Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

Sprain therapy – frozen peas and Montmorency cherries…

August 23, 2012

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.

Moving to the Gal Pad…

April 6, 2011

When I made the decision to separate from Rumpole, last August, he moved into our recently completed basement suite which we called his Man Pad. There he had already moved his office, and I had decorated the space as he desired, with images framed that he enjoyed regularly viewing. Mousey, when she came to visit always insited on visiting the Man Pad, to get fresh looks at what I had labelled Grandpa’s Gummy Dragon, a really cheesy Chinese plastic dragon one of Rumpole’s clients had brough back from China. It smelled like recently imported Chinese plastic goods in the Loonie stores smell, a nasty, virulent rotten vegetable odour. Rumpole was wierdly attached to this artifact, and Mousey also. She did say it smelled strange – sort of like dragons smell, she said.
Like a somnambulist, I moved through the paces of finding a lawyer who practiced matrimonial law, severed our joint bank accounts, set up my own bank account and began the process of trying to figure out where I would land in order to begin to piece a solitary life together. By the end of September, I had engaged a realtor to assess the saleability of our house and to advise as to what needed to be done to it for us to get the maximum amount of money for selling it. Rumpole merely had to rubber stamp all the documents that had to be signed by both of us. This he did readily for the necessary real estate documents, but negotiated fiercely for the legal separation agreement, as he would,being a lawyer himself.
While we haggled over the terms of separating assets, I prepared the house for showings and open houses, did the necessities to maintain things in ship shape, started divesting myself of hundreds of drawings, teaching aids and studio supplies and also gave away objects and equipment I realized would not be able to be accommodated in the size of space I knew I could afford to live within. Having to make these decisions helped me to focus on practicalities and not make any hasty and panicking moves.
Within four days of the first showing of the house, we had recieved an offer, conditional on the purchasers selling their own place. It was a reasonable offer, and within a week we had a back up offer to buttress it. Must hand it to Rumpole – he bargained up the offering bid like the most skillful Persian rug purveyor – although at times during the bargaining procees with buyers he came close to losing the offer – but he is experienced in knowing just how to pressure during a deal and restrained his capacity for flaring up in anger and frustration.
As we waited for the buyers to show their place and in turn recieve an offer on it, I began the process of finding myself an apartment in the centre of town. I had absolutely no idea what was available, but knew that whatever place I could rent had to be walking distance to all necessities since I no longer can drive. I must have looked at 10 or so different apartments and was ready to give up when I found just the right apartment. And, lo and behold, our buyers recieved a firm offer for their place and we had a closing date for the sale of our house – December 4.
Meanwhile I was having lawyer problems on the separation agreement front. The lawyer I had engaged was a mother to three children, one of whom had special needs – so she was often unavailable to deal with amendments that cropped up during my bargaining with Rumpole. But, I must have had a collection of horseshoes and shamrocks gathering dust somewhere in the deeper recesses of my midden of a studio, because the house sale completed on the same day as Rumpole signed our separation agreement.
I took a risk in November in putting down a deposit and month’s rent on the apartment that best suited me, and had organized a move and clearing up of the house that proceeded like clockwork. Many friends came to my aid in effecting the move. I had enough time to move my stuff to the new apartment and then spend a week getting rid of our spoor and making the place clean for the new family of mom,dad, grandma, three kids under ten and one on the way about to take possession of my old digs.
Margaret, my sister, Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis, her two sons, Ron and Rosalie, a young painter friend helped move my stuff into the new Gal Pad with a rented U-haul which caused us a bit of grief – otherwise the move went smoothly and after rolling out the rug and assembling my bed, placing the boxes of stuff into the apportioned places, we repaired to the Kingfisher and ate a celebratory dinner, en masse.
It took me a month to shake out the disposition of my possessions, as I was also house-sitting for LookingforBeauty who was basking in the Mexican sunshine.
Since end of January I have familiarized myself with my new surroundings, set up a studio in the bedroom and generally have been busy and quite content.
Mousey loves coming over to the Gal Pad to do overnights, or for lunch. She knows where everything is, particularly the treasures I have stashed in different places for her to find and be delighted with.
Friends and family come by for coffee, tea, to drag me out to outings, to come and eat a meal with me.
I have a beautiful view of a ravine, and these spring days delight in the early morning bird repartee, the subtle sunrises and my new life, in general.
And yes, this old dog is learning new tricks – Flamenco dancing with the castanuelas, the tango, reviewing ballet core exercises, Spanish, and is carrying on…carrying on…

