother’s deathbed.  She made this candid and thought-provoking observation –

“Mother is beyond caring about this and I guess I’ll have to live with the consequences that result.”

A caution to a writer…

January 24, 2007

A great quote found in Wikipedia  – origins, Horace.

I must remember to take note of this!

“Your opening shows great promise, and yet flashy purple patches; as when describing a sacred grove,or the altar of Diana, or a stream meandering through fields, or the river Rhine, or a rainbow; but this was not the place for them. If you can realistically render a cypress tree, would you include one when commissioned to paint a sailor in the midst of a shipwreck?”

Check out Purple Prose in Wikipedia