Archive for June, 2008

Requiescat in Pace, … to my friend…

June 29, 2008

You were a matron, aged 60; the mother of sons; the estranged wife of one man; a sister; a colleague; a friend. On a Spring night at ten p.m. an undisclosed person shot you; three times in the back and stomach. You were left in the rutted driveway. Your small body in ruins; you felt your life-blood seep away into the earth under you; you were in pain and disbelief at what had happened to you. Did you recognize a potential assailant and make a run for safety only to find yourself fallen, broken, in pain both physical and psychic?

Your estranged husband, found over your splayed body, answered in monosyllabic grunts to the police who came, to the paramedics who tenderly collected your broken body. You were taken to hospital; he was locked up in jail and charged with manslaughter. Your bereft children went through the motions of their lives, afterward, in shock, sadness and dismay. Your siblings, extended family, work colleagues and many friends learned of this tragedy, in increments of information and misinformation and conjecture.

You died in your hospital bed days later, never having recovered consciousness after surgeries. The welcomed death in old age has not been your lot. We all grieve the circumstances of your passage from this life. What is left behind is confusion, sadness with the vagaries of lived life and of the unexpected. What none of us think is possible or probable; the unthinkable violent tearing one from life’s stream.

We grieve for you and for your unexperienced passages of life still to be. We grieve for your children; for the unendurable confusion for them which results from the manner of your death.

Your smile and characteristic wave in greeting is not what we will ever experience again in our lifetimes. The cadence of your speech, the shrug of your shoulder, your energy and enthusiasms have passed into the house of memories in which you now occupy one room. If we put our ear to the door, it seems we can hear your voice, raised in conversation, laughter, quiet complaint. In  our imaginations we can conceive your planning a trip, signing documents, singing in your car with its open windows and the stereo blaring, selecting clothes for an outing which make a statement of your adventurousness. We can almost hear you encouraging your children to grab life by the scruff of the neck and live it. We hope they will always hear you, remember you on  those  years-ago sunset evenings as you all weeded your vegetable garden.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Six Word Bio…

June 21, 2008

Lose, find, listen, hear, consider, share.

Christine at  has tagged me for this meme.

I tag:

Deborah Barlow at  – she is one to always deal with essence, and i am curious to know how she describes hers.

D at – he is a master of getting to the point.

Lookingforbeauty at – a subtle soul, and I am curious to see how she describes herself.

Canadada at – a good writer who needs to be known.

Rocky at – a fine mind, great find and wonderful painter and writer.


These five people are bloggers who have so much of great value to share. There are so many others – iinvite you to tag them to enrich us all.

Tennis Bat?

June 17, 2008

The month of June in the Central Interior of British Columbia is always a beautiful month. It comes on, tender green and warm, after a period of many months of snow and a month or so of muddy snow-melt. The wild-flowers – Indian paintbrush, orange hawk-weed, wild columbine, blue lupin and daisy – bloom in profusion in the woods and fields. In the lambent light of summery dusk, the bats flit about gorging themselves on the burgeoning flying insect populations.

June was also a month when young Renaissance Man, teenaged, back 20 or so years ago, pestered me daily to take him and his friends on tennis-playing excursions in the late afternoons and early evenings. These young bush-apes didn’t have proper tennis vocabulary nor comportment. They called tennis racquets ‘tennis bats’ and hit the courts in a weird assortment of ragged cut-off jeans and hideous patterned tee-shirts. They loped and goofed about while rallying. They also spent considerable time outside the tennis court fencing, beating about the bushes for balls they carelssly lofted over the fence in their enthusiastic abandon. They were exuberant, loud and completely entertaining to spend teaching the finer points of the game.

One lovely summer evening, we returned to the homestead after an energetic couple of hours on the courts. Mike, Renaissance Man’s buddy and sidekick came with us for after game snacks and juice. They hauled the tennis equipment from the Landcruiser into the house while I made for the kitchen to prepare their victuals. They slumped down on the living room couches, exhausted, waiting for their treats to be delivered to them. The French doors to the back of the property were wide open. We could hear Rumpole making yard-work noises outside. The dogs were nowhere to be seen, obviously keeping a watch on Rumpole’s doings out in the yard.