Confession about acquisition…

February 28, 2010

Let me begin by stating I have few needs and wants. This does not mean that I am without desire, or prone toward acquiring objects which have little usefulness in my life. This afternoon Martha and I attended the opening of the “Out of the Ombu” exhibition which Looking For Beauty and I did installation last Thursday. I am such a sucker for quiet, tactile beauty, and should have realized I was in trouble when the first area of concern for exhibition to me was for six examples of Shino ware. While the curator was explaining the need to display 6 sculptural pieces against the main wall, I was ruminating about where to display these gems. In less than three minutes, I had dragged over the display plinths and placed the beautiful, quiet-as-a-whisper pieces – two tall slab bottles with diagonal carved stripes, two small bottles, beautiful examples of Tobigana with subtle blue soda glaze, and two Tobigana bowls with Shino slip decoration.
One of the pleasures and privileges of mounting an exhibition is the opportunity to closely look at and handle art objects – on a more intimate level than is available to the gallery goer. When I upended the Tobigana bowls and happened to see the accidental glazing due to the vagaries of wood firing on the surface of the chattered ware and the subtle beauty of the foot finish, I should have realized that the demon of acqusitiveness that lurks in my otherwise modest person would set up a persistent chant in my unconscious – “these are meant to be for you!”
Barely one minute into the opening, my feet took me to this part of the exhibition, and immediately to the curator to beg for a red dot to place by the two Shino Tobinaga bowls. I did not care whether these items were of collectible value, nor that the potter was a relative unknown. That doesn’t figure in my estimation of the desirability of these beautiful bowls. What did was their quiet insistence that existence is very much dependent on the vagaries of chance acting on material, and that these items had been blessed by the character of heat and fire carefully tended by the potters, and the happenstance of these objects’ position inside the ombu and the introduction of soda ash at a particular time during the firing. Nothing is guaranteed! That is of what these bowls speak to me – and of unexpected gorgeousness.
Now, I have put myself in the position of bringing these items into my home. How do I explain this compulsion to Rumpole? Me, who prides herself on wanting little. But, by gum! I can hardly wait to bring these beauties home. I know I was meant to have them. Earlier this week, as I was dusting the mantle I picked up the beautiful Tobigana decorated vase I had picked up a couple of months ago from the Sally Ann. It has a gorgeous salt glaze, a simple form and a subtle chatter decoration around the shoulder. It cost $1. I googled the decorative practice and did some reading on the technique this week. And, behold, this opportunity has occurred.
I feel very fortunate to be able to afford such an act of whim. Maybe Rumpole will understand.
But I have plans. I talked with the potter at the opening – an older Japanese lady. She was pleased I so wanted these two bowls. As I was gazing at them and lifted them up to run my greedy fingers over the surface, I decided to paint them as a still life from many aspects when I get them home. What a challenge to paint using earth colours to approximate the feelings which these objects yield to me. I can hardly wait for the six weeks of the exhibition to be over.

Yenta is “touched”, or has lost her “touch”…

November 3, 2009

Rumpole has ordered me to take down my matchmaking shingle. That latest foray into connecting single souls has been an utter failure. Sparks, Nada! Entertainment for all of the four of us… yes, in a queer sort of way. It has taken me four weeks to come to grips with horrible reality of it all.

Luck would have it, Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis still talks to me and visits chez nous. However, she has said that I am hapless and not very good at this matchmaking business. She did say that she enjoyed the evening dinner with us and Rob, and that the food was delicious and the conversation…surprisingly entertaining. But she made pointed comments about Rob’s sartorial elegance, comparing his attire a cross between Don Ho and one of the Darryl Brothers (as in, “Howdy, My name is Darryl, and this here is my other brother, Darryl”).

Picky, picky OLPC. What did she expect, someone out of Gentleman’s Quarterly Magazine? But then, should I take her comments about stylishness to heart? She, who breezed in looking a bit like a dominatrix, all form-fitting black with what looked like chains strong enough to restrain a 100 pound Rottweiler hefting up her lush triple-Ds and snaking around her shoulders? I had to keep kicking Rumpole under the table to prevent him from gazing at her prominent poitrine. Poor Rob, he with the quaint old-fashioned mannerisms and attitudes, didn’t seem to know where to look.

But mercifully, they did get along well enough to make fine conversation. Whilst choking back the schnitzel, the flatulence inducing cabbage, roast potatoes and pickled beets OLPC did manage to put questions to Rob about his life, his grown children, his confirmed and adamant solitary state. Oddly enough, Rob, shy generally and not a man of many words, opened up and went into considerable detail about his life and experiences. The torrent of interesting information had the effect of open-mouthed fascination on Rumpole. OLPC didn’t miss a trick.
She would be a smooth and clever interrogator in Gauntanamo. And all that without the aid of extremely bright lights and water-torture devices. Under her subtle questioning Ron revealed things about himself, as pertaining to his most recent relationship, that should not be even mentioned in a session with a relationship counsellor, let alone at a matchmaking dinner. I was aghast at what my well-intentioned soiree had unleashed.

During dinner, we discussed politics, religion, the arts, the new Conservativism, the environment, economics and yes, modern sexual behaviour. As a case study, OLPC, brought up her friend, Cowtown Donna’s difficulties at negotiating the relational quagmire prevailing among middle-aged divorced singles. As she asked all of our opinions as to what was proper etiquette among dating senior singles, Rob nervously wrapped the linen table napkin around his left hand, much like a bandage, and punctuated his comments by tugging the ends closed to choke his fist. That sure was an indication of his extreme discomfort with the conversational vein.

As hostess, I tried to steer the conversation to less discomforting topics – like Municipal shenanigans and “what about our dorky Mayor saying…”. Mercifully, the time passed quickly, although neither OLPC nor Rob showed the slightest indication of wanting to take their leave. Were they having that much fun? Certainly they laughed a lot. Rob tugged on his napkin bandage a lot… but was that in fun, or just out of sheer nervousness? It was really weird!

Because it was a Sunday evening, and everyone had to be up early the next morning, Rumpole did last call. He said. “All right all of you. Tomorrow is a workday. We have 15 minutes before I kick you guys out. Because I am 65 years old I need my sleep.”

I poured more tea for us all. OLPC and Rob left afterward, both at the same time. I looked out the back window and watched them exchange a few words before they hopped in their vehicles and drove off.

Rumpole’s comment to me as he went off to “dusterize” was. “Well, that was a bust as far as those two matching up. But by God! It was a most enjoyable evening.”

All I can say now, is that even though I am a failure at matching people up romantically, at least I have the wherewithal to pull disparate characters together for an evening of lively exchange and some stimulating conversation. And although OLPC and Rob did not form a firm friendship or demonstrate romantic chemistry toward each other, whenever they meet casually in our little town, they will at least have the basis for polite casual conversation with each other.
And, most amazingly, they both still are talking with me, even if it is to mention that I should give up trying to match them up with anyone, ever again. Yeah! I’m a failed Hungarian Yenta.

Single in Cowtown…

March 30, 2009

Of recent weeks I have been a shut-in, and not for reasons of my own choosing. The stomach flu has felled me and kept me captive of the ‘salle de bain’ as one might politely put it. This naturally has zero amusement quotient. Friends have kept me at phone-call length, in between bouts of delivering broths of various sorts. Rumpole, too, keeps a necessary distance, going so far as to make food and libations for mainly himself so that I cannot contaminate foodstuffs he plans to ingest.

A couple of days ago Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis phoned again to check on my progress or lack thereof. Having her for a friend is like having a personal stand-up comic in attendance and on call to lift the spirits when occasion demands. She regaled me with anecdotes about a particular co-worker at the hospital rehab unit where she works. Apparently this particular chap keeps recovering stroke victims in stitches. Naturally, OLPC is also such a caregiver and provides much levity in a situation that is often fraught with frustration for patients.

So, this time I innocently enquired about any good stories and gossip which might amuse me presently and in times to follow.

“How goes Daphne’s life in Cowtown? Has she sold her house yet? Has she found herself a new man upon whom to lavish her attentions and affections?”

“You know, G,” said OLPC, “Daph hasn’t been able to get a bite on her house yet, and it’s been a year since she’s had her place up for sale. She absolutely hates Cowtown and says it has not much to recommend living there.”

“Is she still boarding the Uni’s water polo boys?”

“Oh, yeah. It keeps her out of trouble. Besides which you know what a controlling den-mother she can be.”

“This must mean she has not found a suitable man her age to hang out with,” I suggested. “I’m surprised she hasn’t given up the quest.”

“On no!” chortled OLPC. “Daphne never gives up the quest, as long as she is breathing. After all… you realize… she is Cougar Extraordinaire. You’ve got to hear a bout the toe-sucking farmers from Canmore!!!”