I delivered drinks and snacks to the boys in the living room. While I was bending over, depositing the tray on the coffee table, something flew by the region of my head. Turning to take a look, I noted a flappping black thing, mid-air, heading from the living room into the kitchen. Started making incoherent shrieks, much to the boys’ amusement.

“Look, a bat,” commented a laconic Mike.

Renaissance Man ran out to the front entry, brought back two tennis racquets, one of which he tossed to Mike and chortled, “Tennis bat. lets play.”

The boys ran around the main floor swinging with the racquets at the poor bat. It managed to not get hit in mid-air, but was labouring with panicked flits to avoid getting pasted. Finally, the poor beastie landed on the mullion of one of the French doors and clung on there, hyperventilating and trembling.

“Don’t you guys dare to hit it!  Don’t touch it! Leave it alone!” I screamed while trying to wrap my long hair in a kitchen towel. The idea of a bat flying into my flying long hair was frightening. Eeeeek!

The commotion caused Rumpole to come into the house. “What are you guys all so exercised about? Calm down, everyone.” We were milling around the living room, boys brandishing tennis racquets, all excited, me moaning and wringing my hands.

“A bat flew into the house,” announced RM. “Mike and I were using our “tennis bats” to get it to leave.”

“Yeah! That’s a good one – get it? Tennis bat?” chortled goofy Mike.

“Poor bat,” commented Rumpole as he inspected the terrified bat on the door. ” All this screaming and mad flailing with the racquets has him completely panicked.” He went off to the bathroom, came back with a large bath towel, wrapped the bat inside and took the bundle out to the back deck. There he loosely arranged the towel to allow the bat ease of escape. I slammed shut the French doors. Through the glass we watched as the bat made his awkward climb from inside the towel, righted itself and flew off toward the sfety of the big pine behind the house. Rumpole came back inside and chided us for giving the bat a scare.

Ever since then, whenever Renaissance Man and I play tennis together, all I have to do is waggle my eyebrows meaningfully, and say “tennis bat”. We both break down in instant and helpless laughter. Somehow, Rumpole finds it difficult to share in this form of humour. He loves bats; hates tennis.

Studio visit with Anarchist/Artist…

June 12, 2008

Flora and I had been planning this trip up the coast for a couple of weeks. We intended to visit Anarchist/Artist, take him for lunch, see his local exhibition and then visit his studio. I was pumped, and not only because for a shut-in, like me, a trip like this is a special gift, but also because I so much enjoy spending time with Anarchist/Artist and see him pull out of storage one remarkable work after another. Prissy german Tourist, who is also friends with him, and I, both consider Anarchist/Artist one of of B. C.’s underappreciated artistic treasures. He is absolutely committed to his work and to living within certain stringent principles which he espouses. A man to admire, in the complete sense of admiration of coherent belief and practice as exemplars in living. He does good, does no harm, and lives gently with great respect for the gifts life bestows upon him.

Taking a ferry to get to his community is such a production. Because Flora is such a fine and intelligent companion, time travelling didn’t seem so onerous. En route, we discussed various points of politics and practice of the publicly funded gallery system. We admired the views from the ferry’s lounge, even though the day was one of lowering skies, greens, and misty greys. We watched a small motor boat struggle to cross the bow of the ferry up ahead, quite nervous and anticipating a small marine disaster. Some operators of small craft have little awareness of the speed of larger vessels. Our coast has a history of many accidents during such attempts to not lay by and let a larger boat have right of way. We were quite relieved to note the smaller boat scoot out of danger, by a hair, it seemed.

Once debarked, we made good time on the Coast road, and soon turned off the highway onto the dirt track where Anarchist/Artist’s cabin and studio nestled among a profusion of Rhododendrons, past bloom, and tall evergreens. An eight foot cairn marks the parking area. A bonsai-ed horse-chestnut tree in a planter stands near the front steps; its leaves perfect and tender green. Sweet woodruff carpetsthe foundations on either sides of the staircase. We peeked through the glass door to see Anarchist/Artist upright near his vomiting skeleton sculpture, happily sipping from a ceramic mug with a temmoku glaze. We tapped on the window. He came and let us in; greeted us with warm hugs and kisses on the cheek.