“The what? The who?…. yuck, blech!”

OLPC proceeded to fill me in on Daphne immersing herself in the famous Cowtown Briar Curling Bonspiel – a mad whirl of watching teams skid flattened bowling balls down the length of ice whilst madly sweeping their brooms ahead of the coasting objects. Apparently this is a well lubricated event, with non-playing teams retiring to the on site watering hole called the Briar Patch, in between their turns on the ice.

Naturally, to a Cougar Extraordinaire, this is prime stalking grounds. Maybe easy stalking grounds. The game tends to be variously inebriated, which makes the hunting unfairly weighted in favour of the hunters, not the hunted. It so happened that Daphne bagged a whole passel of drunken farmers from Canmore, who proceeded, each in turn, to demonstrate that long-lost art of toe-sucking in public spaces. As OLPC was telling me this, I had a mad vision of Daphne, lounging at a bar table with her leg elevated onto the edge of the table, while each Canmore farmer took turns in nibbling at her stockinged toes. Hand kissing, in the French Manner, is something of which I am rather fond, but toe-sucking in the Canmore Fashion defies even my imagination.

We were laughing, helpless with mirth. Naturally, to be fair, there is something in the atmosphere of Cowtown which compels even the most decorous lass and lad to let down their hair and behave in an unthinkable manner in public. I admitted to OLPC that back thirty some years ago, while attending a three-day International Ceramics Symposium in Cowtown, I succumbed to the wild lure of the place and danced on tabletops in a number of bars on the blow-out evening after the symposium.

I never knew I had the capacity for such wanton wildness. Must have been because I was still single then. Got to spot Daphne some leeway, now, since she is once again single, although a middle aged matron with two grown children.

I do wonder how she feels whenever recounting vague memories of this toe-sampling incident. I think I might feel compelled to sign up for a body transplant so no one could ever recognize me as the scandalous recipient of such public and serial attention.

As for the farmers from Canmore, let’s hope they used plenty of mouthwash when they returned to bunk in at their hotel suite.

Still madly chortling in Suburbia…. a shocked Stepford Wife.

First solo ‘white cane’ outing…

January 19, 2009

The morning started out foggy; the suburban streetscape softened and made mysterious seeming by the enveloping haze. The huge cedars across the street loomed a half-tone grey in the pearly atmosphere. The bus stop sign, directly across from my house, was a marginally visible standard. It was to be my destination upon making my first foray, alone and without companions, into the streets. The objective was to travel the few miles by bus, downtown, and run some errands with a hopeful and uneventful return home within a couple of hours.

At breakfast, Rumpole gave me my marching instructions. These were to move slowly, cross streets with great care paying especial attention to my blind left side and to deploy my brand new cane while doing so. “Give drivers exta time to spot you, before crossing a street,” he cautioned, “and, brandish that cane to make yourself noticed.” Then, he added, “for Heaven’s sake, don’t get yourself run over!”

“Yassuh, boss-man,” I growled at him while unsnapping my cane and taking an “en Garde” position to skewer him, if my depth perception might allow. I made a feint to my left and promptly knocked my sunglasses off the table. “You know very well I am not completely blind.”

“Yeah, right.” He shrugged into his winter coat and braved his way over to plant a kiss on my lips. ” Take care, but enjoy yourself,” he said, smiling, as he let himself out the back door.

I began making preparations for my outing. Dug out the bus tickets from my purse; detached a chit, and put it into my coat pocket. Retrieved my sunglasses from the kitchen floor; double checked the bus schedule; downed half a cup of coldish coffee; readied my carry-all; shrugged into my coat; grabbed my purse and keys and took a final look at the kitchen clock. Only ten minutes to go before the bus would stop across the street. But wait! That allowed just enough time to nip into the bedroom and blast myself over thoroughly with my Elizabeth Arden perfume. Even if I am one of the invisible group of ageing women, people might as well smell me from a mile away! (Lookingforbeauty, whenever she drives me downtown makes hideous gagging noises and covers her nose if I have been the slightest bit spritzer happy with the perfume bottle, or, rather if I had forgotten she cannot breathe in the presence of perfume) I figured by the time the bus arrived, the miasma of Elizabeth Arden within which I moved might be somewhat dissipated by the foggy air outside, so the bus driver would not be overcome by my olfactory splendour.

I left the house and locked up. made my way gingerly across the road at the corner and took up position by the bus sign. To busy myself while waiting for the bus to arrive, I carved little animal footprints into the nearby snowbank with the tip of my cane, and then to leave permanent mark of my passage carved in my initials. This activity occupied me until the bus arrived. It slid to a stop on the icy road; the door sighed open and I clambered aboard. Had a bit of difficulty remembering which end of the bus ticket to feed into the reader. The driver, tiring of my attempts to turn the blasted card this way and that in a confusing and idecisive manner, smartly plucked the ticket from my fingers and fed it in. He grabbed it from the machine and read off for me for how long the ticket might be effective. I had 90 minutes to do my stuff downtown. I sat down behind the driver, figuring that he might appreciate the wafting of delicious smell from behind him; after all, he did not pass out while I was fooling around at the ticket reader. He did not gag, but then maybe he was holding his breath, because he was kind of surly and quiet when I attempted to engage him in small talk. Maybe he was deaf?

Since my last trip by bus downtown, the vehicles have been equipped with a system whereby a woman, who sounds suspiciously like the woman they have on recorded messages for all local utility companies, read out the names of all stops. Very irritating, this. She sounds a bit like a breathless radio announcer. Maybe all the bus drivers in the Bus Drivers Union demanded that a recording spare them from using their voices; or at least maybe this installed system allows the bus company to interchange drivers at will – they won’t have to know where they are if unfamiliar with the routes. Sally tells them where they are.

This driver was in somewhat of a hurry because he took turns as if in the LeMans car race – with great verve and insouciance. It was a fun, but brief, trip to town centre and I felt as if I had survived a wee bit of adventure. I clambered down from the bus at the end of the line and took my bearings. Still the fog; not too many cars going by; not many persons on the street. I pitter pattered my way south in the direction of the mall where I had to do some business. Played with my cane, tapping and testing all and any surfaces along my passage to learn their characteristic sounds – ping, for metal; thunk, for wood; swish, for shrubbery; crisp scrunch, for frozen snow-banks; and finger-nail-file scraping for concrete. The place where crossing became necessary I misguaged the depth of the sidewalk and came down hard and short. Stood there craning my neck in all directions to spot moving cars and waited for them to roll to stop and let me make passage across. The left side vision is problematic for me, so I held out the cane and waited before proceeding. What a bother. No more nipping and skipping across the streets for me. Aargh! I hated feeling so vulnerable.

The walk was not the usual brisk one; it was more of a cautious creeping. The terrain was not familiar, and like all unfamiliar terrain must be learned to negotiate from scratch. No more automatic pilot for this old Gal! The walk, slow as it was, did feel good though, especially since I was independent and alone. The air felt moist and cool on my face; my hands were warm inside gloves; and I was snugly buttoned up in my wool coat.

I did my errands in the mall. Dropped in on a shop-keeping acquaintance, checked out her new shipment of beautiful spring clothes and gossiped a bit with her. Her shop dog, a spoiled Bichon Frise, bared her fangs at me and snarled. Nothing has changed there! Checked out a big sale of discontinued foot-wear, which did not tempt. Went into the childrens’ shop and browsed for books for Mousey. Nothing caught my interest there. I decided to retrace my steps back to the bus loop, if indeed I would be able to return home on my ticket before it expired.

I tap-tapped my way back and noted the metal grating around the trunks of decorative trees planted in the middle of the side-walk. Explored the pattern of the grating with my cane and the music that could be made by riffling the cane tip across the patterns. Very charming sounds! The tree trunks were smoothish, and I dragged the cane around the girths to hear the texture. This way of moving about intentionally gives rise to new and different sense experiences. One’s passage is accompanied by novel (to me) soundscape. The walk took me back to where the bus had ejected me. The time it took to take the walk was immeasurable. For one, I do not wear a watch. For another, I was happily occupied with new sensations.

The bus ride home was more leisurely; the driver more amenable to chatting. We exchanged sightings of Julia Major, a local woman who parades around topless as soon as the weather turns springish, and who is the bane of all public utilities which have to provide service for people with all kinds of ability and disability. She is litiginous in the extreme, and I told the driver of a Julia sighting where she threatened to sue Translink, when the bus’s ramp for wheelchairs broke at the stop she was insisting on getting off via the ramp, rather than walking off as she had walked on. The driver joked, that had Julia been on the bus with me this day, she would have given him an earful of diatribe for him allowing me to climb solo on to the bus without him helping me. We had a good chuckle.