I invariably feel good whenever in his company. He is courtly, charming, beautifully spoken with an educated British accent. In his mid-sixties, he is aging as only men who have led a healthful and considered life age – gracefully and well. He lives a simple and aesthetic life surrounded by his work, by books, music, and growing things which he propagates for his survival and consumption. On his easel was a recent still-life study of a clutch of beets and their greens. This glowed in jewel-like splendour, made with reverence, vigour and beautiful marks. When asked if he got his vegetable garden in ample time this spring, he bemoaned that he had been reluctant to set out his cucumber seedlings because nights, even in June, have been so cold this year. He is fearful he will not get in his usual crop. He grows an organic cash crop, and exchanges for meats and other supplies. We wondered what kind of crop he might get this year. The weather has been so unusually somber and lacking in hot sunny days.

Flora sked him wher he migh want to go for lunch. we decided to blow the budget and go to a restaurant where there was a good chef. However, after we drove there we found it closed. We went off to a waterfront pub and sat outside under propane heaters ( a most unusual necessity in late spring at this latitude). We ate, drank wine with our pub fare and discussed his long career. Flora demonstrated by her demeanor that she much enjoyed his company. I listened and posed some questions and small observations. After all, our intention in visiting with Anarchist/Artist was to have the two of them meet and discuss further exhibition possibilities of A/A’s works.

After lunch we drove to the local Municpal Gallery, where A/A’s plein air paintings of local industrial landscapes were exhibited. I should hesitate to label them as “plein air” because they are qualitatively much different with what is associated with plein air paintings. They are really direct studies of industrial constructions in the landscape, and as such differ from the flabby, inchoate landscapes that are lately characterized as plein air paintings. A/A has an acute manner of distilling industrial forms, and way of notating the characteristic land, water and sky patterns of our region. As a collection, this exhibition should be bought by a local museum, as examples of a painter’s recording of the economic activities of a specific region. But, by God, there were several I would have loved to have for myself! We stayed in the gallery for a long time. I entertained myself by getting nose-to-painting looks at the marks he had made the paintings of, and studying his truly idiosyncratic use of colour. What a treat!

We drove back to his studio afterward and stayed for a couple of hours more. He pulled out from storage his more controversial and political work, some drawings and studies. We looked at his collection of seed-pods, bones, roots, a remarkable desiccated skunk, stones and dried insects. Much of his graphic work is inhabited by the presence of these objects as part of the symbolic vocabulary he uses. He has obviously developed his visual language over many past decades of consideration and study, and in his work offers permutations and combinations of them much as a poet does of words and metaphors. The energy and control with which he makes his marks is masterful; his skill developed by years of trial and practice. he is a remarkable colourist. While his political imagery is disturbing, it has the conviction of thought and belief, long considered, as underpinning. One may or may not like his paintings, his prints, but they seep into the brain, into memory, under the skin and won’t let go. Flora looked and looked, commented, asked questions. I asked to buy a book of his prints and one of his more anarchist print images for myself. But there is one remarkable painting i am going to save my shekels for, now. I know Rumpole wont necessarily like it, but usually he assents to my decision to acquire art that means something to me.

Flora and i realized after a time that we were almost going to mis the ferry home. So we said our goodbyes to and appreciation of the time Anarchist/Artist had given us. On the trip home we discussed how Flora might be able to raise funds to have an exhibition of Anarchist/Artist’s work at our Municipal gallery. We brainstormed over coffee and muffins and filled paper napkins with copious notes of our fundraising ideas. We agreed it had been a day spent in the best possible way.

Today I am exhausted, but happy at having had such a wonderful experience and opportunity. I just hope Anarchist/Artist doesn’t feel like we have wasted his time. And I am hoping that a local exhibition comes about from the meeting between him and Flora.

History of wine appreciation…

June 9, 2008

One of the incidents I was curious about at an early age was in exactly what manner I came into this world. During the early years, Anyu held to the myth that a stork dropped me off onto the apartment balcony one October dawn. She doggedly held to this version until she finally relented (I was 12 years old) and gave an interesting report of my birth at home in the marriage bed. She had been attended by a midwife, Apu and a friend who was a gynecologist. Anyu took great pains to report that neither Apu, not the gynecologist assisted at the birth because they were both blind drunk on home-made wine. When I uttered my first crying comment while being held upside down by the midwife, Apu was passed out on the bed beside Anyu. The gynecologist was picking out some folk songs on the grand piano in the corner of the room, oblivious to Anyu’s grunting ( and likely, swearing using the rich vulgarities available in the Hungarian language) Apparently they didn’t bother to offer her any of the wine! What this story did for me was to introduce me to the importance of wine in our family. It also served as a keen reminder to never give birth to a child at home.

Social occasions in the family home, mostly involving Apu playing chamber music with his cronies, were usually lubricated by wine contained in large jugs. As well, cigarettes, of the roll-your-own variety, were consumed in huge quantities and added atmosphere to these musicales. A story Anyu liked to repeat, in order to demonstrate what kinds of shenanigans Ildiko and I got up to as toddlers, was this. After a particularly energetic practice, Anyu and Apu walked the departing musicians out into the vestibule, there exchanging protracted goodbyes. When they returned to the salon to begin clearing up, there were Ildiko and me eating cigarette butts and finishing off any wine left in glasses and gallon jugs. That must have been the seminal experience which started me off on a life-time appreciation of red wines, and a liking of smoking cigarettes. There is nothing like starting young, particularly in developing vices.

Apu had a great liking for red wine. Usually after hours in the surgery, and before late dinner, he attended at the local wine and beer cellar to play cards and unwind with the neighbourhood men. Anyu was far too busy attempting to make flavourful meals with the poor supplies available in post-war Hungary. When it was almost time for dinner, she’d dispatch Ildiko and me to the tavern to bring Apu home. Of course, the tavern was a fascinating place, and we’d bug the tavern-keeper to show us how to decant wine and beer from the barrels. While practicing this none too feminine skill, we imbibed quantities of wine and beer, and then would hang about watching the men play cards and help them cheat, sing songs with them and pester them with bad jokes. Usually, upon our noisy return to the apartment, we’d find Anyu irritated and fuming, and our dinner getting cold. But after evenings of bringing Apu home from the tavern, we fell to sleep readily, oblivious to the irate exchanges between Anyu and Apu out in the salon.

Apu continued our lessons in wine appreciation during summers. He loved to visit the various wineries on the north shore of Lake Balaton. Usually we spent one summer week at Siofok resorts on Lake Balaton’s south shore, getting there by the family car, a DKW, barely cobbled together and wheezing along the pocked roads of the Pannonia hills. A big part of getting to the resort was the afternoon we spent going from one winery to the next. Apu just had to sample the latest vintages and discuss with the vintners the finer points of wine-making. This irritated Anyu no end, especially since Apu’s mood gradually improved the closer we got to Siofok. On the drive between wineries he told us funny stories, and sang silly songs.

By the time we arrived in the children’s resort in Siofok, where we were dropped off and left in the care of rather well-meaning but dull and officious caregivers, Apu was in full glorious baritone, and Anyu was glaring out the car window in silence. I had decided during these experiences that wineries were fun places to visit. There were all kinds of fresh fruits to pick from trees and shrubs, and the welcoming hosts had plenty of good bread and cheese to feed on. And playing hide and seek in the rows of grapes was entertaining.

Later on, when I was in Art School and still living at home, Apu took it upon himself to practice wine-making. Ildiko was at university then, studying genetics, and had vials of fruit flies in cold storage in our refrigerator. As Apu’s wine fermented in the basement, an infestation of fruit flies took residence in every space in the basement, including my basement bedroom. My bedroom also smelled like a distillery. Once, when Ildiko had improperly knocked out her fruit flies at Lab, and instead of being unconscious when she opened their vials so she could sex them, they flew off in all directions. This accident necessitated that she star her fruit-fly breeding program from the beginning. As she recounted this while at dinner with the family, Anyu helpfully suggested they repair to the basement and trap some of the resident fruit-flies for the new experiment. This suggestion provoked Ildiko to partake of several glasses of wine at dinner, in order to assuage her depression. After dinner, during a spirited round or two of canasta over another carafe of home-made red, we all forgot about the experiment failure, and even tolerated the irritating flitting of  home-bred fruit flies in and out of our wine-glasses and downed the drowned ones along with the wine. Apu perhaps reasoned that nubile young daughters would be kept out of trouble if they did their drinking at home, rather than out in the wily and seductive world? This drinking of home-made brew resulted in me really disliking receiving bottles of home-brewed wines as gifts. Often they taste as foul as Apu’s vintages used to; with some interesting variations in flavour, most of them unpleasant, bitter, corky or vinegary.