The driver stopped the bus next to my driveway, so I wouldn’t have to stroll across any snow or ice. I thanked him and waved my cane in good-by, let myself in through the back door, hung up my coat and made myself a cup of coffee. It had been a satisfactory first outing with my white cane, and I had enjoyed myself.

Rationing…

April 24, 2008

A person doing scuba diving is equipped with oxygen tanks which limit the amount of time one can safely stay alive underwater. That is a form of rationing; only a fool tries to go beyond the limits provided by the existing oxygen tanks.

In many parts of the world, but not where I live, people consume rations of food-stuffs. Some rations fall short of maintaining people’s health and well being. Meanwhile, where I live, the most exotic foods are readily available to people of average means. Variety of food is naturally rationed by seasonal availability, by the commonplace transport of foods from all over the world, and cost.

All of a sudden, news has arrived that Costco is limiting the amount of rice that can be purchased by individuals and small businesses. The reality that finally we may have to pay “actual” cost for food – the cost of transpost, storage, middlemen, producers – unleashes the first signs of panic in our carefully orchestrated  unreal reality, our waking dream life. No, I have not made my way to Costco to pick up several bags of Basmati, or brown rice to stockpile in our spare bedroom as a hedge toward scarcity.

I remember walking out with my Mother as a young child and waiting in line for the family ration of rice, which had to be taken in a pillow-case, and once brought home we spread out on the kitchen table to take out the chaff, gravel, and other components of the ration. Flour was rationed; as were sugar; coffee; beans and lentils. We live; we thrived; we played; we bemoaned the shortage of fresh fruit and vegs; we worked. Seasonal offerings were cause for joy and celebration. Living meant labour – daily doings which helped sustain us, offered us amusement and distractions from the rigours of living.

In comparison, my life has been one of almost unremitting ease and, yes, luxury. A suburban woman, I don’t perform one quarter of my mother’s labours. Yet I don’t view her life from the heights of condescension – she certainly didn’t lack in appreciation of the “refinements” of life; her tastes were not less sophisticated nor more pedestrian than my own – her ease, appetites, opportunities, ambitions  and labours were rationed in a balanced way.

I think it is high time to consider rationing my activities, appetites and expectations. Just enough, and no more, will most likely be a pleasing way to live.

Pitt River, looking West…

March 31, 2008

img_0087.jpgimg_0086.jpgimg_0085.jpg Lila and I gathered our outdoor painting stuff at 8am on a warm April day, piled them into her Ford Focus and drove to the end of Harris Road in Pitt Meadows. The road ended at the dike and we parked right next door to the barn in which Dry Sherry kept her beautiful Percheron/Andalusian, Paris. He was out in his paddock cruising around, munching hay, a splendid dappled, distressed grey -white monolith in motion. Because I was busy gawking at him I nearly ended walking my easel into the ditch. Lila meanwhile, being much better organized and less of a wool-gatherer, made an efficient job of carting her easel, large canvas, and carrying bag up onto the dike. I dragged my easel and set it up. Had to go back to the car to get my drawing board and paper pad as well as my bag with my drawing stuff. Once set up near each other we sussed out the place; looked about us to select an area to work with and from.

I had earlier in the morning determined that  in no way was I going to get precious or self-conscious about my materials or the imagery which would absorb my attention. I was in a rebellious mood. No museum quality paper, archival drawing medium, or picture-worthy, picturesque subject would distract me from the pure pleasure of looking, seeing, making marks, moving freely and playing.

So, the paper was plain old 18 by 24 newsprint. The tools, oil pastels. The challenge for me today with the subject was to take the least picturesque aspect of the landscape in front of me and to find the rhythm and unity of forms in front of me. It didn’t have to be an earth-shattering or mind-blowing image. So there was the spring growth of sedges near the river’s edge; shrubbery, low-lying near the shore, denser and taller, more vigorous further from the river, and in the distance a massing of vegetation, then the sky. The log-booms snugged along the river provided a warm contrast against the sky-reflecting blue of the water.

I windmilled my arms to get the blood flowing, did some knee bends and lunges and then selected the pastels colours and began the drawing dance. And kept drawing until the study reached the above stage. Lila may as well have been on the moon, for aside from hearing her brush scratching and swishing on her canvas somewhere to my right, her presence didn’t infringe on my concentration.

We spent the whole morning, working in silence, absorbed as the sun rose to the zenith and we began to tire. Lila worked on an ambitious 22 by 30 inch oil of the mountains and river and had a strong start with which to work later in her studio. I made the three oil pastel studies and felt satisfied with having met the goal I set for myself.