During University years, there was a wine drought in my life.  The need to eat won out over any desire to drink wine. So there is a lapse in increasing wine appreciation, for which I made up for amply, much later. Twenty years later, to be precise, after Renaissance Man had left home to pursue his studies at university. Rumpole and I were abruptly alone together. We decided to take a road trip to California upon the suggestion of friends who had just come back from a holiday in the Napa Valley.

We consulted maps and studied the possibilities. A mid-life romantic revisiting of San Francisco and its environs was in order. The Napa valley, being close-by fit into our plans. Off we took in the family car, bearing cooking equipment, including pots and pans, camp-stove, dishes and silver, even wine-glasses along with our cooler, duds and camera equipment.  The plan was to eat picnic dinners and lunches in state and city parks along the way, like a couple of gypsies. We provisioned from a variety of sources along the road, and had a wonderful time  doing experimental cooking and eating outdoors

In the Napa Valley, we decided to set up base camp at an inexpensive motel in Sonoma, a rather quaint town at the Southern end of the Napa Valley. From here we forayed out daily for three days, driving North and visiting wineries. At the end of each day we returned to home base in Sonoma to recoup for the next day’s adventures.

The first day, we visited one winery before noon and tasted all their reds, sniffing roasted coffee beans between small glass-fuls, swishing our mouths out with water and nibbling cheese. By the time we were finished touring that particular winery, I was a bit fatigued and needed to nap in the car. Rumpole took off from the parking lot and went in among the grapevines to take photos while I slept off the wine. Afterward, we drove to two more wineries where Rumpole prevailed upon me to sample some whites – chardonnays, gewurtztraminers, etc.. Having had a skewed exposure to only reds, I found the whites somewhat perfumy and unpalatable, but bravely drank down my portions, which then I followed up with sampling any reds that were on offer. Soon we stopped to prepare our evening meal, which was a bit of a production as we were both slightly inebriated. Meal prep was a bit of a gong show, but we did manage to make a presentable pilaf, salad and steak. Good thing we ate, too, because neither of us remembered how we got back to the Sonoma motel at dusk.

The following morning, slightly hungover, we marvelled at just how much a punch those many small sips of wine during the previous day had packed. We vowed to eat constantly on the second day between visits to wineries, and only to sample one or two of the wines available. That decision was a smart one, as we grew increasingly critical of the Wine-Tasting Experience – the ersatz chateaux constructions, the fake snobbery of the wine-tasting rituals, the almost Disney-Land grooming of the whole Napa Valley where conspicuous consumption was the order of the day.

On the third day, we loaded up the car with all our stuff, signed out of the motel, and decided that once we got to the North end of the valley we’d keep going and drive on homeward. We were thoroughly wined out and decided to find the local cheese-makers, of which there were plenty. Wine and cheese are naturally paired – animal fats with vegetable astringent – a pairing made in gourmet heaven. We had bought a number of bottles of red wine. We therefore had to buy a requisite number of delicious cheeses with which these could be paired.

This trip had pretty well done me for a lifetime of wine-tasting. I still like red wine. In fact, last night, after  I had babysat Mousey, Glasgow Girl and I sat on her veranda and sipped a nice glass of ordinary red.

I know the foregoing reads very much like a toned-down A.A. drunkalogue – a sort of “How I came to like the Demon Drink.” But, I confess, I do like to drink a nice glass of red wine, and have come to an appreciation of doing so while disliking drinking to excess. Oh, and bring on the cheese – of any sort, colour, flavour, scent.


Some maternal bindings

June 4, 2008

Wrap her in

admonitions, cautions,


Say to her, “You mustn’t


believe what your eyes see,

your ears hear,

your skin feel,

your mind comprehend.”

Tell her, “Black

is white; night

is day; right

is often wrong.”

Wrap her in

uncertainty, confusion,

negation of her


Preserve her

from autonomy.

Make her live through you.


She is your child.


GM, June 2008