As my vision has failed me now, to the point that I no longer can make such distinctions visually as in these three-year-ago drawings, I like having these rather flimsy pieces of paper up on the walls of my studio. As I come and go from the house the drawings are an aide memoire. Now when walking along the dike this is not how I see what is there. It has changed so profoundly that patterns have lost their crispness, shapes have lost their clarity and tones and colours have become of paramount importance. Now, I realize that already, three years ago my vision was starting to change from the almost painful acuteness and clarity I have been gifted with throughout my first fifty years of life. These drawings represent a change, though not necessarily for the worse. A change toward some different ways of seeing, maybe a different way of being.

Toilet-seat trials and tribulations…

March 23, 2008

Such a world we live in, a world of almost unlimited choice of ‘things’. Such a ‘free’ world where choosing which pair of socks to wear today, right now, takes on momentous proportions. In hindsight and memory, I can’t remember Anyu agonizing about which socks went with which of our shoes when she was readying us for the day. Maybe she was too much preoccupied with mental exercises involving what she might cook for our family for the rest of the week depending on what might be in stock at the various grocery stores. Perhaps choice of white, pink or striped socks for us didn’t register on her housewifely radar of ‘important things to be concerned about’.

I know. I sound like the stereotypical little old lady bemoaning the passing of the ‘good old days’. This is my version of “when I was young things were thus and such…”. Of course, all my life, I have been a prematurely old woman, whether at twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years of age, given my tendency to question the manner in which life in Canada has unfolded in my experience. This Canada, this ‘Xanadu’ to which foreingners from all over the world seek admission. This Canada of almost unlimited consumer choices – kiwi fruit the whole year round, strawberries out of season, exotic cheeses from all over the world, case-goods from everywhere – a sort of consumable material cornucopeia. Little did my parents think that this selection of available choices not only were of food, consumables, education, health care, transportation and housing but also of toilet seats.

 I have recently run afoul of the availability of choices and the weighty weighing of pros and cons before being able to purchace a replacement toilet seat for the only bathroom in our house. Naively, I assumed that replacing this worn out toilet seat was a simple matter of visiting the neighbourhood building supply store from whence came out toilet and its simple seat a mere five years ago. The old one died. It broke into four pieces as the plumber was pulling it up when we were replacing the bathroom floor lino. The replacement toilet was an American brand, made in Texas, fairly inexpensive and low-flushing. It was a ‘moped’ toilet, not a ‘Rolls Royce’ toilet and entirely appropriate for our downwardly mobile life. I mean we were not ever contemplating having royalty using our facilities. It functioned, and therefore we were rather pleased.

Th old toilet seat is in process of giving into the forces of entropy. So, Rumpole and I decided to zip down to the local RONA and buy a replacement. Easy, what? Nope, we were not so lucky. In the plumbing section and bathroom aisle we came upon a marvellous array of toilet designs. If Marcel Duchamps were alive today he would have a field day coming up with variations on a theme of his famous urinal – a veritable galery exhibition of things toilet. Wow! The choice was staggering. But, alas, in no dusty corner could we find our home toilet, nor any toilet seats that would fit it. If had become extinct, like the Dodo. The toilet seat varietals were amazing in their differences. But whatever happened to just a one-for-all type of seat. No such a thing.

Disgusted, we next drove to Home Depot. Before entering the football-stadium sized store we decided to give our quest exactly ten minutes. No luck here either. Only even more elaborate toilet sets to be had here. We left, defeated, and returned home.

On the way across the bridge, I expressed to Rumpole, “If I were Queen, or whatever leader, there would be standardization in toilets, cars, etc.,etc. There’s too damn much choice, or illusion of choice about unimportant things. And this obsolescence business makes us all sitting ducks to the guns and whims of fashion. Aaaargh!”

“Calm down, my commie-pinko love,” reassured Rumpole as he blended into a lane entering the bridge. “Once we’re home  you can grab a nice glass of wine and we’ll connect into E-bay. Maybe we’ll find the ‘seat of our dreams’. ”

Sure enough. Here we sat in front of the computer, me with my wine, Rumpole with his pen and paper. And, yes, we did find a limited number of our toilet seat on E-bay. We made the order and now await the package. It’s coming from a plumbing supply place in Utah.

One small consolation is that it’s not made of plastic or coming from China. I think when the new seat arrives, I’ll set Rumpole to making a home-made wooden seat with all the tools he has amassed in his workshop. It’ll keep him from being bored and off the streets.

An anniversary of sorts…

March 1, 2008

Today is the 20th anniversary of my diagnosis of leukemia. As on that day, this morning dawned sunny with clouds. And as on that day, I woke from sleep today with a woolen head and dragging feet, reluctant to face the day. The reason for this morning’s lack of enthusiasm is not because I feel ill, but on account of a late going to bed last night after a stimulating evening of tea and discussion with friends late into the night. As I dragged my half-awake self to the first cup of coffee, prepared this morning by Rumpole, it occurred to me that this date had some importance in my life. It was while pouring that first black cup that this significance popped into my brain.

I took a sip, observed Rumpole, looking disheveled and poring earnestly over a section of the weekend paper and interrupted his concentration.

“Dear. Do you remember what we were doing at this time exactly twenty years ago?”

He looked up with a question in his faded forget-me-not blue eyes. “No. But I do know we were up north at the time. Why is the date significant?”

“On that day, I woke up from a sweaty sleep on the couch in the living room to the sound of the telephone ringing, you answering and asking many questions at your end, then finally saying ‘yes, I understand, I will bring her in right away.’ ”

“Quit being mysterious.” he grumbled. “How can you remember what that particular phone call was about? Please get to the point.”

I took a long swig of my coffee and added some milk to it. “That was the day you took me to the hospital for that awful diagnosis and only allowed me a few minutes to get my stuff together. I had my client reports to still finish, so I took those. There was the unfinished crocheted ugly pillow-cover I was making for Jacquie. That went into the overnight bag with the beautiful turqoise housecoat you had given me the previous Christmas.”

“I wonder why I can’t remember you getting ready to go.” Rumpole scratched his ear, and folded his newspaper closed.

“You were occupied by consulting the thick medical diagnostic tome in the kitchen. You had it hidden behind the toaster so I wouldn’t know what you were up to. Renaissance Man was hopping about bringing me toothbrush, hairbrush, journals, files and pens.” I beaded him with a direct look. “Neither of you are good at hiding your anxiety. When you led me to the truck as if I was made of spun glass, ready to break apart at any moment, I knew something not so good was up.”

I remember Rumpole guiding me into the bucket seat of the LandCruiser, strapping me in most gently and covering me with a lap robe. We drove down the snowy country roads, admiring the light and texture of the landscape. I insisted that he stop at the edge of town at the shopping centre and buy me a nightgown appropriate for a hospital stay. He was so impatient while I pored through the racks of nightgowns like a somnambulist and mumbled dutiful disinterested husband comments about my selections.

As we drove down the big hill into town I moaned to him. ” What a perfectly beautiful day to be having to go to the hospital. I’d rather stay home and go for a walk with you guys.”

“The woman from the hospital said you had to come in for further blood-work and for a procedure for a bone marrow biopsy,” he told me, then went on to reassure me. “You know we will be with you throughout the day. I’ll bring Renaissance Man in this afternoon to see you. And I’ll call Marlene, Jane and Linda and Al to come and keep you amused.”

“Please call, Maureen and let her know she has to reschedule my next week’s clients. Tell her I will send this week’s reports in with you on Monday.”

How do you remember what happened on that day?” he asked.

“Heck, how can one forget such a day, or what happened on such a day? It’s not every day one is told one has a life-threatening disease. It kind of ranks up there with some other life milestones – like when you first proposed to me, or when you brought you pajamas and alarm clock to our first sleep-over ever”, I said through smirking lips. “Hell, I even remember how nervous George was as he was giving me the diagnosis in the nurses’ lounge. He bummed a cigarette from me and we smoked together as he apologized and said it was far too beautiful a day for him to give me such unfortunate news. Imagine, George apologizing, when it was all too clear to me he had to give up a day with his daughter tending their trap-line.”

“I was too much a basket case that day. Can’t say I remember a third of the stuff that happened. But I remember crying in my office as I phoned all our friends to come to you in the hospital. I remember crying with Renaissance Man as we drove to the hospital to see you.”

We fell into silence, drank our coffee, and read the papers. I mused about how strange memory is, what details are remembered. I remember Rumpole’s devastated expression, and Renaissance Man’s bereft face as they sat by my bed side while I struggled with the crocheting, to finish the pillow-cover for Jacquie, one of my clients. She had patiently instructed me in my inept first attempt at crocheting and I wanted to do her proud.